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Restaurant PR: Use a Mailing List to Increase Your Business

By Miriam Silverberg

You have within your power the ability to generate a great increase in your business. How? By putting together a mailing list. For years I've been telling my clients to put together a mailing list and the answer I get is: "it's so much trouble." Well, yes, it is a certain amount of work but whoever said running a successful restaurant was easy?

Here's how it works. When your wait staff gives the check to a satisfied customer, and you know who's satisfied and who isn't, put a card in the check folder with space for name, address, email and most important, important dates in their lives, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. Make up a tickler file and before the birthday or anniversary, send them a note, short and sweet, saying you know they have an important date coming up and you'd love to help them celebrate. In any case, congratulations. It could be a birthday or anniversary card or a note, handwritten, please. Or it should look handwritten. Certainly don't send something that looks computer-generated. And send it first-class mail; this should look personal. As a publicist I work in New York City, but whether you are in a big city or a small town, the personal touch works wonders.

You might want to write in your note that you'd like to give them a little gift to help them celebrate: a free dessert, a bottle of wine or just a glass of wine. Not everyone receiving this will take the bait. Some will discard it without a thought but some, by the law of averages, will book a celebratory dinner with you. It could be dinner for two or a much larger celebration. Certainly, I guarantee no one will be offended and this is such a great way to build good will. Many people will probably call to thank you.

As far as the work involved, yes, you will have to program your computer or at the least, put together a tickler file and have someone keep on top of it. It won't do you any good if you send a congratulatory card three weeks after the date. But just think of how much business this could generate for you. And you'll see results rather quickly, too.

Now that you have a mailing list, don't just stop there. Use it for other things, too. Send out a periodic newsletter with happenings at your restaurant. Wine-tastings, special promotions, holiday dinners. Include recipes and cooking tips. It should be informative. How to peel onions without crying. How to sneak milk into your diet.

Use your newsletter to invite customers to certain events. Have a special wine-tasting with wines from a specific winery, a representative to speak about the wines and a prix-fixe dinner priced all inclusive with wines, tax and tips.

What would be the cost of all this? Your mailing-list cost would be birthday, anniversary or all-purpose greeting cards bought in bulk, first-class postage and manpower. As far as newsletter cost is concerned: first of all, newsletters are not sent first class. They're sent the cheapest way possible, which is second or third class. Or, if you have a large enough list, bulk rate. And it's either a self-mailer, which means it's not sent in an envelope, but addressed and then folded and sealed with tape, or, you might want to do a "slim-jim" which means it's a slim folder in an envelope. I think the self-mailer is probably the easiest and cheapest way to go. And this can be computerized. No one expects you to send them a personal newsletter.

As you can see, mailing lists and newsletters have the ability to generate an enormous amount of increased business for a restaurant.


Miriam Silverberg is the president and founder of the New York City publicity firm, Miriam Silverberg Associates. She can be contacted by e-mail at silverbergm@mindspring.com

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