Restaurant Marketing Ideas for 2020

The restaurant industry has historically been among one of the most competitive industries. In today’s digital marketing landscape, this has never been truer.

When advertising your restaurant online, you’re not just competing against other restaurants to get your ads in front of your potential customers. You’re competing against millions of brands that are targeting the exact same individual.

This article showcases 7 ways you can get in front of potential customers and keep your existing customers loyal in 2020.

1. Messenger Marketing

With modern technology, wearable devices, and a phone in every pocket, it should be a no-brainer that restaurant marketing tactics should evolve as well. The days of generic direct mail campaigns to the masses are gone. These types of marketing campaigns were very difficult to track, and would often result in wasted money.

Messenger marketing for restaurants is a great new way to engage with your audience, track their behavior and purchases, and bring in predictable revenue on a monthly basis. Using applications like ManyChat or MobileMonkey you can set up these campaigns for your own restaurant. They can be fairly complicated, however, so it may be worth working with a restaurant marketing consultant to get help.

Even a simple Messenger Marketing campaign generated over $16,000 in revenue for a restaurant over the course of 4 months.

2. Free Wi-Fi

If you aren’t offering Wi-Fi in your restaurant – or you are just freely giving it away – you are making a huge mistake.

Don’t charge your customers money for the Wi-Fi. Instead, they require them to sign up with their phone number and email address.

This is a fairly inexpensive way to boost your customer remarketing list – plus offering Wi-Fi is another perk for your customers. On your form, you can notify them that they’ll be opting into email communications automatically, but they are free to unsubscribe any time. Then you can send emails about sales, new menu items, and friendly reminders about how awesome your restaurant is.

You can also ask them if they would like to receive text messages from your brand.

3. Text Message Marketing

Text message marketing has been on the rise for a few years now, but brands are still trying to figure out how to use it to their advantage. The key with text message marketing is to hit your customers frequently enough that they keep you top of mind, but not so often that you become a nuisance.

There are also a lot of privacy laws that apply to this type of marketing, so it is critical that you get your customers’ permission (and a second opt-in) before you start utilizing this channel.

Once you have a customer list, you can advertise your sales or promotional menu items. There are a lot of third-party text messaging providers to choose from. Several of them are budget-friendly. Some of them may even integrate with your POS system. It is critical to shop around for the best bang for your buck with any technology platform – but that is especially true for text message marketing.

4. Push Notifications

If your restaurant has an app, you are likely already utilizing push notifications. However, if it doesn’t, or you aren’t, here are a few examples for when to use them:

  • When a customer is near your restaurant
  • When you have a sale or coupon code
  • When you release a new or promotional menu item
  • When they have not visited your restaurant in a specific amount of time

If you do not have an app and are not interested in creating one, you can set these up as browser notifications. Browser notifications are slightly less effective because they are designed for the desktop instead of mobile. However, if you’re mostly serving a lunch crowd – it could be worth sending a lunch reminder push notification out to your potential customers.

5. Delivery

Delivery is king in the restaurant industry at this time, and there are no indications that that is going to change in the next couple of years. Some restaurants are attempting to fight the inevitable, and it isn’t going well for them. Still, others are doing the bare minimum by simply pairing with a 3rd-party food delivery service but that may not be a great strategy either.

Delivery is king in the restaurant industry at this time

Yes, you should consider partnering with a food delivery service, but you must also make sure your food (or at least the food you allowed to be ordered through the service) is still delicious when it arrives. Too many restaurants are offering their entire menu without any modifications, and it is preventing their growth.

If the budget allows, it is also worth offering promotions or even purchasing ads through these delivery services so that your restaurant is sure to be seen. Many of the delivery services will remind customers of restaurants they have ordered from or browsed in the past so that extra marketing boost can help offset the cost of the service.

Several restaurants also offer promotions for new customers, such as free delivery. You’ll want to explore your promotional opportunities with each third-party vendor before settling on one specifically.

6. In-Store Kiosks

Several fast-food chains have started incorporating in-store kiosks already, and this is another trend we expect to see growth over time. Customers enjoy being able to customize their orders without having to talk to a person. They also help increase accessibility at your restaurant.

Additionally, in-store kiosks give you the opportunity to collect additional data that restaurant owners have not had access to before. For example, you can collect data about the most-viewed menu items, even if they aren’t ordered the most. That type of insight encourages you to change an ingredient in that menu item to make it more appealing.

Many in-store kiosks also partner with the POS for aggregate data about specific customers. This means you can personalize your marketing efforts in a new way. Imagine being able to send an email or text to a specific customer, advertising a discount on an item you already know they love.

Although the initial cost is high, there is also a decrease in labor costs associated with a kiosk. It is certainly something worth looking into this year.

7. Community Events

People are also placing higher importance on brands who do “good” and restaurants do not fall out of this category. While it’s great if you can source all local ingredients and recycle practically everything, that may not be realistic.

Another route to consider is utilizing brand activation ideas such as getting involved in local community events and sponsoring charity events. These can seem like losses, but they can do a lot to boost your reputation in your local community.

If you aren’t sure where to start, contact your local school systems and see if they are interested in doing a “Dine and Donate” event. Basically they pick a day and anyone who brings in a flyer for the event on that day (or mentions the promotion if you don’t really want to collect dozens of flyers) your restaurant would donate a percentage of the check to the organization.

While you certainly shouldn’t do this too often so that it isn’t sustainable, it can be a great way to get in front of new customers while building goodwill and a solid reputation in the community.

Things to Keep Doing

We’ve also put together a shortlist of items that you should already be doing by now. If you aren’t, make these marketing efforts urgent priorities. While you may not be able to incorporate all of them right away, you’ll certainly want to tackle a majority of them by the end of 2020.

Advertise Your Restaurant on Social Media

Yes, there are a lot of brands advertising on social media already. However, most social media advertising platforms do offer pretty specific targeting options, which means you have a good shot of getting in front of your customers.

Because competition is so high, social media advertising should not be your only marketing strategy. However, it definitely needs to be part of your restaurant marketing mix.

Facebook is the largest social media marketing platform – and for good reason. Facebook also has the most users. One of the best parts of Facebook advertising is the audience targeting options. You can choose customers based on their locations, and/or their demographics. If you have an idea of who your target market is, this can be invaluable.

You also have the option to target an audience based on their interests. That means if you’re a vegan restaurant, you can target users who have expressed interest in veganism. If you are a burger and fries place, you can target users who love a good sandwich.

Another great component of Facebook advertising specifically is that you also have the ability to create specialized ads when a potential customer is near your restaurant. This can mean if they are a few blocks away to within a certain zip code. This type of targeting is great because it can also help you get in front of potential customers who may just be visiting the area instead of only those who live nearby.

Local SEO for Your Restaurant

Make sure your website is optimized for local SEO. This means optimizing your website so that you always rank in localized searches. This means making sure you’ve completed your Google My Business profile, and embedding a map on your site. You’ll also want to include your city name and state in titles, headers, and meta-descriptions within your site. While this sounds like a complex strategy, once you understand the concept of local SEO, it can be fairly straightforward to implement.

Manage Feedback

Online reviews greatly influence decisions when it comes to choosing a new restaurant to go to. While you can’t/shouldn’t delete negative reviews, you can respond to the guest’s comments and try to make bad experiences better.

You should also respond to positive reviews. This will create a relationship between your brand and the customer, which may encourage them to share their experience with your restaurant with their friends and family. You can also consider services such as Ovation to help you easily capture and manage feedback from your customers.

Restaurant Loyalty Programs

If you don’t already have a loyalty program in place, get one. There are several options out there. You might look to see if your POS system has one already. If your POS system does not, there are several third-party vendors you can try. Most of them are pretty affordable – and it is easy to calculate your return on your investment once you start tracking your loyal customers.

Some examples of third-party loyalty programs include Preferred Patron, ReUp, and Upserve.

Discount Apps

There are several restaurant discount apps out there such as ChowNow or Restaurant.com. You might even consider running a promotion on Groupon. This is an excellent way to draw in new customers as well as to remind past customers to come in again.

Print Advertising & Coupons

For almost all industries, print and coupons seem to be dying off. The two industries where that doesn’t seem to be the case are restaurants and grocery stores. If you are already sending coupons out to local residents, continue doing so. In fact, there are now several services available where you can send specialized coupons or letters to those who have just moved into your city or within certain zip codes.

If you haven’t implemented this strategy already, consider it. There is likely a coupon circulation in your area designed for local restaurants to advertise in.

In Closing

If you are interested in any of these marketing tactics but aren’t exactly sure how to set them up or which ones to prioritize, consider hiring a restaurant marketing agency or restaurant consultant. Restaurant consultants have likely worked with several restaurants in your area. They are already familiar with how to best get in touch with your target market.

A restaurant consultant can help you create an overall marketing plan for your business. Some restauranteurs consider hiring a general marketing firm to handle the promotion of their restaurant. However, they quickly discover that marketing or PR firms can be too expensive for one single restaurant. Your consultant will either handle your marketing directly or come up with a promotion and brand strategy utilizing outsourced agencies that the consultant is familiar with and trusts.

This marketing strategy can include everything from the overall restaurant concept to web design and the social media strategy. You will discuss your current marketing efforts and any that you wish to include in the upcoming year, and your restaurant consultant will balance your budget along with the typical efficacy of each tactic before helping you decide on a perfect strategy. Hiring a restaurant consultant can be an excellent way to boost your brand quickly, without having to make any marketing mistakes in the process.

10 Ways To Increase Your Hotel’s Direct Bookings

When it comes to increasing your hotel’s direct bookings, things can get a little tricky, and there are hundreds of tactics you could try. However, for this article, we are going to go over 10 ideas you should try first.

These are some ideas that some of the top hospitality brands are using around the world to increase the number of travelers booking directly through their hotel.

I realize that increasing your hotel bookings can be somewhat tedious and time-consuming; however, with these tips, perhaps the journey will be slightly easier to handle. At least, that’s my hope. How about we get started, shall we?

