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Ways To Increase Restaurant Sales In a Down Economy


WeeklyInterview: I spend lots of money in restaurant marketing. Jose_RiescoHowever, I don’t see good results. Why is it not working for me?

Jose Riesco: You are spending your marketing budget in marketing initiatives that obviously don’t work (yellow pages, coupons, etc.). There is a saying “If you keep on working the same way, you will keep on getting the same results”. If your current marketing is not working for you, it is time to change it. So what marketing works? There are many (an inexpensive) marketing initiatives that a restaurateur can do, among them:

Setup a formalized referral system

Use Social media to promote your restaurant (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.). Not only it’s free, but it is where your clients are

Create an email list with your clients and send them regular emails with events, promotions, etc. This will keep the restaurant fresh in their minds

You an use many other marketing initiatives, but remember they always need to be trackable and measurable. If they bring more clients than they cost, they work; if not, they don’t. Period.


WI: I am not very technical. Do I really need to use online marketing or can I use just traditional coupons and ads?            

JR: Most of your customers are online and browsing the Web looking for restaurants and online reviews. If your restaurant doesn’t have an online presence, you are not reaching them.
If you don’t know how to setup a Facebook account you can just ask for help or hire somebody who is familiar with online marketing. We live in the XXI century and you can’t ignore the Internet. Your competitors surely aren’t!


WI: How can I keep my restaurant fresh in the minds of my customers?

JR: Your clients, even your happy clients forget about your restaurant. That’s why sending periodic reminders is a great way to be in their mind. Some things you can do to keep your restaurant in their mind are:
Capture their birthday and anniversary. Send them a free meal or other discount in these special occasions.
Send them a weekly or by-weekly email with relevant information about your restaurant. Offer some discounts or motivation for them to visit your place.
Create a monthly (or quarterly) newsletter. You can explain how to cook one of your dishes, talk about your staff, your cuisine (or a region of your country if you own an ethnic restaurant), etc. You can print and mail the newsletter or just do an electronic version and email it to your list if you want to save money.
Post photos, information, etc. in your Facebook Fan page
Tweet your followers some interesting information, offers, etc. This is a great way to fill in empty seats.etc.

WI: What’s the key, most important element in a restaurant? 

JR: The most important element in your restaurant is not your Chef, it is not your food, it is not your location or your ambience. The most important element in your restaurant is your clients. If they are not happy, they won’t be back and your business will lose. Always, always remember this. Put your clients and their emotional needs above anything else and you will run a successful restaurant. People will love your place, they will write great reviews on the restaurant directories and they will become your best sales force. Fail to please your clients and they will stop going to your place. You will spend the money trying to attract new customers and many people will avoid your place after reading the many negative reviews posted in the restaurant forums.


WI: Do I need a vision and a strategy? Isn’t good enough to offer good food and service?

JR: Yes, you need to have a vision and a strategy if you want to succeed. Most restaurateurs are tactical instead of strategic. They run the daily operations without ever having time to stop and consider what they want to accomplish. Ask yourself the following questions:
What’s your restaurant’s ultimate goal?
Is it to make you a lot of money?
Is it to allow you to have a good lifestyle? 
Is it to grow and become successful so that you can replicate the model and open more restaurants?
Or perhaps you want to become successful so that you can work less hours and delegate more?
You see where I’m going? If you don’t have a plan, a roadmap, you will never reach your destination. You can work many hours and get frustrated because you are not getting close to reaching your goals. You need to have a vision and a strategy to reach your vision.


WI: How can I grow my business?

JR: The good news is that they are only 3 ways to grow a restaurant. Here they are:
Increase the number of clients that visit your restaurant
Increase the number of visits
Increase the expenditure per visit
If you can grow the three of them simultaneously, then you will have an incredible geometrical growth. Try to be strategic and think of ways to grow all three and your restaurant will be very successful.



“Jose Riesco has applied strategic marketing principles brought from the top corporations to the Restaurant Industry. Only by changing their strategy and vision, restaurant owners will be able to  increase their business and fill in their restaurants with happy loyal clients.

Jose’s has written a new book “Restaurant Marketing Strategies”



So True! Thank you Jose for giving the facts of 2010 marketing. If we follow your advice,
we will suceed.

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An affordable way for marketing a restaurant is to use the free “mini website” and map listing that Google is offering to local businesses. The five key components to higher rankings are: location (center of town is best), locally optimized website, claimed and filled out listing, citations, and reviews.

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Thank you for comment . Hope you will continue enjoy our site . True local marketing whether for restaurants or other businesses is huge as it helps companies rank higher in SEO

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You are right. Having a planned strategy is key. You could offer the best food and wine service but if no one knows about it, no one will go. That’s why I think another strategy to have is: online stragety. One way to improve your sales is converting your foot traffic into customers entering your business. If you have a business that is online or a physical business setup at a store, a mobile website is the best thing you can have because people are ALWAYS searching for nearby stores from their phones when they shop. If they come across a mobile website that has been well designed and represents your business clearly (eg no need to zoom in, and if it looks really messy, people will not enter), they will visit your store and hopefully increase your sales!

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Service is key in a restaurant and what you do offline will impact your online strategy and vice versa.

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