Business and Operations
Invest in your guest
Ten ways to make a memorable impression
By Stacy Bradshaw
What is your pizzeria famous for? Is it great food,
friendly service, and an inviting atmosphere? Well, guess what? You’re
not alone. And that’s a problem.
Ten ways to make a memorable impression
What is your pizzeria famous for? Is it great food, friendly service, and an inviting atmosphere? Well, guess what? You’re not alone. And that’s a problem.
Joel Cohen, a restaurant marketing consultant who recently presented “60 Ways to Wow Your Guests” at the BC Food Service Expo in Vancouver, says we live in an age of similarity. There are similar restaurants in similar locations, serving similar food at similar prices to similar customers. It’s difficult for customers to differentiate one restaurant from the other. And without a point of differentiation, something that makes you unique, all the direct mail and mass advertising in the world won’t keep customers coming back.
Achieving that point of differentiation can be simple: you can be remembered as the place that gives out mini packs of Oreos instead of the same old mints, or the pizzeria with the “biggest pizza in the city.”
It can also be done by building relationships; be remembered as “the pizza place that gave us a free meal, just for being loyal customers.” In both cases, you have to make a shift – a shift in focus and in the advertising budget. Spend less money on direct mail and advertising, says Cohen. Instead, spend it on improving the customer experience.
Here are 10 of Cohen’s marketing ideas to help you create a memorable guest experience. Some might seem like common-sense solutions – most likely because they are. But try to think of your own way to make them unique. And if it’s something you already know about but you’re just not doing, then take this time to revisit your strategy. Because chances are, your competitors are busy doing the same.
1. Shelter from the rain
During the rainy season, have your restaurant logo printed on some umbrellas. Offer them to customers when they leave during a downpour. Tell them if they bring the umbrella back next time, they’ll get a free appetizer. Try it with ice scrapers in the winter.
2. Visit the salon
No, not for a pedicure. Local beauty salons and other service providers are often too busy on Saturdays to take a lunch break. Take the time to drop off a free pie. Or send an invitation: “Let us deliver your lunch. Let us get stuck in the traffic!” And don’t forget the car dealers, sports teams, and the accountants during tax season.
3. Think outside the restaurant
Even your parking lot can make you famous in the eyes of a customer. How about a sign that says, “Welcome to Little Italy” and another that reads, “Now leaving Little Italy.” Stork parking spots for expecting mothers and spots for pick-up order customers are some other easy claims to fame.
4. Get connected
Offer free hi-speed Internet to your customers. Cohen says it’s OK to surf with your mouth full. But making customers pay for Internet service is a marketing faux pas. Visit www.wifialliance.com or www.boingo.com for a few options.
5. Guest Bill of Rights
Post a Guest Bill of Rights in your foyer. Focus on today’s big issues: the environment, education, and trans fats. For example, “our restaurant promises to deliver you the following: a commitment to the community, an interest in recycling, etc.”
6. Ease the wait
On busy nights when lineups are unavoidable, ease the tension with some free appetizer samples. Have the wait staff hand out menus and take drink orders in line to speed up the ordering process.
7. Worst Seat in the House
You know that tiny table hidden way back in the corner? The one with the bad view and poor lighting? Draw some attention to it. Put up a sign that says anyone who sits in the Worst Seat in the House, gets a 10 per cent discount or a free dessert.
8. From web-to-restaurant
Post a colouring page on your website for the kids. If they print it off at home and bring it in to the restaurant to colour, they get a free ice cream or kids’ meal.
9. Novelty-sized drinks
Put your own spin on Boston Pizza’s fishbowl cocktails. It can be non-alcoholic for the kids, or alcoholic (and priced accordingly) for the adults. Go to the dollar store for inspiration: if not a fish bowl, why not a plastic beach pail?
10. Reward a target group
Reward your local heroes – teachers or firefighters for example – with a free lunch coupon. They’ll appreciate the lunch, and the support. And it just might keep them coming back.
The most effective way to differentiate your restaurant from the others is to give your guests something to remember, says Cohen. And the most successful way to be memorable is to be a storyteller.
Educate your staff on the things that make your restaurant unique. Is it the secret family pizza sauce recipe? Is the handmade dough? Or is it your commitment to the community or the environment? Make sure your staff communicates these interesting facts to the guests.
Think about the little things you do to improve the customers’ experience. If your salads are served in a chilled bowl to keep the veggies crisp, tell your customers why. It might not make you famous, but it will definitely help make you memorable.•