Make Your Hotel’s Website More User-Friendly

We live in the digital age of technology. Every year, more and more advanced technologies emerge to provide convenience to our lives. As such, we often need to change and adapt our approach to customers, and that includes how we deliver our services and experiences to our customers.

As such, for our first suggestion to make, we suggest reexamining how your hotel’s website is structured, and perhaps change it to better accommodate mobile and tablet users.

Additionally, not only are people on their phones more frequently than ever before, but they are also on the move. As such, making sure your website is mobile/tablet-friendly is one of the first suggestions I would offer to increase bookings at your hotel.

You should also consider the accessibility of your website. This means your website is designed and developed in such a way that those with disabilities can still use them; easily learning about your hotel, navigating through your site, and, ultimately, booking their stay with you.

Leverage Social Media For Advertisement and Hotel Bookings

Social media is one of the biggest and most lucrative forms of advertisement to have blossomed within the last decade. Even as I write this, millions upon millions of people flock to websites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter every day.

As such, traditional advertising is slowly dying out in terms of profitability and reliability. Why pay thousands, if not millions of dollars for expensive TV ads and booking times when it can be far cheaper to advertise your hotel business through various social media websites.

Why pay thousands, if not millions of dollars for expensive TV ads and booking times when it can be far cheaper to advertise your hotel business through various social media websites.

Not only is social media advertising less expensive, but it offers an easy way for customers to directly interact with your hotel brand through a medium that is most familiar to them. In addition to this, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have massive audiences already built into the platforms, and people are more innately tied to these forms of communication now than ever before.

In my experience, people are willing to talk and interact with companies through social media accounts than any other types of communication because social media has become so user-friendly and simple to use. Because of this, enabling social media users to book directly via sites like Facebook might not be a bad addition to include, as well.

It’s no coincidence that I put this tactic alongside updates to your website; they are almost married to each other. If you can communicate with the modern-day patron through social media platforms, and have a wonderful and easy-to-use website for them to explore, you will certainly increase your direct booking rates.

Test Your Hotel’s Booking Process Yourself

Another idea to help raise your direct booking rates for your hotel is to check and see how smoothly the process is for your website. Test it yourself! Humans like it when things are simple and easy for them to handle; it is why most sites have a one-click purchase option now.

Humans like it when things are simple and easy for them to handle

As such, I know when I want to book a hotel, the last thing I want to see is menus and menus of tabs and rows going to different sites and or parts of the website. I cannot stress how annoying and frustrated I get when it takes me seemingly forever to make my hotel reservations after deciding on what hotel/brand I want to stay at for a trip.

I recommend reevaluating the process in which people have to go through to book their lodgings at your hotel. Maybe count the number of clicks the average customer needs to go through to secure their reservations, and then perhaps find a way to automate or lessen the amount of time it takes to see a reservation confirmation screen.

User Reviews, I Cannot Stress This One Enough, Allow Reviews

As much as we all fear the idea of people leaving a bad review on Yelp and dealing with the hassles of reputation management, it shows a lot about your character and as a company if you allow customers to leave direct reviews on your site. I cannot stress this one enough. That alone can mean a lot to customers.

Additionally, it not only shows a lot on your character if you have a means of letting people leave reviews on your website. It also means you have a direct method of gauging how people are taking to your hotel(s) right on the spot – saving them the time and energy of searching for that on other websites or listings.

Also, by allowing people to leave reviews on your website you have a means of showcasing real positive comments for other customers to see; meaning people visiting your site are more likely to give your business the time of day because they can see that other real people enjoyed staying with you.

Finally, when you allow customers to leave reviews, this opens the door for them to leave valued compliments and criticism that every business needs. That criticism will be important, especially leading into the next section regarding the handling of grievances.

Address and Remove Previous Customers Grievances

Another benefit that can come from on-site user reviews is finding out what it is that they did not like about your hotel, thus not only do they feel validated in letting you know what they may or may not like about your hotel, but it also gives you more concrete information on both them and your business. Just this simple addition can help boost your direct booking rates.

By tackling customers grievances, you help show not only to them but to all of your customers that you are not only willing to hear what they have to say about your business but also directly tend to those problems if necessary. People like to feel like their opinions matter giving them, yes sometimes their ideas can hurt to hear, especially when it comes to your business; but often their views and criticisms may be valid and worth evaluating.

People like to feel like their opinions matter giving them

By having a place where they can air out their grievances, such as a review or comment section, not only can they feel validated in leaving behind often just criticism about their experience at the hotel, they can then feel satisfied when their grievances are handled properly. Moreover, by seeing you handle their negative complaints with your hotel, (whatever that might be), this could encourage them to return for a night or two, maybe even with their friends and family.

At the end of the day, customer feedback is important and necessary. Embrace it, value it, address it, and move forward.

Make Your Hotel Sound and Appear Unique

Another idea I feel I should mention is something that I think every business owner tries to do with their business, and that is making it sound and look unique in comparison to the competitor down the street. This isn’t always easy, especially if you are working in an already over-saturated market. However, there are a number of things you can do to improve your position in the market.

One idea I have to share is to reward your customers for their patronage, perhaps give them discounts on future bookings and services due to their continued support to your place of business. Alternatively, another idea to offer VIP rewards for continued support, like discounts on hotel amenities.

There are ways to reward your customers for their continued support and dedication to your organization. Another idea I have is to allow individuals the luxury of bringing their dogs or cats with them via unique rooms or upscaled cost. Pet owners always appreciate it when hotels allow them to bring their pets with them.

I am positive there are more ways to make your hotel appear unique and offer tremendous value to your customers, so perhaps find those methods out there. Finding and providing those services to your patrons can be a tried-and-true way to increase your direct booking rates.

Focus On What You Can Offer Over Your Competitors

This ties back to the previous section on focusing on what you can offer your customers over your competition. Another way to entice people to spend their holidays at your hotel is via the location and the unique and singular properties it may be privy too over other sites.

For example, are you near a park or heavily trafficked area like a plaza? Then advertise that as a selling point, people like convenience, especially when traveling and on the road. So, if they know, they will be shopping or adventuring in an area, being there as a hotel can be a luxury for them, especially if they are traveling or passing by through parts unknown.

Let people know that after a long day of shopping and adventure that they have a nice cozy hotel room waiting for them not a mile away from them. Alternatively, maybe your hotel was once a historical landmark or site, and it has some artifacts dating back to an era long since past.

In all honesty, it took me a long time to learn why location matters when it comes to starting a business, and this is one of the reasons why. If you have any definite reason to advertise your particular hotel (especially if you are a small brand), then use it, my friends.

Make Sure Your Staff and Employees Are Happy and Content

Okay, the next topic I feel we should discuss is the overall happiness of your employees and why this ties directly into potential bookings for your hotel. Now, I am confident this is one of the first things that managers and business owners have to think about always when running a business, but it would be wrong of me not to make it a section onto itself.

When working in the service industry, especially with hotels, you want to make sure your guests are happy and content, that is how we get those fun five-star ratings on Yelp and other review sites. As such, making sure your staff is actually genuinely happy to be there clocking in those long hours, and not just tapping their foot against the ground trying to wait out the clock.

Additionally, by making sure your employees are happy, this will translate into your patrons being happy as well, mostly due to the fact that they are getting tremendous value from the service of your employees. Moreover, this has many benefits onto itself as we can see.

Furthermore, by allowing the word to spread about your fair treatment of your employees (and their terrific service towards their guests), that can potentially entice guests to book with your hotel as a result. So, it is a win-win situation when it comes to this topic. Your employees are your lifeblood, after all, so treating them right will in return, treat your guests right.

Your employees are your lifeblood.

Ensure Your Hotel’s Website is Easily Found and Relevant

Through all of these additions and suggestions, there are plenty of ways of not only improving your image in the eyes of the public but also improve your chances of increasing your direct booking rates in comparison to your competitors around the state and or country.

Consider hiring an SEO specialist who is capable of understanding the search algorithms of search engines such as Google. Someone who knows the exact methods of getting more people to visit your website.

SEO specialists are the individuals you want when it comes to not only figuring out how your website will work but also provide general tips and tricks on getting people to discover your website, book a room, and then, of course, visit your hotel.

Understand That It Takes Time

As much as we may hate hearing that words “patience” and “determination,” seeing success and growth is not a one-night ordeal. It is not something that will happen immediately, especially when it comes to trying to increase your direct hotel booking rate in comparison to your other competitors.

However, it can happen with time and effort. All I can hope for is that this shortlist has provided some methods to help you achieve your ultimate goals when it comes to your hotel.

Conclusion

With that said, there are countless tactics and approaches you could use to increase your hotel’s direct booking rate. It’s up to you to find out which work best for your property. I hope this short article provided some tips and tricks on growing your hotel’s booking rates, and in return, bring even more lovely patrons to your place of business.

5 SEO Improvements for Your Restaurant

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization is a key component to any restaurant marketing effort aimed at helping your restaurant improve, expand, and evolve in today’s technology-driven world. SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, is the acronym for increasing the amount and quality of traffic to your business’ website through search engines like Google. SEO is a way for business owners to attract a specific demographic that is genuinely interested in your restaurant, instead of random internet users clicking your ad.

Why Is SEO Important for Your Restaurant?

SEO is a crucial part in growing your business because it is the key to getting a larger amount of traffic to your business site, in turn, bringing you more paying customers, and could mean never paying for regular advertisements again. Investing in search engine optimization will enable you to use locality, customer sentiment, as well as structured data to maximize your business growth. No matter how low your performance on search engines has been in the past, you have the opportunity to boost your popularity on search engines and other websites as much as you want through SEO.

In order to get the most benefits out of search engine optimization; one must understand how it works. Search engines like Google and Bing have something called a “crawler” that gathers information all around the internet about different content and brings that data back to the search engines. The engines then use this data through an algorithm to match up with certain searches, bringing more users to your website.

Search engine optimization may sound complicated, but it gets easier to understand over time. The results will speak for themselves. By following a few guidelines, you can help your business thrive through SEO.

