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What mobile apps are helpful to restaurants?

The potential of apps in business settings is mind boggling. Every time you turn around, someone introduces another fantastic app that automates a process or system for your business or personal life for a very cheap price. Unlike software, apps don’t carry a lot of packages, postage and marketing overhead. An app is hosted on a website and you use it via the internet, making traditional distribution methods for software worthless overhead.

Five years ago, when Microsoft and other companies were predicting that we would all be using internet applications instead of software someday, I thought they were crazy. Now, the writing is one the wall. Great applications are coming out constantly and business owners that don’t learn how to use them face the possibility of not being able to compete with business owners that do. Restaurants are no exception.

The following is a great article I found on mobile apps that are designed specifically for restaurants that really give you a good idea of some of the potential uses for apps. Some of them are already popular and some still have a little growth needed before they become mainstream and really effective. Either way, this article from Software Advice’s Stephanie Shih is a must read for any restaurant owner or marketing professional that wants to stay ahead of the competition.

Check it out here: 6 mobile apps restaurants should know about

Brandon O’Dell of O’Dell Restaurant Consulting offers operations and marketing assistance to independent restaurant owners and small chains. Learn more at www.bodellconsulting.com.

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Hosting private events at your restaurant to build sales…

Short read about hosting special events at your restaurant such as wine dinners, fund raisers and holiday parties.

Why hosting events at your restaurant can be a good marketing move | SmartBlogs SmartBlogs

What restaurant operators need to know about QR codes | Marketing content from Restaurant Hospitality

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Great article on www.Restaurant-Hospitality.com about using QR codes in restaurants. It doesn’t take a marketing genius or expensive software to create QR codes. Google and many other companies offer free QR code generators. The one from Google is very easy to use. You select whether you are creating a code for a web address, telephone number, or whatever other piece of “cell phone friendly” format QR codes are used for, you type in the information, and hit a button. Google creates the QR code, then you save it just like any file, print it, attach it, or do whatever you want to with it. Read the accompanying article to see how QR codes can be best utilized in restaurants…

What restaurant operators need to know about QR codes | Marketing content from Restaurant Hospitality

How to use Pinterest to market your restaurant | Marketing content from Restaurant Hospitality

If you haven’t heard of Pinterest yet, you’re missing a great marketing opportunity. Pinterest is especially useful for restaurants, whose product promotes best via pictures. The following article from www.restaurant-hospitality.com explains why Pinterest is so useful for restaurants and suggest ways for you to use Pinterest to market your restaurant.

How to use Pinterest to market your restaurant | Marketing content from Restaurant Hospitality.

For additional help creating a strategy to market your restaurant, contact O’Dell Restaurant Consulting by visiting our website.

New study says creating emotional ties with consumers is a successful strategy | RetailCustomerExperience.com

New study says creating emotional ties with consumers is a successful strategy | RetailCustomerExperience.com.

Reading suggestion – The Chef's Commandments

I just finished reading my pre-publication, review copy of The Chef’s Commandments: Maximize your kitchen’s profitability by J.A. Mendez from Pineapple Publications. Good read.

To be honest, I have to tell you that I was interviewed for this book, and the publisher used some of my blogs and articles for content, so I may be biased. Either way, I suggest picking up a copy of The Chef’s Commandments for yourself. The author, Antonio, has done a great job of packing a lot of useful information about operating a successful restaurant into a 138-page book that only takes a few hours to read.

 Pre-order your copy here.

Antonio’s book delves into food cost control, marketing, menu creation, safety, sanitation and even managing employees. While it isn’t an “in-depth” study of any one of these topics, it does a lot to focus you in the right direction, so you know what areas of your restaurant or food service you should be looking at to obtain more profit.

 At $15.95, this book is a steal.

 Chefs Commandments cover

 

I almost forgot. This book is the first of a series, so keep your eyes out for the next installment in The Chef’s Commandments: Happy Cooks, Happy Customers – A chef’s guide to employee management.

Marketing tips for restaurants – vol. 1

Marketing is maybe the most important function of running a restaurant. It is also the function that most restaurateurs have the least skill at. That’s why I consider having “no marketing skill” one of the biggest mistakes restaurants make. You can read about the others here: The biggest mistakes restaurants make, and why they have a high failure rate .

In the spirit of helping restaurant and food services owners and managers build their business, I’m going to start a series of posts with marketing tips for restaurants.

My first marketing tip, trick, gimmick, offer, or whatever else you want to call it, involves bounce back offers to new customers. As you may have read in my other posts, collecting customer contact information is the single most important marketing practice you can undertake. Marketing to people who have already been to your restaurant gives you a better return per marketing dollar than any other practice. I bring this up because the marketing tip I’m going to share requires you to collect and store contact information for your existing customers to work.

