For some reason completely unknown to me, when it comes to finding budget dollars for marketing, many restaurants just don’t. At Redz, we know better. We’ve been in the hospitality industry for generations and intend on keeping it that way. Marketing is a critical part to this industry and those who don’t understand that inevitably shutter. As a result, I wanted to share some initiatives that have brought us success over the years.
Support the Community You Serve
Visit local schools. Contact the PTA. Reach out to the different area athletic associations or the local bands. Chances are they are either struggling to raise money or increase brand awareness. Many nights, while catering to hotel guests’ morning, noon and night, we use the latter as an opportunity to offer to host a spirit night or to give 15 to 20 percent back from the guests these groups brought in. Be bold, make attractive offers they can’t refuse and give 20 percent back on all checks that night. If your restaurant is seen as a pillar of the community, they will support your business in return and it sets you apart from the competition.
Offer Incentives in the Form of Gift Certificates or Complimentary Cards to New Homeowners
Because the owner of this restaurant is a respected and connected developer in the area, we are fortunate enough to have a number of existing outlets and residences to send these to. However, the manpower comes from me and our staff to explore additional opportunities and reach out to neighborhood real estate agents such as Re/Max or Keller Williams or leasing offices attached to the various condominium complexes in Mount Laurel or South Jersey.
Investigate Cross Marketing Synergies and Opportunities
Is there a local performance theater or movie theater in your neighborhood? What about a mall or how about grocery stores? Farmer’s markets? It takes very little effort but potentially big dividends to reach out to them and see if they would work with you to offer a date night package, inclusive of show tickets and a romantic dinner for two or for every x amount of dollars spent on groceries, receive a gratis bar bite. Even a simple word of mouth promo where the chef at Redz will prepare what you pick up at the farmer’s market—because we’re all in this community together and we all support each other. These ideas are even stronger over holidays like Valentine’s Day, but there’s room to entertain executing this all the time.
Customized Happy Hours for Surrounding Businesses
You can build irreplaceable word of mouth and goodwill by offering gratis happy hour nibbles to a nearby corporation that books a happy hour. Or by creating a specialty drink based on the color of the company logo at a reduced price. Or donate a certain percentage of an item (and pick an item with a low food cost) to a charity of that company’s choosing, for one night. This kind of positive association with your restaurant cannot be bought. Not in an ad. Not in a review in the local paper. Also, more often than not, these people are locals and there is an enormous amount of untapped opportunity for repeat business. Another riff on this simple idea is to invite CEOs or upper brass to guest bartend as part of a fundraiser and morale booster for staff.
Deborah O’Connor is the Food and Beverage Manager for Redz Restaurant in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She has more than 30 years of industry knowledge and experience in the restaurant, food, beverage and overall hospitality sectors of business.