Tip #1

Designing Your Website & Managing Content

One of the most important factors in today’s online world is a solid, well designed, maintained website that will catch eyes, and quality content and information to captivate and inform readers. First and foremost, if you have the budget, hire a reputable web design and development agency to get your website updated, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing to help your site give off a professional impression. If you don’t think you can afford to hire a professional, there are many online resources that you can use to help you create your own website design and outline from scratch for free or at a low cost, such as Squarespace.

Secondly, take the time to seek out a qualified individual to do content writing for your website, for things like FAQs, menus, a section about the restaurant and its story, and any other important information you want them to include that will captivate and inform customers visiting your site. After all, if you’re going to be investing in generating more traffic to your website, you should want the content to resonate with your visitors.

This will require a budget as well, since content creators’ time is very valuable. Be sure they are fluent in your language, have proficient writing and editing skills, and can come up with fresh, inviting writing to present on your website.

Tip #2

Sort Out Your Content Preferences & Strategize

In order to increase traffic to your restaurant’s website, you will have to pinpoint the location the majority of your customers will come from based on popular work locations or common tourist attractions. Doing this will enable you to narrow your audience and ensure the people visiting your site will actually have a genuine interest in it and won’t just click off immediately without giving it a read. You can use resources like Google Keyword Planner to plug in a specific geographic focus area.

After you’ve sorted out the ideal demographic based on your location, you will want to select which specific words or phrases are common among your target audience. You can pinpoint generic terms, such as “restaurant,” or pair them with a specific location, such as “New York City restaurants.” These would be considered “high-level restaurant terms,” simply meaning these are among the most common searches people may use on a search engine.

Aside from these high-level terms are “niche-specific terms,” which are more specific searches, but still broad in nature. These can include certain foods or atmospheres, such as “Chinese restaurants” or “family restaurants.” To get a good idea of examples you can use to get more clicks, you can use resources like Yelp and TripAdvisor and take a look at their search filters to get an idea of different categories people search for on those platforms.

Brand terms” are simply terms used for your specific brand, like your restaurant’s full name. These are terms you can begin to use once your business is well established and popular in the area. Be sure not to focus solely on these terms, and include more broad, general search terms to be sure your business gains traction and outranks other recommended restaurants on search engines.

Tip #3

Be Active and Present on Social Media

Social media is inarguably a massive part of business development and maintaining a customer base, Facebook is one of the most popular platforms for restaurants to interact with customers and keep them in the loop. One way to utilize social media for your business is to offer rewards or discounts for customers sharing posts from your restaurant’s page. This will help spread the word about your establishment while keeping customers engaged and excited about your business, especially if they get something out of it!

Regular posts and updates about your business will also keep customers in the loop while keeping your business relevant. The more they see from you, the more likely they are to pay your restaurant a visit. Be sure to announce any new menu items or merchandise, as well as any special events or discounts happening on your social platforms to inform your fans, and hopefully they will share and spread the word to others on the platform as well.

Tip #4

Encourage Feedback

The best way to keep your restaurant at the top of its game, as well as search results, is by having an extensive collection of positive reviews, ratings, and testimonials from customers. By having high-star reviews, users are more likely to click on your restaurant when looking at it against others. The more positive reviews you have, the better your customers will perceive your business, making them much more likely to spend money there.

Consider a rewards program or free coupon for customers leaving reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and more. This will be appealing to them as they will feel their opinion matters and will be heard. Not only this, but they will benefit from sharing their thoughts, and will be more likely to return to your establishment to do more business in the future.

Tip #5

Get Technological

Almost two-thirds of website traffic comes from mobile phones or tablets, according to Google Analytics. To use this to your business’ advantage, invest in making your website mobile device friendly, to ensure customers can access it from anywhere. This will eliminate frustrating buffering and wasted time, which could result in negative reviews from customers.

One step further would be investing in a mobile app for your business. This may be costly, but it gives customers an opportunity to browse menus, place online pickup orders, even be involved in a customer rewards program, should you choose to create one for your restaurant. This will help give customers a streamlined, positive experience with your business, just from using a convenient mobile app.

Tip #6

Whatever you do- Monitor What’s Going On

Any change you make can either harm or help your business, so you need to be aware of how the decisions you make are affecting your business. Begin by equipping your website with Google Analytics, which will help you keep track of your site traffic and give you an idea of how many people are being reached. You can also use tools like Unamo SEO, which will analyze your site, help you improve in certain areas, and will show you your site’s progress on a daily basis.

To go one step further, you can hire a content manager to analyze all this data. They can set up all these tools and platforms to keep track of your website’s progress and traffic and can make different adjustments as needed to make sure you’re getting the results you want. This will be another thing to factor into your budget, but if you aren’t a tech-savvy business owner, this may be a better option than trying to do it all yourself.

Conclusion

Search engine optimization may seem very complicated and hard to understand, but it is simpler than many may think. It is a key component to business expansion and can work wonders when it comes to getting your business the exposure it needs to reach its’ potential. By being active on social media, forming a good relationship with customers, and hiring help when you need it, you can easily take your business to the next level. Be sure to keep up with the times, keep your website up to date and mobile device friendly. Keep your business on the up and up by utilizing these SEO tips.

It’s the Small Things: Restaurant Micro-Experiences

The use of micro experiences is what makes a restaurant experience so unique, and it’s these experiences that create a more memorable dining experience for your guests, and fully activate your restaurant brand.

A guest will always keep in mind the quality of your customer service and the taste of your food, but it’s in the small and subtle details that the true essence and soul of your restaurant experience is put on display.

Imagine, for instance, walking into a new restaurant. You see and hear familiar sights and sounds; the melody of your songs and the aroma of your favorite food. You look up and are greeted with a warm smile by your server.

These moments are short and may not seem important, but these tiny moments will add up to create a lasting impression of the restaurant in your guest’s mind. The customer may not associate the positive thoughts about the restaurant back to that specific moment, yet still, it created a memorable restaurant experience.

Top 8 Ideas for In Restaurant Micro Experiences

There are a number of ways for a restaurant to use micro experiences to improve their guest’s experience. In fact, there are even marketing agencies who specialize in helping you create these “micro-experiences.” Here are my top eight suggestions for creating positive micro experiences for your restaurant’s guests. If you utilize these eight ideas, you are sure to obtain guest loyalty, helping you create a reliable source of business from repeat customers.

Not only that, but happy customers will share their experience with others, attracting even more new customers. Even if your business is already doing well, these eight tips can still help you create an even better experience for your customers.

1. Engaging Your Staff

Micro experiences can be implemented in almost every area of your restaurant, but one of the simplest ways to create a more memorable micro experience is by training your employees.

Now, I don’t mean that you simply teach them to do their job duties. You are likely already doing that. What I mean is that you should train your employees on how to create great impressions through micro experiences.

To do this you will need to explain the concept of micro experiences to them and provide them with real-life examples of how they can use the concept on the job. That way each of your staff members can create micro experiences that will induce guest loyalty.

You could put a reward system or program in place to encourage your staff to work on improving their communication with the guests. Or, reward employees for providing exceptional customer service and extending kindness towards customers.

Be sure that you help them see how a better guest experience can translate into their paycheck also. After all, happier and more loyal guests often will translate into higher check averages.

Another benefit of this would be keeping your employees happy and engaged. Employees who are engaged tend to care more about their job and work harder at it. After all, it’s really difficult to ask un-engaged and unhappy employees to create positive micro experiences.

2. Your Atmosphere & Service

Your restaurant should certainly have a good vibe and soul. A personal style goes a long way when it comes to creating a memorable dining experience for your guests. It’s just another subtle thing that will contribute to your guest’s overall impression.

Having a personalized style may seem like a minor detail, but it makes a huge impact. This alone could be the thing that sets your restaurant apart from the hundreds of others. A unique interior and aesthetic can make a customer excited to return. If you’re dining experience has evoked certain feelings that they don’t get anywhere else, then they’ll always return to you to feel that way again.

Maybe it’s the personalized style of decoration or a personal theme that provokes feelings of excitement, joy, and interest in your guests. Or it could be the way that your guests are greeted, and served that makes them feel at home. But remember, there’s a difference between providing great service and providing great hospitality. Hospitality is everything when it comes to building a memorable restaurant experience.

Danny Meyer put it well when he said,

“Service without soul, no matter how elegant, is quickly forgotten by the guest.”

Danny Meyer, Setting the Table

The guest’s surrounding and overall vibe of your restaurant can greatly impact the way the guest feels regarding your establishment. This can help your establishment to stand apart from the rest.

3. One-Of-A-Kind Menu Options

Of course, your food will leave an impression on your guests, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the restaurant’s ‘signatures.’

I’m sure you can think of a restaurant that features one item that you can’t find anywhere else. McDonald’s “Big Mac,” Burger King’s “Whopper,” Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits, or Taco Bell’s “Dorito” tacos are just a few examples.

People tend to know what they want before selecting where they will eat dinner.

By offering one of a kind menu options along with guest favorites, you will encourage customers to select your restaurant.

Once you create that one delicious item that only your restaurant can provide to guests, you will inspire your guest’s loyalty. They will flock to your restaurant to get that one of a kind item. These signature items are what makes your restaurant your own.

Your guest trying that one of a kind menu option is a micro experience in its own way. They will remember that signature item, how it made them feel, and associate it with your restaurant. So, you better make sure it’s good!

4. Beverage Programs & House Speciality Drinks

If your restaurant serves alcohol this is the perfect way to create memorable micro experiences. Serve house drinks or feature specialty drinks. Provide affordable alcoholic beverages. You could even host a happy hour.

People love to drink and have a good time. If you can do two things for them, those guests will be loyal to your restaurant for life. First, create a fun, laid back environment. Second, serve premium, great-tasting, and affordable alcohol.

It’s easier to create positive micro experiences when the guest has had a drink. They can be more relaxed, open, and open to dialogue. It will create a lasting impression of your restaurant.

People generally love alcohol, so if you can serve the guest’s favorite alcohol at an affordable price, you will attract a ton of business. If you can create a positive dining experience through the use of micro experiences, you will keep those guests coming back for more fun.

