Who is the target market for your restaurant?

This may be the most important question you can answer when designing a restaurant concept. It is definitely the most important question to answer when creating a marketing plan.

One of the biggest mistakes restaurants make is trying to appeal to everyone. If you think that your target market includes everyone, you are setting yourself up to fail. If you want to be successful in any business, especially the restaurant business, then you need to define who it is that is most likely to buy your products, and focus your concept to appeal to that defined market.

First off, let me tell you what a target market or target demographic is and what it isn’t.

A target market IS the portion of the population most likely to buy what you are selling.

A target market ISN’T the portion of the population you want to sell your food to.

Do you see the difference? You must realize that your target market picks you, you don’t pick it.

When creating a plan to market your restaurant, focus on these points.

    1. Realistically define what type of person is most likely to enjoy what you want to offer.
    2. Assess whether that particular demographic works or lives in large enough numbers within 3 miles of your location to support your concept.
    3. Make sure your marketing is communicated in a manner that demographic can understand, and broadcast via a medium that demographic uses.

 

 

Here is how you use those points to build your marketing plan.

Point 1: Realistically define what type of person is most likely to enjoy what you want to offer.

This isn’t the time to be politically correct. You need to examine gender, age, race, religion, income, background, prejudices and sexual orientation among other things if you want to get a clear picture of who you should be marketing to. No matter who you want as a customer, kosher Jews and Muslims aren’t going to eat at your BBQ joint. Lower income Asian families aren’t going to eat at your bistro, and upper income, white yuppies aren’t likely to visit your diner in the hood. If you have a “quiet” atmosphere, don’t expect to attract families of any type. If you have a “noisy” atmosphere, don’t expect seniors.

Until you throw political correctness out the window and truly define exactly who is most likely to eat what you offer, in the atmosphere you are offering it, at the price you are charging for it, you aren’t ready to move on to the next step.

Point 2: Assess whether that particular demographic works or lives in large enough numbers within 3 miles of your location to support your concept.

Once you know who it is that is truly most likely to buy your food, you’ll need to consider whether or not they live or work in large enough numbers in your area to support your business. This is a feasibility exercise. With this point, you are determining whether or not it is even possible for your idea of a restaurant to make it in the location you are considering.

If your concept appeals to low income seniors on a fixed budget, you shouldn’t be putting it in an upscale shopping center surrounded by neighborhoods full of high income families. You also don’t want to open a bistro appealing to high income white people in the ghetto. While these examples seem obvious, I’ve seen many restaurant make the mistake of putting their concept in an area where their target market does not live or work in great numbers.

A good rule of thumb is to only consider the initial 1-mile and 3-miles radius around your restaurant when evaluating the presence of your target market. Whatever the sex, age and income of the persons most likely to eat your food, those persons need to be living or working in great numbers within a 1 to 3 mile radius of your restaurant. The closer the better.

On to the next point.

Point 3: Make sure your marketing is communicated in a manner that demographic can understand, and broadcast via a medium that demographic uses.

Email marketing isn’t going to produce customers for a breakfast diner appealing to seniors. Radio ads on an easy listening radio station aren’t going to bring in 20 and 30 year old hipsters. If you haven’t defined who it is most likely to buy your food, it’s not likely you are using marketing mediums most likely seen/heard by your most likely customers.

In marketing, you must use the language your target market understands. Speak your target market’s language and only create offers that target market values. $10 off a meal isn’t going to attract high income middle aged married couples, but a complimentary bottle of wine with any food ticket over $50 might. While any demographic appreciates a good deal, each demographic has a different set of values. What is valued by middle class high school kids won’t be the same as what is valued by humble German country folk. The language each of these groups understands will also be different.

Communication with your potential customers is just as important as communication with your employees. If you are speaking a language your customers don’t understand, or designing offers your target demographic doesn’t value, then your marketing will be a big waste of money. If your current marketing isn’t working, there is a good chance you’re doing one of these two things.

I hope I’ve driven home the importance of defining your target market. Marketing can be an expensive undertaking, but if you define exactly who it is you should be marketing to, you can greatly reduce the cost involved in reaching the customers most likely to eat at your restaurant. With the right approach, you can not only compete with chain restaurants with big marketing budgets, you can beat them.

Brandon O’Dell
O’Dell Restaurant Consulting
www.bodellconsulting.com
blog.bodellconsulting.com
brandon@bodellconsulting.com
Office: (888) 571-9068

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.

 Subscribe to O’Dell Restaurant Consulting’s Weblog by Email