Most good restaurant marketing tactics fall under the umbrella of local store marketing (LSM). Also known as “neighborhood marketing,” LSM targets consumers within a 3-5 mile range of your restaurant.
The goal of LSM is to attract loyal business from the local community. Once your restaurant is perceived as a good corporate neighbor, profits will thrive on the goodwill and patronage of your neighbors. LSM is effective, but keep in mind that it is a long-term marketing strategy that requires a lot of time, effort and creativity. You cannot dabble in LSM. You must commit to it in order to establish a presence in the community. However, whereas paid advertising might boost sales in the short term, a good LSM plan will help business for years to come.
Here are some local store marketing techniques that have successfully helped other businesses establish ties with their neighborhood.
Get yourself involved in the community.
The more you give to community programs, the more the community will give back. 52% of adults say they are more likely to eat at a restaurant that supports the local community.1 You could provide free catering to a school party or dance, offer your establishment as a venue for school activities, or give prizes like gift certificates to outstanding students through their school programs. You could also get involved with other community organizations, like the chamber of commerce, non-profits, and charity organizations, which will send a positive message to the community. Also consider doing the following:
- Donate your leftovers to the local shelter.
- Donate a gift basket or gift certificates to a local charity auction.
- Develop a community newsletter.
- Keep up good relations with editors of the “food” section in local newspapers.
- Help initiate a recycling program.
Get the community involved with you.
The more you can get the neighbors to come to your restaurant, the better. Consider turning your restaurant into a community hub. For example, you could offer your establishment as a venue for dance, cooking or yoga classes. Or, you could do your own fundraiser and encourage patrons to participate. For example, Pastiche Modern Eatery in Tuscon, Arizona donates a percentage of every sale to charity, but the restaurant lets the customer decide to which charity they want to donate a part of their check.2 In addition to highlighting the generosity of Pastiche Modern Eatery, these donations also make the customers feel like they are making a positive difference.
Hit the streets.
Meet the neighbors and engage in personal selling. You can try the following:
- Go around to local businesses and corporations with samples and menus. Ask to speak to someone in charge of planning employee events, and offer your services to cater or deliver food for the party.
- Distribute flyers and door hangers.
- Send employees outside with a sandwich board.
- Post your menu in a prominent place right outside your restaurant, like in a lit-up display case or on a podium near the walkway. Post takeout menus on local bulletin boards.
You could also try holding outdoor tastings or handing out samples to the neighborhood. A lot of businesses have found success with sampling. For example, when Mrs. Fields Cookies was founded, business was slow. So Debbi Fields started offering samples of her cookies to passersby, and almost immediately her business began to flourish.3 » Learn More about Personal Selling
Value your employees.
You may not always hear it, but your employees talk about their jobs, and what they say is either helping or hurting your business. Keeping employees happy is essential for developing community relationships. If your employees are not being treated fairly, they will speak negatively about your business, and the locals will hear about it. Disgruntled employees should be appeased or let go before they have the chance to get truly angry and speak negatively. On the other hand, good restaurant management techniques will create a team of employees that will market for you in their day-to-day conversations. Employees that like their jobs will send a good message to the community. » Learn More about Resolving Employee Conflicts
Partner with other businesses.
Form partnerships with local hotels, theaters, salons and spas, offices, and any other nearby businesses that fit well with your restaurant and might interact with your potential neighborhood customers. For example, you could offer a discount to guests of the neighboring hotel, and ask them to refer customers to your restaurant if you refer customers to the hotel. Ask other local businesses to participate in a joint promotion, or just make friends with the workers there. Remember, other businesses’ employees can become your business’s customers.
Make an annual plan.
Your marketing campaign should include a long-term LSM plan that includes specific details on implementation and budgeting needs.
Track your success.
While some aspects of your LSM will not be specifically measurable, you need to closely follow your sales trends to make sure that your LSM is having an impact. You will also be able to track your success by performing a marketing assessment. » Learn More About Restaurant Marketing Assessments
Be open to change.
One of the main keys to successful LSM is to make your business strategies dynamic and flexible. If your restaurant seems to be “dead” and stuck in the same old routine, it is difficult to garner and maintain community interest. Your business should constantly be adapting to changes in the marketplace, revamping different aspects of its operations and marketing, and engaging with the community in new ways.