5. Unique & Comfortable Furniture

The furniture should fit your restaurant’s style but should also stand out and make a statement. It needs to to be comfortable, visually appealing, and different. Furnish your establishment with pieces the guest will remember fondly.

Your guest probably won’t dwell on the appearance of the furniture; they will just briefly consider it. However, in most instances, micro experiences can occur in just a short amount of time. On the same token, if your furniture is uncomfortable, odd-looking, or predictable and mediocre, the micro experience your guest will have will be a negative one.

In the brief moments that your furniture grasps the customer’s attention, the guest should feel positive about the appearance and comfort of the piece of furniture.

That positive thought will work alongside the alcohol, food, and atmosphere to create the guest’s overall full impression of your restaurant. Remember, the overall guest experience is just a collection of micro experiences that lead the guest to feel a certain type of way.

6. Quirky Fixtures & Decor

You’re probably wondering what I mean by quirky accessories. I’m referring to every non-furniture item in your restaurant. Decorations, wall decor, table pieces, etc. All of these FF&E elements throughout your restaurant will make an impact.

These small pieces can invoke certain feelings or be conversation starters. The restaurant fixtures and decor will contribute to the unique furniture and atmosphere. They should seamlessly blend in but stand out, or feel out of place.

To create a great micro experience with these quirky fixtures and decor you need the guest to first notice the piece. Then note that it is intriguing, cute, or different. The piece should ideally make the guest laugh, smile, ponder, or point it out to their dining companion.

These quirky accessories should be unique to your establishment. This is another micro experience idea that can set your establishment apart from the rest. The most successful restaurants utilize this idea; sometimes it comes naturally, but other times it takes some thinking to get it right.

7. Utilize Atmosphere & Ambiance

Before you can use an atmosphere to maintain positive micro experiences, you must create the atmosphere. You can customize your restaurant’s atmosphere with ambiance, sounds, scents, and textures. The atmosphere has to be felt by the guest.

You can do this by selecting a certain type of music that works with the restaurant theme. The ambiance, or lighting, plays a key role in creating an atmosphere.

Even the scent of your restaurant is important. In fact, there are companies that solely focus on “scent-marketing” such as Scent Air. This is a very interesting way to create an experience because studies have shown that 80%+ of customers are willing to spend more time in a place with a pleasant scent. Also, emotions are generated, in large part (75%), by specific scents we recall.

An enjoyable atmosphere will create an initial impression, but it will also contribute to the effect of each one of the guest’s micro experiences throughout their stay.

The atmosphere will affect everything, including your guest’s impressions of other people. Your atmosphere plays a big part in showing off the heart and soul of your establishment.

Ultimately the atmosphere of your restaurant will color the restaurant experience in a certain shade.

8. Keep it Clean!

Your goal is to create a positive dining experience, which involves a guest enjoying food. Because of this, your restaurant has to be clean.

Most people don’t really notice when a space is clean, however, they always notice when it is dirty.

That said, this idea is more about preventing negative micro experiences than creating a positive one. When serving food, cleanliness is the gold standard.

Think of this scenario, your guest has just received their food and they complement the server on its speedy delivery. Their mouth is watering as they inhale the delicious aromas. The guest and server exchange a smile.

So far, so good, right? Unfortunately, not, because the guest just picked up their fork and there was a hair sticking to it. The guest will now have to wait for a new fork and eat their meal with the memory of the dirty fork lingering on their mind.

That dirty fork just ruined an otherwise ideal micro experience. Had that fork been clean this guest would have had perfect restaurant experience.

3 Restaurants That Utilize Micro Experiences Well

The most successful restaurants utilize micro experiences in creating positive guest experiences. Theses restaurants who do this are able to stay relevant, popular, profitable and most importantly, in business.

Below are a few restaurants that utilize micro experiences well. Let me walk you through a guest’s experience at each establishment. Then you should review how they create great dining experiences through micro experiences.

Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel is a home-style restaurant that prioritizes the guest’s experience. The restaurant chain’s motto is ‘Pleasing People.’ The chain does such a great job at this, that they have one of the largest percentages of return customers.

Cracker Barrel is a home-style restaurant that prioritizes the guest’s experience. The restaurant chain’s motto is ‘Pleasing People.’ The chain does such a great job at this, that they have one of the largest percentages of return customers.

The restaurant pleases people by focusing on micro experiences. A guest walks in the front doors, entering the restaurant’s country store. The store features countless unique items, most of which are created solely for the restaurant.

An employee greets you at the door with a huge smile and inquires how you’re doing. You follow the sign pointing to the hostess station. At which point the host reviews the daily special and featured items.

As you are led to your seat, you notice the old fashion signs decorating the walls and lit lanterns at every table. You sit down on a wooden table, which features a homemade peg game.

The menu consists of country style favorites that are meant to remind you of sit-down meals, enjoyed with family. There are a few select meals like Grampa’s Breakfast and Uncle Herschel’s Favorite.

The restaurant has a personalized style that follows a central theme, and they extend their style into their decor and accessories. Cracker Barrel offers one of a kind menu option. They create an atmosphere with their friendly customer service and cozy table-top lanterns.

Roosters

Rooster’s claims to be, ‘A fun, causal joint.’ The restaurant features chicken wings but offers a variety of other American Foods. This restaurant is what it claims, pretty casual.

Upon entering the restaurant, you are greeted by a cashier, who will lead you to your seats. You’ll likely notice the high ceilings and light wooden furniture. The huge party table will stand out and the televisions will roar with the latest in sports.

You will definitely admire the sports memorabilia that covers the walls, but it will be the hilarious sayings displayed in black print on the square, white signs that capture your attention.

As you survey the menu, you’ll love the large selection of wing sauces, and intriguing list of appetizers. There is also a robust alcohol menu, that always includes bargain-priced featured drinks.

When you order, you’ll have to order the dumpster fries, or tots, as an appetizer. They are truly mouthwatering and come with a signature sauce.

Even the servers are casual in jeans, or jean shorts, and a blacktop. The bench tables are long enough to accompany a family or group of friends.

The restaurant uses micro experiences perfectly. They have a personalized style that contributes to the atmosphere of the restaurant. The funny signs are a great example of quirky fixtures and decor. The dumpster fries are one-of-a-kind menu option that you’ll have to try. Plus, bargain drinks are a great way to inspire guest loyalty.

The Cheesecake Factory

The finest of all the dining establishments on the list is The Cheesecake Factory. From the moment you approach the building, you will notice the attention to detail. The building itself has the shape of a factory.

In the winter this restaurant features fire heaters on the patio for waiting guests. When you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by a romantic style ambiance. There is both a bar and bakery located near the hostess station.

The host takes your name and seats you at the first available table. As you walk to your table you are navigated through an array of fancy tables with coat racks. When you take a seat, you can’t help but notice how comfortable and intimate your table is.

You can order a drink from an extensive beverage menu, which includes alcohol. Then you have a huge variety of meals to choose from. You can’t beat their signature chicken marsala.

The meal will be incredible and the service delightful, but the most impressive part of the evening will be the dessert. They don’t call it “The Cheesecake Factory” for nothing! You can select a huge slice of cheesecake from almost fifty options!

The server will box up any remaining food for you to take home with you. These restaurants are almost always located near shopping centers.

The Cheesecake Factory creates a memorable dining experience by creating micro experiences. They include the personal touch of the warmer, which extends caring thoughts towards their guests. The restaurant features exquisite furniture, one of a kind menu option. Come on, fifty types of cheesecake? Plus, the restaurant features a personalized style and atmosphere.

Conclusion

As you read through the list of ideas and restaurants that utilize the ideas perfectly to created incredible micro experiences that lead the guest to have a memorable dining experience, do you notice anything?

Each of these items has to do with the way the guest feels. That is the key to creating great micro experiences.

You have to make the guest feel something positive and the stronger that positive feeling is the better.

When a guest associates positive feelings with your restaurant, you are successfully creating memorable micro experiences. This is how you obtain guest loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Do you notice how these three restaurants create micro experiences? Every aspect of their establishment is geared towards their potential guests. These establishments have put a large amount of thought into what will grab their customer’s attention and invoke certain feelings.

If you want to improve your guest’s dining experiences, you will need to create great micro experiences too. The guests will create them with or without your help. You will need to gear their attention towards things that will reflect your establishment in a positive light.

Restaurant micro experiences create a memorable dining experience for your guests. You need to make sure their micro experiences are positive and fulfill the guest’s expectations for your establishment.

10 Brand Activation Ideas for Your Restaurant

As a restaurant owner, you are likely always looking for new ways to draw more people to your restaurant’s food and services. However, restaurant branding, and marketing can be more difficult than you think. Not only do you need to draw them, you also need to keep them coming back for more.

This is where brand activation comes in. Brand activation is key to getting consumers from simply browsing your menu to actually visiting your restaurant and eating your food.

In this article, we will discuss ten brand activation ideas to help drive more consumer action to your restaurant. If you want to find out how to elevate your restaurant’s marketing impact, keep on reading.

What Is Brand Activation?

Brand activation is a relatively new marketing idea. Essentially, it is the idea of motivating consumer action through a variety of experiences. In other words, it is about drawing attention to brands by creating unique interactions that result in long-term connections with consumers.

Brand activation typically occurs in the form of activation events.

Activation events are one-time, exclusive events that encourage consumers to interact with a brand, see a brand in a new way, and draw more in-store or in-restaurant activity. The key is that brand activation events have to be unique, memorable, and shareable.

It should be said that brand activation events or campaigns can utilize a variety of methods, such as:

  • Consumer promotions
  • Sampling campaigns
  • Shopper marketing
  • Digital campaigns
  • Experiential marketing

Whatever method you use is up to you and your circumstances. Just remember that the goal is to create a distinct experience that ups the notoriety of your company or restaurant.

1. Utilize Social Media

Social media is easily one of the most definitive aspects of our daily culture. As a matter of fact, 54% of social media users use social media to research products and interact with a brand. So, if your consumers are not talking about your restaurant or brand on social media, you are definitely not connecting with them well enough.

