With only six weeks left before the April 1, 2011, grand opening of the third location of Squeeze In (South Reno, Nevada) the operators of this nascent restaurant realized they were short of cash.
Knowing their other two breakfast and lunch restaurants were successful and expecting the third to be popular, they set out to raise the money they needed.
The biggest influx of cash came from an extremely well received fundraiser called the Kitchen Cabinet.
For this, the operators—Misty Young, president and CEO, her husband Gary, and her daughter and son-in-law—targeted a very small segment of its loyalty program, the EggHead Breakfast Club.
“We sent just over 800 letters (we have over 24,000 members in the club) to our best customers,” Young says.
The Young family sent out a hand-written letter in a colorful envelope inviting those members to purchase a $1,300 gift card for $999 and receive a bonus T-shirt and a $25 gift card. “So we very carefully targeted people who we knew spent $1,000 with us anyway,” Young says.
Of those 800 people, 57 participated at some level in the fundraiser—some bought the $1,300 gift card; others opted for the $600 gift card (for $499) and others bought a $120 card (for $99). Amazingly, the highest level of participation was at the top level.
Young and her family invited all of these people, plus any pre-opening members of the EggHead Breakfast Club, plus friends and family, to a special grand opening party to say thank you.
But before Young even had the cash, she and her family worked hard on marketing the restaurant, in order to guarantee its initial success.
Six months prior to opening, she and her husband started attending a weekly farmers market that was held in the plaza where the restaurant would eventually open.
She staffed a booth for the restaurant, handing out free farmers market bags to anyone who joined the EggHead Breakfast Club and managed to garner more than 600 new members—all from the immediate surrounding neighborhood—before the eatery even opened.
“We knew if those people were shopping at a farmers market they were probably really local, so that was a really important group for us to harvest,” Young says.
Squeeze In doesn’t do any other marketing, she says. “These people have opted in and we take great care of them. If we’re going to do a promotion or a discount, we want to give it to people who are already customers.”
And that’s what Squeeze In has been doing for more than three decades—taking care of its guests.
The first Squeeze In opened 35 years ago in Truckee, California and the second opened in Reno, Nevada. The restaurants, says Young, continue to serve more guests every year, and the third is proving to be equally successful.
“We've been meeting our projections spot on,” Young says. “We're thankful and in love with our guests and do everything we can to make their breakfast and lunch experience different from any other place. We make it our business to differentiate. We have to—our product is premium, our prices are premium: Guest check averages run consistently $14.50 for breakfast. We even have one omelet that's $21.99 (containing a quarter pound of king crab, green onions, and Monterey Jack cheese, topped with avocado and a lemon wedge)and it sells.”
But it’s not just the food and the service that keep customers coming back to Squeeze In.
Young also sends handwritten thank you cards to around 50 customers a month and she takes care of the small details—there’s complementary sauce with every omelet (homemade creamy mushroom, tomato pesto or cheese sauce); free upgrades (such as free strawberries, blueberries or bananas, or all three, on top of pancakes or oatmeal; or cheese and onions added to potatoes); and the toys that are delivered to each table with children are always thoroughly cleaned.
A winning formula for success? “We are blessed,” Young says.
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