New customers represent a huge opportunity for growth for your restaurant. These customers now know what your food is like, what type of value you offer, and where you are located. They have demonstrated that getting to your restaurant is not such a huge hassle that they won’t bother coming, and hopefully you’ve done a good job giving them good food and service at a price they feel comfortable with.

By collecting these new customer’s contact information, you are presented with the opportunity to turn them into regular customers, the back bone of every good food concept. Gaining one new regular customer could mean a $1000 per year or more sales increase for you, depending on your concept. If it’s a couple, or they have children or friends they dine with on a regular basis, it’s exponentially more. Since these are all new sales, turning this new customer into a regular customer means growth for you.

The marketing tip I’m about to share with you explains one way to try and get these new customers back into your restaurant, with friends. Here’s a couple reasons why this tactic helps turn these new customers into regulars.

  • Bringing someone back as soon as possible increases your chances of making a permanent impression. They are more likely to remember the server that helped them, how great the food was, and how good a value you offer.
  • Getting them to bring friends makes them feel more at ease and comfortable. People are more likely to make a restaurant their “hangout” if their friends are there too. By encouraging these new customers to bring guests, you help build the environment necessary to make them comfortable.

 Here’s the tip:

Send out direct mail “bounce back” offers to new customers. Give them a reason to come back as soon as possible, with friends. An offer I recommend is to give away a free appetizer, dessert or speciality beverage to each guest they bring with them. Use the mail piece as an opportunity to say “thank you”, and to entice them back with as many people as you can get them to bring.

Don’t offer just any old appetizer or dessert. Offer a particular one so you can use it’s name or description to make the offer sound more enticing. A “free Chocolate Avalance dessert” sounds a lot better than a “free dessert from our menu”. Use this opportunity to promote your signature items. If you don’t have signature items, get some. People need a reason to come to you instead of your competition. A signature item should be something in a particular category, dessert for example, that you make in-house, that is better than the other items in that category. This item should cost more, and contribute more gross profit dollars than your other items, while still being priced low for the incredible quality of the product. This is easily achieved, as your competition probably overcharges for their expensive items because they are worried about “cost percentages” instead of “gross profit dollars”. This presents a great opportunity for you to be the best value on the highest quality product. By using this product in your offer, it not only seems like a more impressive offer, but you are also promoting your highest gross profit menu item in that category. You’re killing two birds with one stone!

Use this type of a product, and the following verbage to create an attractive bounce back offer for your new customers:

Thank you for visiting our restaurant! We’re so happy to have made some new friends and patrons!

We’d love to be introduced to your other friends too! If you come back with this card before May 31st, we’ll buy you and your friends our delicious Chocolate Avalanche dessert, just for introducing them!

The reflex of the average restaurateur is to start asking, “How should I limit the offer?”, “Should there be a maximum number of desserts I give away?”, or “Shouldn’t I have a minimum purchase?”.
The answer to all those questions is “NO”! The only limitation you should have on a promotional offer is the expiration date, because it is there to build urgency and make people ‘act now’ (unless that particular offer is specifically designed to build non-peak time sales). If you have a good offer that allows you to make money and the customer to experience a good value, then you should want as many people as possible to take advantage of it. If you’re just giving stuff away and not making money, it’s not a good offer. The more people your new customers bring with them, the more new customers you have to try and turn into regular customers. Even if they bring existing customers with them, they’re likely getting those people into your restaurant more than they would have come in on their own, and the more friends that come to the restaurant, the more likely they will become regulars.

The only caveate I would throw in, would be to warn against using discounts as your promotional offer. There is nothing special about a discount. The only thing a discount serves to do, is to skew your customers perception of your value. It’s easy for them to see what type of value they would have gotten if they paid the same and didn’t receive the free dessert or appetizer, but allowing them to pay less with a percentage or dollar discount gives them bad information to make a value judgment on. This type of promotion also tends to attract “coupon clippers”, people that only go out to eat where they have a coupon. This type of diner isn’t likely to come back to your restaurant until the next coupon comes out. You can’t build your business on couponing unless you are pricing a “20%” discount into every menu item, like pizza chains do.

Armed with this marketing tip, I think you’ll find not only that your ability to turn new customers into regular customers increases, but that you’ll gain more new customers without having to do the searching yourself. Let your customers be your best sales people. Offer them something for bringing in their friends. Promote items that make you more money. Get more customers, and make more profit from each of them!

My name is Brandon O’Dell and I’m an independent food service consultant. I own O’Dell Restaurant Consulting and offer email, telephone and on-site consultations for $75 per hour. To receive 30 minutes of free consulting time with me, Brandon O’Dell, email or telephone me at my contacts found on my “About Us” page.

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