An easy way to generate some attention on social media is to get consumers to post about your brand. This could be anything from simply sharing a photo post about your food and reviews to sharing promotional content.

For example, Sonic did an experiential campaign at Coachella. They sold square-shaped milkshakes during the music festival that could only be purchased through Instagram.

Another great idea is to use social media to hold contests or giveaways.

Domino’s held a fun giveaway on Instagram called the Piece of the Pie Contest. Essentially, Domino’s fans or consumers had to take a photo that showed they are a super fan. The most elaborate photo won a grand prize of $10,000, but Domino’s gained more fan interaction than ever before.

Social media is a great avenue for boosting your brand’s followers and visibility. Fun, interactive social media campaigns are an exciting way to get more consumers to try your food.

2. Leverage Common Problems

The basis of selling any type of product, including food, is that you are solving some common problem or need. The same idea can apply to brand activation events for your restaurant.

For example, when summer festival season hits, the heat can be a major downer on any person’s day. However, bring awareness to your own brand by supplying guests with refreshing drinks or a fun way to cool down.

Vitamin water put a clever spin on this idea by providing music festival guests with a fun misting station. With this quirky, interactive idea, consumers got to cool down and Vitaminwater was able to gain more exposure for their brand.

You should also consider getting a stand at your local farmer’s market. If your restaurant is offering new menu items, this is a great opportunity to offer samples and build up interest in your restaurant.

3. Create Fun & Unique Consumer Experiences

Like we mentioned above, the key to a successful brand activation campaign is that it is unique and cannot be easily replicated.

The events you create surrounding your restaurant have to be unexpected and something your customers have not experienced before.

One great way to create a unique restaurant branding experience is to make use of pop-up shops or cafes. Pop-ups are essentially temporary retail spaces that give companies an opportunity to sell their product in a completely personalized space. For restaurants, it is a great opportunity to present their food or service in a fun new way.

For example, Subway set up a pop-up outdoor salad bar. Subway’s goal was two-fold: encourage healthy eating and to promote their new Salad of the Day menu option. It was a smart way to promote their new menu while also playing on consumer’s desire for healthier and more readily available produce.

Another fun twist was Quaker’s pop-up breakfast vending machines. This unique play on the traditional pop-up shop featured a large vending machine with two workers dressed as robots doling out free breakfast. To make the experience even better, each oatmeal dish was specially prepared according to each consumer’s taste.

Remember, the key here is that you want consumers to activate or act on your brand. You want to create activities that will put the product in your consumers’ hands so they can get a well-rounded experience.

That also means ensuring that your event does not stagnate. For example, if you have a large event, try to intersperse smaller activities or experiences while people are waiting around. Try to aim for collaborative activities as it will encourage a more light-hearted, open environment at your event.

4. Make Learning About Your Company Fun

If you want more people to care about your brand, it is important that you share its roots. Sharing the who, what, why and how of your brand is important to help consumers connect with your brand’s values. However, instead of just trying to tell people about your brand, one of the best restaurant marketing ideas is to teach them more about your restaurant methods, such as cooking classes or recipe development.

A cool example is Haagen-Daz’s sensory dessert schools. Haagen-Daz set up their two-day dessert school to teach how sight, sound, and scent contributed to tasting ice cream. However, Haagen-Daz elevated the pop-up event with talks by major social media influencers and Haagen-Daz ice cream tester, Alison Gray.

Nespresso did the same with a sensorial coffee club pop-up. The Nespresso Connoisseur Club is a traveling culinary adventure, featuring taste tests and classes by Michelin starred chefs. It is an opportunity for Nespresso to share their brand in a new upscale light that is deeply immersive and informative.

Bringing consumers into the fold of what your brand does behind the scenes is a great way to establish a trusting relationship with them.

Not only do they get to learn about your specific restaurant and your products, but they also have a growing appreciation for your work.

5. Make Your Events VIP

A simple way to develop stronger relationships with consumers is to make your brand activation events exclusive. Now, it seems counterintuitive at first. By making an event exclusive to a specific group of consumers, you are obviously excluding other consumers.

However, making events VIP will help you develop stronger emotional connections with consumers. Those consumers who are a part of the exclusive group will feel more valued and will develop a stronger bond with your brand. This way they are more motivated to share your brand with other people.

Moreover, on a logistical note, making events exclusive is also a smart, budget-friendly idea. If you don’t have a huge marketing budget, all you can afford is a short-term branding event.

However, influencers and local media are more drawn to short-term events, especially if they are fresh and creative. This way the more tight-knit an event feels the more people want to be involved or in the know. And, as we said, the more exclusive an event is the more likely people feel the need to share it online.

6. Be Spontaneous

If you truly want to be remembered by consumers, do something memorable and completely unexpected. For example, Lipton Iced Tea completely took London by surprise when they stuck a 100-meter, bright yellow water slide in the middle of the morning commute.

The day-long event encouraged people to come out and bring their swimsuits and pool inflatables with them. And all throughout the even, Lipton employees handed out samples of a variety of Lipton products while also promoting the Daybreaker event series.

This is the time to think out of the box. The more creative you are the better because it will help you stand out from your competition.

From using slip and slides to using flashmobs, you don’t have to stick with a basic food service setting to promote your brand.

7. Utilize Technology

The heart of brand activation events is their face-to-face interaction that digital marketing can overlook. However, this does not mean you should completely discount technology. As a matter of fact, your restaurant branding events should be so memorable that your consumers can’t help but whip out their phones to share it.

If you are holding a pop-up shop, encourage attendees to share pictures, videos and to even make a hashtag. However, you can take your branding game to a whole new level by making social media an active part of the event. Take, for example, Marmite’s positivity recording pop-up cafes.

Marmite opened up a Twitter pop-up shop that used social media as a means of payment. When patrons would enter the shop, they would give their social media handle. The pop-up cafe then uses a “Love-O-Meter” to analyze tweets to see if they are sharing positive or negative messages online.

If you are identified as a positive, loving spirit, you are given a sample of a Marmite summer snack. This is a great twist on using the power of technology and social media. Here, technology and social media actively play a part in the success of the branding event.

You can even go simpler than that. If you are holding a cocktail party, provide a variety of photobooths and award the most creative photo at the end of the event.

You can host a food scavenger hunt and have participants hunt down food-related clues. When they find the answer, they can just snap a picture and send it via text.

Whatever method you choose, you can be sure that technology will help your brand interact with consumers in a fun, immersive way.

8. Get Your Team & Staff Involved

If you really want your brand to stick out, it is important to get your team on board with branding events. Due to their close relationship with your company and brand, they are easily one of your best promotional resources.

Try to get your team involved from the very beginning. Inform them of your idea and get their feedback. They might have some cool ideas that could improve your idea.

Bringing your team in on brand activation ideas is integral to having a successful and memorable event. First, well-informed staff will ensure that the whole event is flowing like a well-oiled machine. In turn, you can ensure all guests or consumers are getting the best experience.

Secondly, getting your team involved is a great way to have them brush up on their knowledge of the brand. Their ability to share the history and roots of the brand and cool, hidden details can help build brand loyalty with consumers. Moreover, it can build brand loyalty within the team itself.

9. Communicate Your Brand’s Values

A successful branding event gets consumers to understand and align with a brand’s values.

Shared values are the basis of establishing a strong bond with your consumers.

That being said, if you are struggling to think of brand event ideas, go back to your roots and build off of your values.

As one of the most value-driven brands, Ben & Jerry’s does this particularly well. During the Big Ice Screening Film Festival, Ben & Jerry’s established a bike-powered pop-up outdoor theatre.

For three days, consumers could engage in a multitude of childhood games and get food and drinks from a variety of stalls. However, the highlight of the event was Ben & Jerry’s effort to use renewable energy for the entire event.

The event had stationary bikes that were used to power the movie screen. In addition, they also employed green energy, hybrid power source provided by Firefly.

The entire event was really to promote Ben & Jerry’s newest ice cream flavor. However, it was further bolstered by the brand’s commitment to environmental causes.

Although elaborate, outlandish ideas are sure to draw attention to you, working off of your values is sure to keep people around. And committing to those values consistently only shows consumers that you are a reliable and dedicated company. In turn, people will only want to support and interact with your brand more.

10. Help Your Consumers Help Others

An excellent way to get your consumers to interact with your brand and to further promote your values is to help your consumers help others. More often than not, people see issues that they want to help with or change but do not know where to start.

This is a great opportunity for your company to step up to the plate and bridge the gap between important issues and potential solutions.

One great example of this is Skittles’ Holiday Candy Pawnshop Pop-up. The four-day branding event allowed consumers to bring in their unwanted items and trade them for candy. All of the collected items were then donated to a Goodwill ReUse center.

This could easily be replicated for your restaurant branding. Maybe during the holidays take canned food donations in exchange for a meal at your restaurant. Another great idea is to get the community involved in a huge potluck for the local homeless shelter.

Not only does your brand gain more visibility, but it also gains visibility for positive reasons. Moreover, this will make people more attracted to your brand because they know if they are supporting your brand, they are also supporting a good cause.

Conclusion

As technology and digital media continue to evolve, learning to market for your brand continues to grow more complicated. Fortunately, brand activation events give you an opportunity to get your brand on the front-lines without the risk of blending in with the competition.

Activation events allow you to repackage your products and share them in a whole new way. Moreover, activation events bring your in-store or in-restaurant traffic to new heights and allow you to build more meaningful relationships with your consumers.

So long as you focus on your audience and focus on making your experiences unique and shareable, brand activation events can help you ride the tide of changing trends.

6 Popular Brand Naming Methods

Anyone who’s had to come up with a new name for their business understands how draining the journey can be, and how quickly that early excitement is surpassed by a feeling of hopelessness triggered by the realization that all the nice names are already taken.

The subject of naming strategies is covered by plenty of articles. Most of them concentrate on the list of conditions a new name should follow–it should be original and easy to remember, and in line with the brand vision. All of this is relevant–after all, the name is the most important and vital medium, and there are many brands that have shown that a good new name can make all the difference.

Not many articles, however, discuss what certain naming choices may mean for the future for the company and what can actually create the most problems in the future.

