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Stupid Restaurant Marketing: Shift Happens
By Alex Makarski

Unless you’ve spent the last year or so in a cave, you know there are some major economic changes underway that are making restaurant business — or almost any business for that matter — a lot harder. Shift happens, you know.

One way where this shift is apparent is TV. Did you notice how many infomercial-type ads have now replaced the old stupid commercials with dancing pop cans and talking dogs? And we are not even talking Shopping Channel or QVC anymore. This is “normal” TV, like CNN or Fox.

Apparently, very few restaurants are catching on. Here’s just one example that is oh-so-typical.

Last weekend, my son played in a hockey tournament in London, Ontario. The management of the sports complex hosting the tournament has figured out a way to generate some revenue by offering sponsoring opportunities to local businesses.

Great idea.

Bad execution. On the part of advertisers.

Tony's PizzaThis is a picture of the banner for a local pizzeria.

I bet Tony (or whoever owns that pizza business nowadays) spent a pretty penny to get that rink named after them and to put a beautiful banner up. Hereís the issue: I fail to see how they can even hope to get any restaurant marketing results this investment.

Let’s imagine I’m at the rink, I notice the banner and I decide to get a pizza. This is not an inconceivable thing to happen if I’m a parent who has just spent the last 3 hours after a long workday at a cold hockey rink watching a bunch of young Wayne Gretzkys skate around and try to get that puck with a little stick. Cooking is the last thing I’d want to do tonight and pizza would be a Godsend.

Well, there are at least several problems that I wouldn’t be able to overcome as a potential Tonyís customer:

  • Since there is no phone number mentioned on the banner, how am I to call them and place an order?
  • There is no indication of where this place is located either. An address would be very helpful, or better yet, a small map to tell me if that pizzeria is on my way home. None of that is present.
  • How about the business hours? Some hockey practices extend into a very late evening. I wouldn’t want to veer away far from my route and come to the place only to see the “Closed” sign on the door.
  • And, oh, wouldn’t it be nice to know about the delivery option? After all, what can be better than calling the pizza while your kid is changing up and pulling into your drive way just as your pizza has arrived?
  • And last (which should probably be first), why should I order from Tony and not some other national and heavily-advertised pizza brand whose jingle and the phone number are engraved on every kidís brain? (Nope, sorry, being in business since 1961 — or even 438 B.C. is not it. Nor is the claim of being “famous”.)

If you spend any money on restaurant marketing, make sure you give this marketing a chance to pay you back in new and repeat business.

Restaurant owners like to complain about all the things that they have tried and that didn’t work. If you listen to that chorus, nothing ever works. Advertising doesn’t work. Rink sponsorships don’t work. Newspaper ads don’t, and radio doesn’t either, to say nothing of the Yellow Pages. This doesn’t work, that doesn’t work.

And almost invariably, when you take a closer look, you see a poorly executed ad that is a variation of Tonyís Pizza banner, committing all the same restaurant marketing mistakes.

I’m sure Tony (or his successors) are totally convinced by now that local sports sponsorships don’t work. Yet this problem is of their own making. Their business is going to suffer. They will probably withdraw their backing next season. And everyone is going to lose:

  1. Tony’s because they’ll have fewer customers.
  2. The rink because they will lose a sponsor.
  3. Parents who will have to cook now on a night when itís the last thing they’d rather do.
  4. The kids who’d rather have a pizza.

It’s time to get serious about your restaurant marketing. Almost any advertising media can be made to work. Just like any advertising media can lose you a lot of money if used recklessly.

Review your restaurant advertising and put yourself into your customers’ shoes. Are you making it too hard for them to give you their money?




Alex Makarski is Chief Commando of www.RestaurantCommando.com, a restaurant coaching and consulting firm.





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