Saturday, April 01, 2006

restaurant marketing realities

Priorities of the
Restaurant Business:

(1) Health/safety:

If a food-borne illness contaminates a restaurant and infects patrons, the eating establishment will be tainted for a long time in public opinion, customers can die, and the business may be shut down permanently.

(2) Recipes/cooks:

People patronize a restaurant if the food is good, reasonably priced, attractively presented, and brought to the table in a timely manner.

Fast food joints are chosen when a customer just wants a quick fix for the appetite, and heads for McDonalds or Long John Silvers.

Above all, the food must look and taste good. Menu items must reflect what is popular. Or must change frequently, to create interest and arouse curiosity (see Pizza Hut's continuous innovations in types of pizza).

You often hear people say they go to a particular dining establishment because of one item: "I like their hot wings" or "They have a great imported beer selection" or "It's the best catfish around" or "Incredible barbecue sauce".

(3) Atmosphere/accommodations:

If the restaurant is not child-friendly, parents will not take their children there. College kids like a hip environment, with art or music or hipster servers, and trendy dishes, fancy gourmet coffee options, and wifi.

Some people prefer super clean, or very cozy, restaurants.

Others have to have liquor with their meal, or by itself.

Still others only frequent restaurants that are patronized by similar clientele, like business executives (downtown steak restaurants), farmers, construction workers, lawyers, parents with children (Chucky Cheese).

(4) Pricing/discounts:

Many customers will visit a meal provider based on having a coupon for a half price entree, free desert, or other enticement. Punch cards that offer a free sandwich after you buy X number (Subway), or an entire free meal (Carlos O'Kelly's).

(5) Type of food:

Some people prefer American meat and potatoes, while others lean more toward Mexican, Italian, Chinese, or Indian cuisine.

(6) Wait staff:

Lastly, there are a minority of customers who develop casual, friendly relationships with a specific server, typically just one they especially favor, possibly two or three.

Generally, if that particular waitress or waiter quits, the customer will not abandon the dining establishment, but will form a friendship with another server, and continue to patronize the restaurant, based on the other factors listed above, plus plain old familiarity and habit.

Other Factors:

Convenience, location, parking, consensus of peers, advertising, television commercials, a famous chain (Hooters, Steak n Shake, Red Lobster) that is new to the town, wishes of family member, spouse influence--plus vague, sentimental, subconcious tendencies (owner is a father figure, waiter reminds them of their son).


(1) "Location is everything": untrue. Customers are known to go significantly out of their way to patronize a restaurant. Just be sure to avoid gloomy, dangerous areas of town, waste dumps, junkyards, foul smelling factories.

(2) "Wait staff relations with customers are most important": while it's important for servers to cultivate personal service, a cheerful demeanor, sincere care about portion sizes, etc., customers easily adjust to new waitresses or waiters, even new owners, as long as the food tastes good and is reasonably priced.

(3) "Plasma/HD/wide screen television, wifi, and other technological enhancements will draw new customers": most customers could care less.

Of course, a sports bar has to have televisions tuned to ESPN or local games. And the volume must be turned up to a certain volume that is not intrusive, but can be heard by fans who will sit close to the sets, when possible.

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