This article talks about the important elements of the naming process and decisions that should be analyzed and decided upon before moving forward with any fresh name. Considering these factors at an earlier stage can save businesses time and resources in the years ahead.

Brand Architecture

The first question you should ask is if you really need a new name. If you’d like to set up a new business, it needs a name, of course, but if you’re creating a new product, for instance, check first whether you can use any current names that the organization already owns, especially if it’s already acquired some brand recognition.

Developing a new brand from the ground up is a preferred option for many people because it gives them a sense of creativity, but this decision shouldn’t be made lightly. In most cases, it can take years and be very expensive to build brand recognition. You can try one of the following alternatives instead.

  1. Endorsed brand (e.g. Avid Hotels by IHG )
  2. A Subsidiary brand (e.g. Hyatt Regency)
  3. A Product Variant, with a branded house framework (IHG® Rewards Club)

You’ll notice that all of these examples stem from a reputable and recognizable parent brand.

Finally, look five to 10 years ahead when regarding the new name and how it fits into the landscape of your current portfolio. Think about what the potential future products will be, where structurally they will fit, and how they will live in harmony with the product you are launching now.

The Right Naming Process

Once you’ve decided on how to approach the brand architecture, it’s time to start deciding what types of names would best serve your brand’s future. At Longitude, we have a full name development process that we guide our clients through – from concept to trademarking.

However, naming your business is something that can be done on your own as well. Just make sure you take a strategic approach and think through all of the potential meanings, benefits, and challenges within the name you pick. Naming your business shouldn’t be a clumsy or casual process. It is truly a rigorous, holistic and dynamic process guided by very specific branding and business goals.

The first task of developing a successful brand name is to educate yourself with some of the brand naming techniques and identify which model is suitable for your business, your product or service, and your intended audience.

1. Founder’s Name

This may be one of the most simple naming methods, but it can also be the most difficult to use properly. This method uses the name of the individual(s) who established the business as the brand and describes the products with or without additional descriptors. One of the most popular examples of this is Disney, named after founder Walt Disney.

2. Descriptive Names

Another relatively simple standard on brand naming, this approach creates brand names that reflect the offered products or services. One valuable thing to consider with this category is that brand names that seem to depict a product are truly strong brands that have become associated with the goods they supply – such as Xerox for photocopiers, Band-Aid for small bandages, and Scotch tape for… well, tape.

3. Geographical Names

Again, this straightforward naming system is just what it sounds like— using a landmark or geographical reference in a brand name linked with a product or service, for example. Amazon, Patagonia, Boston Market, and New York Life.

Geographical names associate a brand with all of the characteristics of history and culture for which its name is known— whether that be good or bad. These names are often used by companies that once marketed to a geographically restricted crowd but have since expanded. Obviously there are natural constraints to naming or renaming your brand after its home region. Plus, it’s almost impossible to find a name that hasn’t been already used.

4. Evocative Names

Evocative brand names reside just on the other end of the creative spectrum. Evocative names use suggestion and symbolism to recall the brand’s positioning or experience. They are unique and versatile, and create a strong differentiator. Because evocative names often tend to be complex and multifaceted, they are a chance to forge a deeply significant brand that is greater than solely the products or services you provide. They can become the backbone of your brand’s position.

Evocative names are much easier to trademark than descriptive ones because of their originality. Though, getting executive buy-in on an ambiguous name which requires some unpacking can be difficult.

5. Neologisms (Invented Names)

One fun part about creating a name for a brand is that if you can’t figure out the best word(s) to describe it, you can always just invent a word yourself. Invented names are fanciful, if not distinctive, fabrications. These kinds of names provide a brand with the most creative latitude, but that doesn’t make them simple to dream up. Often, they are constructed out of Latin, Greek, or other foreign root phrases and altered to best represent the character of the brand.

6. Acronyms

As a general rule, acronyms are often difficult for people to remember, and can be one of the most challenging names to trademark. Yet, using an acronym for a name has been a default staple for many businesses since the concept of branding became a thing. Despite the challenges with this naming strategy, brands like UPS, KFC, and IBM don’t seem to be phased despite their name being a series of uppercase letters.

Conclusion

The name you choose is one of the most important keys to your brand’s success. Taking the time to develop a memorable, evocative and truly distinctive brand name will provide you with a strong foundation for a successfully positioned brand in the market. Eventually contributing to increased profitability for your business.

Although the naming methods are finite, there is an infinite list of possible brand names. The journey of naming your business is exciting and frightening at the same time. But remember this, a perfect name won’t make a bad product awesome, but a great product can make even the most odd name memorable.

8 Most Common Reasons Restaurants Close Within the First Year.

Every now and then, the concept of owning a restaurant can make you start up a new company while overlooking the actual responsibilities and issues that restaurant ownership entails. All too often, this leads to novice restaurant owners closing their doors in the first year.

You shouldn’t be one of them.

According to some studies, 60 percent of restaurants close or change ownership within the first year of operation, and 80 percent close within the first five years.

Restaurants fail for many reasons, ranging from health-related closures to constantly poor reviews. However, if you understand the most common factors that cause restaurants to fail, then you can identify warnings signs early, make better decisions, and hopefully not face a disaster.

A Terrible Location

You’ve heard it said: Location, location, location.

One of the greatest, if not the greatest, reasons a restaurant fails is a poor location. Low visibility, no easily accessible parking, and low foot traffic is a mix that makes turning a profit almost impossible.

Choosing the right spot can even compensate for many of the other shortcomings in this list, but a great location won’t ever compensate or excuse you from providing the basics of excellent service and great quality food.

A great location won’t ever compensate or excuse you from providing the basics of excellent service and great quality food.

If you are already operating in a bad location, there are strategies and things you can do to overcome that challenge. Here’s an article we’ve published that may give you some ideas: 7 Ways Your Restaurant Can Still Thrive Despite a Bad Location

Not Enough Capital to Operate

Based on the sort of restaurant you are planning to open, hundreds of thousands of dollars or more may be needed to cover payroll, suppliers, and other expenses until you turn a profit.

Keep in mind that your loan has to last through the grand opening day. Before you serve a single customer, don’t foolishly purchase brand new appliances and furniture for a restaurant. Buy only what you need and weigh the advantages of the equipment you are using. Do not put anyone on the payroll until as near as possible to the opening day.

Be very frugal with your starting loan; do not treat it as if you were just winning the lottery.

As your planning your restaurant, here is a free guide you can read to help you along the way. It covers everything from concept, to funding, legal setup, and grand opening. The Ultimate Guide: How to Start a Restaurant

Bad Customer Service

Poor customer service is a common reason for the closure of any restaurant. A reputation for poor service will spread like wildfire and sometimes it may seem irreparable. Even the finest three-starred restaurant would close down with poor service. Customer service is one of the essential pillars of operating a successful restaurant, and to remain open.

A reputation for poor service will spread like wildfire and sometimes it may seem irreparable.

In the early phases, asking for customer feedback ensures that you can work out the kinks before it’s too late.

Poorly Managed

When you’re searching for a general manager to help run your day-to-day operations, you’ll probably find someone with the most experience and excellent references –and an all around good vibe and cultural fit.

But even still, sometimes you may find a few months later that they’re not running the restaurant well. They may be alienating employees, taking long breaks, or even worse –stealing money or taking advantage of restaurant resources.

These day-to-day pressures of owning and operating a restaurant, combined with the difficulties in staffing restaurants and hospitality brands, can cause great harm to your staff and team culture if not addressed. You need to do regular check-ins with your management and team members to make sure they’re performing at their highest potential.

Poor Marketing & Advertising Efforts

Advertising and marketing are both essential to creating the reputation of a unique restaurant –especially as more and more chain restaurants open throughout the nation. Most people believe you need to pay exorbitant prices to attract customers, however, you can spread awareness at little to no expense to a targeted demographic with social media and word-of-mouth marketing.

Even more importantly, before you begin spending money on any marketing or advertising, you should make sure you have a clear game plan and strategy on what message you’ll be communicating with your customers.

Who are your customers? What do they care about? What makes your restaurant unique? Why should people care about your restaurant?

Do you have a purposeful and profitable brand strategy?

Answering all of these questions and more will help ensure you have a compelling brand story that attracts more customers. Do you have a purposeful and profitable brand strategy? Read more about our restaurant brand strategy process – BrandGPS™.

Ignoring or Evading Taxes

Federal and state taxes come with heavy penalties, charges, and other assorted fees when paid late, but when a restaurant faces tough times, on-time payments are often difficult. Many owners will completely avoid paying taxes and hope that they will get away scot-free.

It may happen once, but tax negligence ends almost always with heavy penalties, closures of businesses, or even jail time.

Being Too “Hands-Off”

To be a restaurant owner, this means that you need to work at your restaurant. Your job as an owner isn’t to just hang out, chat with customers, and become a famous restaurant owner in the process.

Great restaurant owners are often the first in the door and the last out at closing because the owner not only has the most to lose, but the most to gain. Unless the property is solely an investment or the proprietor lives outside the city, the person in charge should be there every day, discovering new solutions to increase profit margins, engage team members, and develop a profitable brand.

Not Properly Tracking Food Costs

The first step towards making a profit is to know how to correctly price your restaurant menu. Do you understand how to calculate your cost per-plate? The majority of owners don’t. For instance, you could try adding an expensive premium ingredient to a lower cost dish, to take full advantage of your per-plate cost and profit margin.

Several other modifications can help to bring the cost of food down without the same flavor. Sticking to the 30% food price golden rule will help you to maintain a healthy profit margin for all of your menu items.

Sticking to the 30% food price golden rule will help you to maintain a healthy profit margin for all of your menu items.

In Conclusion

Now you know the primary reasons why many restaurants fail. You have the chance to study your market and research new ideas – make sure that your concept really works.

Yet, if you never step out and try -you’ll never truly know what it means to be a restaurant owner.

Regardless of all of your planning, the restaurant may fail. But if you continually try to grow and learn while operating within the core functions of any successful restaurant (excellent food, service, and location) you will increase your chances of achievement.

