The Top Ten List of Generating Restaurant Traffic During A Severe Economic Downturn
You hear it from the talking heads and it makes you mad. "During an economic downturn, cut out the unnecessary expenses, like eating out." Don't they know they're talking about the livelihood's of millions of Americans and Canadians who depend on the restaurant and hospitality industry for their daily bread? Well, it makes me mad too.
Fight back.. don't let "popular wisdom" bull doze you into submission.
Here's a "top ten" list of assertive actions YOU can take to make sure your traffic stays high enough for not only breakeven, but solid profitability. Some of the items, in better times, you might consider tacky. But for now, please swallow your pride, and do the right thing for you, your employees and their families, and the future of the industry.
1. Work your email lists. If you don't have one, establish one now. Add names, and send exciting and scintillating copy to your patrons.
2. Offer 2-Fers. Buy one.. get one free. This is no time for just a free drink or a free glass of wine.. offer an absolutely free entree with the purchase of another of equal value. Perhaps you confine it to your two slowest evenings.
3. Put coupons in your local publications: newspapers, coupon-clippers and money-savers. Make sure the coupons offer real value.
4. Have your waitstaff give out coupons at the end of a meal, with a compelling offer for their next visit within 30 days: 1/2 price on any entree!!
5. Put a sandwich sign on the street. Make sure that the passersby know you are running a variety of specials, and invite them in. In some locales, hundreds and even thousands of potential patrons pass by your restaurant. Tell them there's a genuine bargain inside.
6. Ask all of your employees to invite their friends and families. Give them a little flyer to hand out. That can often be a considerable network of folks, and they will be motivated both by the show of solidarity for the people they know and love and the continuity of their livelihoods, as well as by the 1/2 price entree offer.
7. Open up on the night you are closed. Shift the load among managers and employees, and announce that as a temporary measure, Mondays will now be an open night, and there will be 5 specials for under $10.00. It's a temporary measure, but remember: The overhead marches on. You pay rent, insurance and depreciation on everything in that quiet, dark closed up restaurant on Monday night. Sure, everyone needs a day off.. but right now the issue is survival, so open up, light it up and let the world know.
8. Get some PR, just like the big boys do. Call the local newspaper, and ask them if they'll run a little piece on the entertainment you are showcasing on Wednesday nights. It's a double hit.. the entertainment brings in folks, and a newspaper article that talks about the classical guitarist- and the Wednesday night low price specials- will fill your restaurant to the brim.
9. Perk up the atmosphere. Nobody wants doom and gloom. Everyone wants a place where everyone knows your name, or at least acts as if they do. Put out flowers, clean up the corners, ask your staff to smile and be upbeat, solicitous and welcoming, personally make certain that your entrance at night is well-lit and there isn't a single bulb out, and put on a show yourself. I know you always do, but let's do it even better. This is the menu covers blog, so you know we're going to recommend fresh, new and exciting menu covers to excite your patrons.
10. Finally, sit down and create your own top ten list. This is like where the Genie gives you 3 wishes, and your third wish is for 10 more wishes.. You know what's worked in the past, and you've been reading about what will work now in this horrible economic debacle. The important thing is to act, and act boldly.
Whatever you do, keep experimenting, and do many things. I promise you that traffic will be maintained and you survive and thrive if you DO.