What Restaurateurs* Should Know
About Restaurant Marketing
The number one driver of a restaurant’s business is its location. Your place needs to be easy to see from the road, in fact, impossible to miss, even to those not looking for it. It should be where there is plenty of customer traffic. It should be easy to get in and out of. Ideally, you should plop it down near other, successful restaurants. There are three reasons for this. One is that many people choose a restaurant by going where there are lots of them and then deciding which one appeals. That’s the idea behind food courts in malls. Another is that when competing places fill up, you’ll get some of their overflow. Still another is that, because location matters, successful restaurants nearby speak well for that spot. The logic on that last one isn’t as circular as it may at first appear.
The number two driver is the experience you create for your customers. The food is, of course, part of the experience, but the first thing customers “taste” is the look and feel of the place: theme, lighting, interior design, menu layout, cleanliness, service, the appearance and manners of your people, and presentation. Customers taste with their other senses long before your cuisine sets foot in their mouth. The more visceral appeal your place has, the better the food will taste. Menu hint: Food photography is an art. If you can’t afford a pro, doing without photography is usually better than doing your own.
Food comes in third, but it’s not as important a third as you think, and your food is probably not as exceptional as you think. People frequent places where location and ambience offer great appeal while the food is mediocre. To name a few: Cracker Barrel, Old Spaghetti Factory, Cheesecake Factory, Chili’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Applebee’s. None of these has great food. Meanwhile, restaurants with superior fare but a poor location and less thought to the experience have gone under.
If you have a lousy location and little distinguishing ambience, you’re not necessarily doomed. It’s just that one dilly of an uphill battle awaits you.
Here’s a hint: Before you open a restaurant where another has failed, make sure that the location wasn’t the chief culprit. And before you get to making recipes, remember that your real product is a place with the kind of look and feel that people enjoy.
*Remember to omit the letter n from restaurant when you render it restaurateur. Most people misspell and mispronounce it.