On top of all this, developing a great concept, great name, and brand identity for your restaurant is the icing on the cake. These core foundational strategies will help you be more focused and intentional toward building a strong reputation for your restaurant – and a restaurant that’s set up to succeed.

Want to know more? Download our free E-Book: “7-Figure Restaurant

A Room with A Bed Isn’t Enough- 8 Ways to Future Proof Your Independent Boutique Hotel

As an independent hotelier, you are always looking for ways to provide the best in service to your guests. You want to give them the best experience so that they come back to you when they require your services again, and the way to build loyalty and a great hotel brand.

Largely, customers are seeking a personalized experience, and they definitely want to remain connected from the booking process all the way to check out. Trends like mobile check-in and checkout are growing in popularity, and Wi-Fi remains a most-wanted amenity for guests of all ages.

Here are eight ways you can make your brand the greatest and get your customers coming back for more great stays.

1. Get Super Connected

In the old days, you would pick up that phone that sat on the little desk in between the beds, and you would call the front desk for help with whatever you needed. Or, you’d call the designated number for concierge, and get the help that way.

However, if your hotel has an app, consider taking a cue from Marriott and Hilton. They have the ability for consumers to complete the check-in process right from their smartphones, get into their room using a mobile key, and send out text messages with queries and requests to hotel staff members.

Connectivity is certainly growing as a standard by which hotels are measured. And of course, be sure that your rooms are equipped to handle the changing needs of today’s device-carrying travelers: some hotels even feature charging ports that are a welcome sight to those who may have left theirs on the plane.

2. Emphasize the Wi-Fi

Business travelers are getting work done. Digital nomads are meeting guidelines. Families with kids need the tablet for entertainment. The faster, the better!

The faster you can make your Wi-Fi, the better. Some customers are willing to pay an upcharge for higher speed, but this may be off-putting to some.

In the same vein, provide plenty of power outlets so that devices can be plugged in and charged with ease. Every member of the family has at least a smartphone-so be sure you are prepared.

3. Put A Focus on Local Fun

One way to really improve hotel guest experience is to help travelers experience the city like a true local. With the advent of Airbnb, this is now more important than ever. One huge example is the Unforgettable Experience packages that the Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria offers.

These include destination-specific activities right in the room rate. One such experience situated in Dubai includes dinner and a camel ride for two people. While you certainly do not have to provide camel rides, consider ways you can appeal to your guests by integrating local activities.

You might offer a rate that includes passes to a local attraction, or a dinner voucher for a favorite local restaurant, for instance. Experiences are now more important than ever to consumers, especially millennials, who currently hold them in higher value than “stuff.”

4. Improve Brand Experience by Making Training an Everyday Occurrence

There is no doubt that your staff already puts in 110% when completing their daily duties, and everyone from the GM to the housekeepers to the landscapers does their best. But there are some great ways that you can combine traditional training methods with technology to ensure that every agent and employee is up to speed.

For instance, suppose you have implemented a new Property Management System. Be sure that you are taking advantage of all methods available to teach and train employees. Have them take part in classroom training exercises, complete e-learning, or use an application that monitors your employees’ actions while they work so you can guide them as they learn the system.

Make a concerted effort to have every employee trained on new procedures, technology, and rules. Customers having to wait in line while an employee fumbles around is unacceptable and leaves everyone frustrated.

A well trained and informed staff will resonate soundly with guests. Your brand becomes synonymous with excellence.

5. Provide Personalized Customer Service

A hallmark of your brand can easily be personalized customer service. In a world where we are becoming more and more connected in the digital sense instead of the personal sense, it has become critical to treat your guests like they are the only ones in the entire hotel.

Not all guests should get the same treatment, and excellence is measured in different ways from guest to guest. Some want a speedy check-in; others like to stop and chat with you. Do your best to learn your customers’ name and greet them as such.

Demonstrate an eagerness to help. Remember the guests’ preferences. And be sure you and your employees are able to offer solid information about the local area such as good places to dine or interesting local activities.

Though your brand may not be as large as national chains, you can still treat guests like VIPs. Be sure your staff is trained to be attentive and treat everybody with the utmost of care, regardless of who they are. Guests leave reviews everywhere now: Google, Yelp and more-so when they feel special and cared for, others will know and book with you.

6. Make Booking Easy

You can do simple things that will hugely improve on your booking process and deliver guests the fast and easy experience they desire. Make the calendar part of your process easy by filling out the check-in and checkout boxes with today’s date, plus one day.

Lots of hotels have blank calendar fields and filling it in helps the user get one step closer to whatever dates they need.

You can include a progress measurement for the booking progress. People like to know how long a task will take before they can move onto the next thing, and a progress bar, steps till completion or other measurement method helps consumers move along and stay encouraged to finish the process.

Be sure your process does not ask consumers to log in or create an account unless they will be rewarded in some way (points, etc.). This just annoys the user with more tasks all for marketing reasons, not a great experience.

Every hotel is different, but at the minimum, just ask for full name, email, and phone number. You might also include special requests and time of arrival fields, too. Be sure that your website also offers security credentials, too-it’s peace of mind for users.

7. Guest Engagement

This ties into making guests feel like they are the only ones present in your hotel at any given moment. Guests that are disengaged are not as likely to return to a property and will more than likely discuss their experience online using any number of popular review sites.

Millennials are less likely to be engaged, says Gallup, but the silver lining is that guests who are engaged are less sensitive to price whether they demand luxury experiences or an economical stay. Therefore, guests that have an emotional attachment to a hotel are more likely to book at that property, regardless of budget.

You can encourage engagement by doing some easy things: Encourage them to provide feedback, and of course, treat them as the unique and varied individuals they are. Even though guests are there for different needs and experiences, they all desire great customer service that is delivered with a strong personal touch. Be sure you go over expectations with your staff to ensure the highest satisfaction among guests.

8. Provide Guests the Amenities They Want

There are amenities that customers really like, and then there are ones they can do without. Providing the right mix of amenities that add value to your guests’ stay is critical in making an impact. Consider changing the following:

  • Room Service-Customers are yearning more for good, strong Wi-Fi or a gym. Combine this with the desire to eat local cuisine and experience what the locals do, room service is desired less and less.
  • Valet-Many travelers, even those who stay at luxury hotels, prefer to park their own car.
  • Slippers and robes-Many guests prefer to just wear their own clothes and would not mind if hotels nixed the bathrobes.
  • Mini-bar-The mini bar is often expensive, and travelers do not want to pay the price. Plus, it is expensive to stock these.

Final Thoughts

Your independent boutique property can speak volumes for itself when you provide customers what they seek, which is a personalized, engaging experience, a connected stay at your hotel, bridges to the local cuisine, activities, and establishments, and of course an easy process from start to finish.

By integrating as much helpful technology as you can, and keeping staff trained to be attentive and friendly to your customers’ needs, you will surely notice more repeat business and your hotel will be established as a modern and beautiful place to stay for business, travel, or anything in between.

Restaurant Technologies That Build Brand Loyalty

Some of the most popular technologies that build brand loyalty may surprise you. After all, you likely already know about some of the more popular ones like mobile apps or email coupons.

But stay with us throughout this informative article to find ways that will enhance your brand and keep your customers coming back for more.

Restaurant Website Improvements

You might shake your head at how obvious this one is, but don’t underestimate the power of websites when you are building your brand. A well-designed, easy to read and mobile optimized website is going to be a huge win for your customers. It can absolutely make or break a business.

don’t underestimate the power of websites when you are building your brand.

One survey by Deloitte titled The Restaurant of the Future: Creating the Next Generation Customer Experience indicated that 85% of customers took a look at restaurant’s menu online as they were deciding whether or not to visit for the first time. The ones who do return are likely to spend more money at your establishment, also.

The critical component here is to make sure that your online menu scales to fit smartphones and works well on mobile browsers. Do not include any tabs or drop-down menus, as these tend to obscure text on your page. Use neutral colors that are easy to read.

Customers also really care about ingredients and what’s in what you are making. Do your best to list what each and every dish entail and denote if it is inclusive for a dinner with a dietary need: gluten free, wheat free, vegan/vegetarian to name a few.

Restaurant Mobile Apps

You can use these technologies for a wide variety of promotions and deals that will entice customers, such as menu viewing, food order placement, and even delivery.

The same survey we mentioned earlier showed that a great majority of those who responded-70%, in fact, looked for apps that delivered offers that were personalized.

Nearly half of diners in the USA enjoyed using on-demand food delivery that they access through the use of an app.

Customer loyalty programs, reviews, and other tools can also be performed through the use of an app. Most of the time, these apps are found in really huge restaurant chains, but it may behoove you to seek out a developer who may be able to create an app if your establishment has enough business, or is a regional chain, for example.

Using an app makes it way easier to attract new customers, too. After all, many people like to see what you offer first before they step inside. Be sure that if you do develop an app, you keep it clean and uncluttered.

Reward the customer when they open the app with a discount or free item once a dollar amount is reached. Engagement options are virtually limitless with mobile apps.

Restaurant Social Media

Here is a huge opportunity to connect with your customers using a method they already know about. The chances for you to interact with your clientele are numerous, and there are a few different and great ideas you can use to get your brand off the ground and into the heads of the people you want to bring in.

For starters, ask some questions. Show you really care about what people think. Occasionally inviting your diners to provide feedback might be a little scary, but you are able to tap into what your consumers are thinking and see where their minds are when they think about your establishment.

In this manner, you can find out ways to improve your operation and foster brand loyalty at the same time.

You can ask fun questions like:

  • What do you love about eating out?
  • What’s your favorite drink?
  • What charity should we sponsor?

You can also use Social Media to create a hub of information for your guests. Post news about your establishment, talk about specials and post photos of your new and tasty meals.

People will eventually see it as a place to get information and continue to come back as a means of finding out what’s new.

Chatbots for Your Restaurant

Chatbots are becoming pretty mainstream when it comes to the industry. They offer answers to all the basic questions without being super intrusive to customers.

They are designed to interact with customers in a way that is both meaningful and helpful, and they can be integrated with a variety of interfaces like Facebook, Telegram or Slack.

