Making dough with Diane: 8 ways to avoid cutbacks

Diane Chiasson
June 29, 2011
By
According to the politicians, the recession never officially “hit” Canada. Tell that to restaurant owners, some of whom still feel as if today’s economy is struggling, and their operations are suffering the consequences.

It is very easy to use the poor economy as an excuse to stop trying to increase your business. This is simply the wrong approach to take. During poor economic times, you need to try harder.

Put more effort into your marketing and advertising campaigns during a slow economy to give you a head start on your competition, while cutting costs elsewhere. Here are eight ideas to get you started.

Ramp up marketing and promotions
Often, the first thing restaurant operators cut when times are tough are their marketing dollars. This is a mistake. While your competitors are cutting back, you should consider expanding your efforts. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll end up spending more money. Recessions usually mean that several companies start offering discounts on their products and services. Do some research and find deals being offered by printing companies, radio stations and other marketing avenues.

Use the Internet
As long as you’re paying for your website hosting, you might as well make the most of your website and use it to boost visibility. At no extra cost, do some research on how to update your website to boost your SEO (search engine optimization) rankings. The more visibility your website gets, the more customers will be interested. Ask your regular customers to write positive reviews online, especially at sites like Yelp.com, Urbanspoon.com or Chowhound.com.

Build your database

Quite often, marketing to your regular customers is more effective than trying to gain new customers. This means having a database, and continuing to add to it. It is crucial to get the names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers of your customers, whether it be by comment card, weekly draw, or any other strategy you have. Just remember to always reward your customers for signing up and be sure to have their permission.

Use more cost-friendly marketing tools
Once you have that database going, ramping up your marketing activities doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend thousands of dollars on a new campaign. You can reach out to your customer base by using cost-friendly tools such as e-mail marketing, newsletters, text messaging and social media like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Many of these tools are even free!

Offer more items at lower prices
Create a “value menu” with several items selling for $1 to $2 each. A value menu is a great way to draw customers into your operation, but research has suggested that most customers end up ordering items from the regular menu, or a “value item” in addition to what they usually order, thereby increasing your average cheque.

Stretch your services
If selling pizza isn’t enough to keep you going, consider expanding your services. You probably already offer takeout and delivery, but consider renting part of your facility for private functions and birthday parties, especially kids’ birthday parties. Include balloons, a full meal, the birthday cake, loot bags, the opportunity for kids to tour your kitchen facility and make their own pizzas, and an entertainer such as a clown or a magician. Create clever ways to keep the children entertained for two hours. Offer your birthday or private function packages at three price levels.

Renew energy in your staff

It can be quite depressing to work in an operation that is facing economic problems, so your employees may be extending this depression to your customers. It is important that your staff remain upbeat and enthusiastic when they come to work at all times. This might mean investing in a new training program or team-building session, or even just a staff night out or party. Remember to always keep a great attitude yourself, treat your employees with respect and lead by example.

Cut back in other ways
There are probably a few other places where your pizza operation can cut back on expenditures. Review all your service agreements, maintenance contracts, bank accounts, credit card machines, supply specifications, rental agreements, cable/Internet/phone provider, etc. Call up all your service providers and ask for a better rate. Shut down any services that you rarely use. Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on electricity. A few dollars here and there can amount to a lot at the end of the day.


Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit www.chiassonconsultants.com .

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