OpenTable partnered with Kristen Hawley, founder of the popular Chefs + Tech newsletter, to create the How to Grow & Thrive in the Restaurant Business e-book, the ultimate guide to serving guests and growing your business at every phase of a restaurant’s lifecycle. We’re sharing excerpts from each stage, so follow along and download the whole guide here.
Fresh ideas and new takes on tried-and-tested formulas will help spread the word about your restaurant, however established.
STAY TRUE TO YOUR STYLE
Your restaurant’s best marketing asset is its unique story, so stick with it! “Our restaurant channels this old-fashioned, Italian trattoria vibe. But the service is very modern,” says Marc Russo. “Natives’ idea of authentic Italian is importing everything from Italy so it tastes the same. Instead, we use a couple ingredients when they’re in perfect season, applying the traditional to what’s available locally.”
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH GUESTS WILL SET YOU APART FROM THE COMPETITION AND ESTABLISH A BASE OF LOYAL REGULARS.
The key to ongoing success in the restaurant business is hospitality. Not service, but truly taking care of your guests and making them feel valued. The only way to do that is to build meaningful relationships with guests—and once you do, these relationships will give back to your business again and again.
Use every interaction as an opportunity to learn about guests and their preferences. Add your learnings to the Guest Notes in a guest’s profile: dietary restrictions, favourite wines and cocktails, and special occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries. That gives your team the tools and knowledge to delight guests by having their favourite drink ready as soon as they sit down, or to send over a special appetiser because you know how much they enjoyed the foie gras last time. And if someone booked last year for their anniversary dinner, you can contact them again this year to let them know you’d love to have them back. That kind of personalised treatment goes a long way.
SHARE INSPIRING CONTENT, NEWS, AND A SENSE OF FUN TO KEEP GROWING YOUR FOLLOWING.
It’s never a bad time to reach a new audience from a fresh perspective, and social media is the best way to do that, whether your restaurant is 10 or 110 years old.
SOCIAL TIPS TO TRANSCEND RESTAURANT STAGE
Be inspirational. Share what excites you. “We don’t expect all of our followers to end up in the dining room,” says Eric Ripert. “But we believe that being inspirational creates an interest and visibility. Of course, potentially it will have some positive impact on the life of the restaurant by adding people coming to Le Bernardin.”
Share news. Established restaurants can use social to create news events the same way a new restaurant does. Share specials, anniversaries, new menus, new dining room changes, a new staff member—anything! “It’s basically like having your own magazine,” says Ripert. “We now have a massive audience of followers who receive news directly from us.”
Don’t overthink the process. “We use social media the exact same way we were using appearances on TV or articles in a magazine or newspaper,” says Ripert. “It’s just an extra element to promote the fact that we exist.”
Have fun. You’ve grown your following by doing what works best for you. Now’s a great time to push the boundaries and try new things to see how people respond. Stick to your strategy here, but don’t be afraid to get creative or take inspiration from others who do it well.
CARRY THE SAME EXPERIMENTAL ATTITUDE THROUGH YOUR RESTAURANT’S OPERATIONS BY ADDING IN SPECIAL EVENTS OR NEW IDEAS TO YOUR REGULAR SERVICE.
- Special events: Seasonal dinners full of market-driven ingredients, an anniversary party in honour of your tenth year, a or a celebration during a particularly special time for your city or town (an AFL win, Mardi Gras weekend, the local dog parade—anything!).
- Special menus: A late-night burger-and-beer special or a special menu celebrating a certain ingredient are easy ways to give a fresh feel to your restaurant.
- Wine dinners: Partner with a local wine producer (or distillery or brewery) for a special menu with beverage pairings. Promote to your guests and your partner’s following.
- Guest chefs: Invite your friends (or your chef’s friends) to guest cook in your kitchen for the evening. Promote the event to your regulars—and your guest’s regulars if they have them.
- Classes or lectures: If you have the space and time, consider positioning your chef as expert on their signature item or a particular technique. Or, enlist a trusted purveyor or friend of your restaurant to lead a class.
Create marketing from the inside out using the people you have—you and your staff. When you do a good job, word of mouth spreads and you build your diner base.
Want more tips? Download the guide and visit page 45-47 for more.