Customer retention and loyalty are critical to the solvency of a business, especially ones that are based in hospitality and/or service.

Therefore, it is necessary that you exceed all expectations especially when you are talking about customer service. When it comes to ordering some items, making a reservation, or even asking about ingredients, it is nearly impossible to make every customer happy which can give a negative image to your restaurant’s brand.

But using a chatbot means customers don’t have to make a call to the establishment. They can simply talk to an AI bot which can be programmed to make reservations, answer basic questions, order food and then takes the payment for said food.

This frees up your staff to focus all their attention on the customers already inside your restaurant. Plus, chatbots never close and work around the clock.

Augmented Reality in Restaurants

Imagine if your customers were able to project an image of a meal you create using their smart device.

That burger, sandwich, cupcake or steak might look pretty appetizing and entice them to order.

That’s what’s currently happening at Magnolia Bakery in New York, where customers can check out the catering menu by projecting virtual images of the pastries offered via their mobile devices. It has proved to be very popular.

This tech is making its rounds, and soon you might see more than a few hungry customers staring at their devices, visualizing what they would like to eat.

Large corporations like Coca Cola and even regional chains like Bareburger in NYC have paired up with AI companies to bring a new experience to customers and get them interested in what’s offered.

Put the Power in Their Hands

Touchscreen tablet menus are a huge hit with young customers, especially those aged 24-35. One study by Accenture Loyalty found that over half of customers in that age bracket are more loyal to brands that were letting them create something that was unique and tailored to their individual needs.

Tablet menus are indeed great. You can make it very easy for customers to create and customize just what they want to eat with just a few easy taps and clicks.

And unlike printed menus, you can utilize an endless amount of space to make your words count and tell diners all they need to know.

Some technology even includes prompts that offer popular add-on products and upsells to customers for different menu items.

Tablet menus are designed to stay right at the table while your customer dines. When they want another app or desire another drink, all that has to be done is touching the “reorder” button instead of having to wait for a server to come by again.

Plus, this method is great if your establishment tends to be rather noisy or features live music.

Simplifying Payment Experience

One great way to engage guests is to make their payment experience a breeze. The vast majority of guests desire a payment experience that is smooth and lacks any sort of friction. But only a few of us have the tech to make it happen. What can we do to change this and in turn boost brand loyalty?

The vast majority of guests desire a payment experience that is smooth and lacks any sort of friction.

Your POS system is a big factor here. If you have upgraded to an mPOS, you are able to process card payments right at the table as well as NFC mobile or “contactless” methods of payment. By using a mobile POS, you can scan a diner’s smartphone and take their Apple Pay or Samsung Pay to settle the bill.

Having this great tech can also help you make the payment process go a lot faster. If a guest is ready to leave, they really hate waiting around to get their check and then wait for the server to come back with their credit or debit card.

Tablet menus are great because guests can simply pull up the bill, pay at the table, tip their server and leave on their own terms, which is a huge win.

Text Messages

We shall close this article regarding popular restaurant technologies that build brand loyalty by going back to the basics and talking about text messages.

Text messages are great for a variety of reasons. You can get customers to sign up for text alerts by offering them a free product for signing up. By sending them a coupon that gives them a free app, dessert or other coupons, you increase the chance they will come back.

The chain Texas Roadhouse, for instance, garnered over 60,000 subscribers to its mobile subscription list over a year thanks to its loyalty calls to actions, says Retail Dive.

In Closing

What do you think? What technologies will build brand loyalty? Email us your thoughts (info@longitudebranding.com) or ask us a question – we’d love to hear from you!

7 Ways to Study Your Restaurant’s Competition for Your Benefit

When considering competition, most business owners have a negative reaction. Your competitors are the bad guys who are intentionally trying to keep members of your target audience – your customers – from choosing you. When looking at the competition through that lens, it can be difficult to see how any positives could come from a competitor’s existence.

However, competition can be a positive for your business, from the right perspective. It is through competition that you can thrive, innovate and grow. Knowing who the competition is, what makes them stand out, and what people dislike about them is one of the best ways you can achieve a competitive advantage and begin to dominate the market.

Many restauranteurs believe their establishment already stands out from the competition. However, few do enough research to validate those feelings of superiority. By blindly assuming that there is nothing to improve, or that the only things to improve are those that are in response to customer complaints, they can lose out on the opportunity to take their place as one of the best restaurants in their city.

Trying to do what your competitors are doing but basically a little bit better is probably not going to be the winning strategy. The problem is finding what your competitors wouldn’t even consider doing. – Jamais Cascio

When researching your competition, you want to learn as much as you can. You need to know what they offer, how much they charge, what are a customer’s options for obtaining their food (i.e. delivery, take out, eat in), their marketing and branding strategies and tactics, any loyalty or perks they offer to customers, what their customers say they do well, and what kind of promotions they offer. Throughout the research process, you’ll want to keep track of any ideas you have, what your competitor’s strengths are, as well as what their weaknesses are.

Make a List of Your Competitors

The first step in studying your business’s competition is to figure out who they are. Start by making a list of restaurants near your location. You can also check online for restaurants that compete in the same areas as you. For example, if you are a diner serving American cuisine, you’ll want to look at any other restaurants that serve American cuisine, as well as any that provide a quick sit-down option.

You may not want to limit yourself to only your city. Many customers will travel nearby to high-quality restaurants.

Lastly, you can check the Better Business Bureau. Look for the top performing restaurants in your area, as well as new competitors who you may not even be aware of yet. By looking at the top performers and the latest restaurants, you can get a sense of what the newest trends are as well as what makes a restaurant thrive in your market.

Check out Social Media

Once you have your list, you can use the Internet to start your research and scope out the competition. Social media can be full of information. Look at each of their social media accounts and see how they promote themselves. You can also look at how many likes, followers, and how much interaction they have on their accounts.

This can be another way to rank your competition and see which the best are to emulate, especially if the Better Business Bureau does not provide much information. This step in the process may provide a lot of ideas for you to use to promote your own business. Be sure to keep track of those ideas so that you can implement them later.

Read the Reviews

In addition to social media, you can look for other online reviews. See what your local newspapers and magazines have written about your competitors. View review sites online such as Yelp. Make notes of both the positives and the negatives – each will be able to help you develop a competitive advantage.

Also, pay attention to how the competing restaurant reacts to reviews – especially from customers. Are they responsive to everyone? Do they come across as argumentative when receiving complaints? How can you use their examples to improve your own review responses?

Compare Marketing Materials

Online is not the only space where your competition advertises, though you should do a short audit of any digital properties like social media and websites that your competition has. Pick up local marketing materials such as newspapers, magazines and restaurant guides. See if you can find local flyers, coupon handouts, mailers, and other types of advertising. Looking at what your competition is doing well in restaurant advertising, as well as what could be improved, can help you shape a more effective campaign in your market.

Ask Your Customers

Talk to your loyal customers. Do not give them a long paper survey, but casually ask them where they go when they aren’t at your restaurant and what they like about other places. While this information is hard to quantify, it can be helpful.

Use this information to understand your own customers better. What attracts your customers to other restaurants? What do they like at other places that you could potentially utilize in your own business?

You can also uncover ways that your customers find out about other restaurants that you may not be aware of. Besides word-of-mouth, do they use apps or other forms of media? You can use that information to discover other places where you may want to advertise your restaurant in order to reach other customers who are similar to your most loyal ones.

Attend Local Food-Themed Events

Many cities offer food programs such as Taste of the City, or events focused on one particular type of cuisine. Attending these types of events can help you see, in real-time, what your competition is doing and what makes them stand out.

Again, you can ask your own customers for suggestions during the event. What do they enjoy the competition? What do they think you could do better? It can be hard to ask for this type of honest feedback, but if you can listen without taking the critique too personally, it can help your business grow exponentially.

Hire a Restaurant Consultant

Competitor analysis is time-consuming, and it can be difficult to be unbiased. Sometimes it can also be overwhelming to figure out what you should do, and how to prioritize those suggestions. Sometimes when comparing yourself to the competition, it can be too tempting to only focus on the places where your restaurant already excels.

In these types of situations, hiring a restaurant consultant may be helpful. A restaurant consultant will be able to perform a competitive analysis for you. They will help you understand the key differentiating factors that make your competitors stand out, and what you can emulate or even improve on. Restaurant consultants are also already familiar with the competition in your area. This means they will likely already have insight into where restaurants advertise and how they obtain customers. This insight may not be as easy for you to obtain, especially when you are already focused on running your own business.

Restaurant consultants can take their research and other insights to help make a plan. They will help you prioritize, and possibly even implement, the recommended changes. By developing a plan for you, you can more easily use the competition analysis to become one of the best restaurants in your area, without having to do as much of the research yourself.

Once you’ve studied your competition through different channels, or received insights from a restaurant consultant, you can use the different types of information to make improvements to your own restaurant.

Exceed the Positives

Take the things your competitors are doing well, and do not simply emulate them – excel (where possible). Do your competition’s customers appreciate that they can place a very custom order on a competitor’s website? You can build an ordering system on your website, and an app as well. Do customers love the fact that they get a free meal on their 10th visit through a punch card loyalty program? Maybe you can offer a free meal for every nine visits through a digital rewards program.

While it is not possible to exceed every positive you discovered for your competition, even choosing one or two can make a substantial difference.

Exploit the Negatives

Every business has areas where it can make improvements. Outperform your competition in the areas where they are weak. For example, if a competing restaurant has a lot of negative reviews about their employee’s attitudes and behavior, make sure you train your employees to be polite and positive. Offer training materials that teach your employees how to respond to negative feedback. Create policies for refunding money to customers and making mistakes right.

If customers complain about the wait times at your competition’s restaurants during the lunch rush, maybe you can simplify or streamline your own lunch menu so that you can become known as a quick (and delicious) option.

While there are downsides to customers having the option to choose restaurants that aren’t yours, you can utilize this competition to your advantage. If you pay close attention to what others are doing, you can use it to make your own restaurant the best it can be.

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Or just email us at info@longitudebranding.com