I get a lot of feedback from restaurateurs about the challenges they face on a day to day basis trying to compete and grow in the current economic environment. Many have a difficulty squaring the media reports of economic recovery with the real situation they encounter on the ground. I will be doing a post about the top 5 challenges and how best to over come them in the next few weeks but this post highlights one recurring issue which seems to affect many.
All over Ireland there are honest, hard working restaurant owners busting a gut every day for modest returns. In a lot of cases, not enough people know they exist and even a 10% increase in footfall could have a significant impact on their business. Many of these gems will remain hidden until one day they have to close. This may seem a simplistic analogy but illustrates a very real dilemma. So how should they go about getting their message out there and why don't they just do it?
The reality is that many restaurants are operated by people with one specific skill set i.e chefs, business people, front of house etc. In some cases there are couples who may both contribute a different range of skills. In rare cases there are teams of operators who cover all bases. Regardless of the ownership structure, a proper marketing plan is essential to get your message out to the people you need to reach. Lack of time, expertise and budget prevent many from achieving this.
Large restaurants tend to use PR agencies and implement targeted marketing plans. Often with mixed results in my experience. This is outside the budget of most small independent operators who usually adopt an ad hoc approach to advertising & promotion. Random adverts in newspapers and magazines and a stab at social media seems to sum up the approach of a lot of small operators. This is unfortunate as there are huge opportunities available to make your voice heard and get your message across with little or no expenditure.
I've long since been converted to the powers of social media and as I do more in depth courses I can really see that it is now forming the basis of the marketing strategies of all sorts of global organisations. In relation to the restaurant business, this graphic underlines just how important Twitter is for restaurants in the UK.
In addition to Twitter, both Facebook and Instagram are very powerful tools for getting your message across. I always add a note of caution to clients beginning to use social media because when used incorrectly they will at best have a neutral impact and at worst will negatively affect your business.
There is an etiquette which should be followed and there are certainly some good practices that should be adhered to. Anyone on Twitter who has been on the receiving end of 20 tweets in a row saying "I just posted a picture on Facebook" will have an idea what I mean. When it comes to food shots, I can not emphasis strongly enough the importance of good quality images. A bad photo of your food is worse than no photo of your food. I regularly see chefs I follow post pictures that do not do justice to their food. I've made decisions not to visit restaurants based on the images of their food. It may taste a lot better than it looks, but lots of people will never bother finding out.
The explosion in Smartphone and tablet ownership in Ireland has seen a shift away from desktop and laptop web browsing and a meteoric rise in the use of apps as the first port of call for information. The game has changed completely as far as digital media for business is concerned. It is no longer acceptable to have a poor website or indeed one which is not mobile friendly. For restaurants, it's time to accept that your customers are accessing their information in completely new ways and in order to compete, you simply can not be on the outside looking in. The only investment required is time and energy so it seems foolish not to embrace it and ensure that your gem does not remain hidden.