Opening a new restaurant is a massive expense and investment. Basically if you don’t at least break even within the first three months then you are fu**ed – unless, of course, it’s a vanity project and you have a bottomless pit of money to burn. Then you have nothing to worry about.
It is essential to have your marketing, PR and promotion up and running before you even open and before doing this you need to plan your strategies and channels. You have to whip up some excitement, create an air of anticipation and to do this you need careful planning.
You would be amazed at the number of restaurants who invest thousands on decoration, seating, lighting and staff, then just open their doors with the hope people will come and eat without any planning, foresight or promotion. (We call this “hope marketing”) That way it is no wonder many will fail in the first few weeks.
Before you officially open your doors you need a soft launch that makes you and your staff familiar with the processes of running the restaurant from every aspect; kitchen to plate and everything in between. During this time any issues can be corrected before the big push. Once you do your hard launch everything should be up to speed along with contingency planning for all possible eventualities.
Your marketing strategy needs to engage your customers. From day one you need to have customer interaction and a plan to deal with any complaints swiftly and positively. Customer satisfaction is everything. Most customers will only give you one chance, seldom two even if they are generous; so it’s important to get it right the first time. Impress them, make an impact and keep them coming back for more.
Feedback is vital. Listen to your customers. Listen to what they say and read what the post; evaluate and make adjustments where necessary. If everything goes well and you manage to make the first three months a success, there also has to be a plan to maintain that initial surge of interest. You need to maintain consistency in quality and service. You want your customers to be loyal, you want them to tell their friends. You need them to keep coming back for more.
Promoting wine and food, the ambience and good spirit through your media channels is necessary, so is encouraging your customers to take part in your social media to get updates (which of course should come regularly). You encourage customers to bring their friends; offer deals, vouchers, loyalty schemes and more. But beware, there too, don’t overload them – too much is too much, they have another life too.
The right marketing partner should be present from the beginning, planning all of your strategies and actions with you. That way you can both find the smartest and the most cost effective ways to market, because the best marketer is not the one that spends the most money but the one that finds you the smartest solutions on a given budget.
Still, even if being smart, there is always the risk that the budget is just not enough. Most restaurants spend several times over the intended budget. You need competent help to avoid throwing out money on silly unnecessary things so remember to discuss this throughly with your marketing partner. The choice of the right partner is one of the most crucial decisions that decides your success or death. After all, what is the point in investing thousands on your restaurant if your spending and actions do not lead you to your goals?