Posted by: Neil Willis
by Restaurant Consultant and successful Restaurateur Ken Burgin
Now is the time to show people what your business is really like...
Recent events have left most of us feeling concerned, uncertain and possibly even anxious about the future of our businesses. Managing a club, hotel or restaurant in troubled times is more challenging than usual - and it's always important to keep making a profit!
Regular patrons are fundamental to the success of any business. Delighted patrons return more often and also bring their friends.
Loyalty can be built in many ways, especially if your attention is focussed on what's important for both your staff and customers.
Focussing on Patrons:
1. Offer great value.
A recession and economic down-turn means patrons will be more value conscious than ever - but they still want the opportunity to enjoy a meal, a drink with friends or enjoyable entertainment! They will be seeking good value - whether it be simple fare or fine dining. You may need to check your pricing or be more creative in offering value-added menu or entertainment deals. Do not introduce 'desperation discounts', focus instead on value for money. 'Comfort food' and familiar favourites are always a good choice in times of stress.
2. Treat your customers.
Small indulgences become very important when there is less money going around - for example weekends away replace longer holidays and accessories replace major clothes shopping. In your food operation you may want to think about some special low cost treats - warm chocolate brownies, caramel fudge treats… whatever. Let's live a little! This could be a great time to rev up your dessert list, usually an under-utilised source of high profit. Also an opportune time to offer 'free' bonuses – sweet treats, sample tastings, or something on the table when people sit down. Even the small touch of a glass of water on arrival is appreciated - now is a good time to start offering it!
3. Train your staff to sell.
Suggest menu alternatives to complement a patron's selection. Customers like to be guided with recommendations and suggestions to assist them make their decision. Even if they don't order the most expensive dish on the menu, they may like to order a drink, a starter, a side salad to share or a dessert with coffee. Good bar snacks are also easy add-on sales.
4. The Great Escape.
Customers like to retreat, or have an 'escape' from the dramas of daily life and TV images. When your business makes itself part of the 'neighbourhood,' it plays a vital role in community life. Maybe you need to increase the entertainment factor a little to help your customers escape their agitation and concerns for a while. Think of how you can make your offering more enticing - a 'home-away-from-home'. After all there are many great reasons why people don't need to leave the house - meals delivered, lots of cable TV choices, unsafe streets etc.
5. A Fresh Approach.
Make some fresh changes to show everyone you are feeling positive even if they are not. Now would be a great time to re-arrange the pictures or repaint a wall in an uplifting colour. Anything to break a mood down-swing. How bright, clean and attractive is your entrance? A warm friendly greeting for your customers will long be remembered. It is true. You only have one chance to make a first impression - and first impressions do count!
Provide some new incentives for community groups to support your business. Full of pro-active people and movers and shakers who like to generate activity! Give them something to talk about. Prizes for fund-raising events or raffles cost you little, are always appreciated and make a big impact. This is how to generate real word-of-mouth, and your generosity will come back many times. You can also make your function rooms available in quiet times (for free) for community meetings.
7. Lastly, check your attitude
It is surprising how the results you create will reflect your expectations! Many businesses flourish in tough times - why not your club? When your finger is on the pulse of your patrons, your staff and the local community, you will do what is required and your club will grow. And remember, it's always a good time to have fun!.
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