‘Local’ – More Ways to use this Magic Word for Cafe & Restaurant Marketing

Maybe you enjoy pizza from Italy, beer from Denmark and TV from Britain, but the L word, LOCAL, arouses emotions and loyalty in most of us.

Customers know the fish, the fruit and the wine come from far away, but every time you promote local suppliers and connections, they see you as better than the big chains selling the same thing everywhere. And it’s another way to sidestep price competition.

There are many low-cost and no-cost ways to talk local:

Mention local produce and suppliers. Featuring at least two items on your menu that are sourced locally or known for local connections. Eg: Our potatoes are the best from Kooweerup. Our icecream is churned by local producers Rocky & Co. Fish sourced daily from Sydney Fish Markets. There’s a growing political debate on ‘food miles’ and being a ‘locavore’ – some customers don’t care, but more and more are interested.

Talk about what local people love to eat or drink. Eg: This is the favourite beer with locals in Maryville. Local people love pumpkin served this way for a special dinner. Would you like to try one of our local wines? It’s on the menu and in the server’s recommendations.

Support local causes. Whether it’s fundraising for a new gym or protecting a heritage area, take part in mainstream local issues. In your newsletter, on the noticeboard, or on the ‘What’s New’ or blog section of your website.

Host local meetings. If there are times during the week when you’ve got empty space, this is when local meetings can take place on your premises. They may not buy more than a coffee or beer, but the appreciation will come back in many other ways. A screen and projector are inexpensive, and will make your space even more useful for gatherings.

List local events. On your website and Facebook page – not just your own events, but community activities as well. The monthly markets, street festival, sporting highlights and special gatherings.

Show off what the locals are doing. Keep your website’s photo gallery, Instagram and Facebook page up to date with pictures of happy customers of all ages. Encourage people to email, post or SMS photos when they go travelling.

Mention local employment. You hire local workers, and many staff live nearby. Realistically, some may also travel long distances, but it’s another way to show you’re embedded into the community.

List all the local areas on your website. It’s very important for improving website ranking. Talk about the surrounding suburbs and towns specifically by name so an online search will connect your bar/restaurant/hotel with that location. Use common abbreviations if they’re used eg Newcastle and Hunter Valley. When you’re deciding on the location keywords, think about how locals would search for it – what terms do they use? They would search for something like: ‘Italian restaurant in Pillsbury’ or ‘pub in Glebe’. Hint: Have your full street address at the bottom of each page and on the side navigation bar – make sure they are all exactly the same ie don’t have St on one and Street on another, or Google will get confused (!). Include a phone number with the local area code. This gives the search engines all the information they need to pinpoint your location.

Make sure you’re on local tourist directories, and a Google My Business listing is essential.

5 Ways to Drive Word of Mouth Marketing for a Cafe or Restaurant

Many people assume ‘word of mouth’ works automatically, and it’s always positive. As if people will say the nicest things without you making any effort. Sorry, that’s not going to  happen! And word of mouth can also be negative – ‘OMG did you hear that place got a food poisoning fine, and they’ve been underpaying their chefs!’.

However there are ways to guarantee that people have a lot to talk about, and you rise above the sameness of other new places having their six  months of fame. It starts with the promises you make – if they’re too flamboyant, you’re asking for disappointment. Claiming to have ‘Adelaide’s best dessert menu’ implies a 10/10 experience, so what happens when customers enjoy it but only feels it’s worth 8/10. In other situations, 8/10 is a great result, but here they have been disappointed. Under-promise so you over-deliver.

Here are the 5 sure ways you can put Word of Mouth marketing on automatic, ticking over each day and giving people lots to share with their friends.

Design is the first – does your place look wonderful, or quirky, or unusual? Does it have some features like no-one else? It could be beautiful lamps or mirrors, or filled with original paintings like Lucio’s Restaurant in Paddington. Or have wonderful views or a garden courtyard, an old fireplaces with real fires or a big bowl of fresh fruit (like the picture below). Something that lifts it beyond the average and, these days, gets people to take out their phone and snap a photo. Up onto Instagram or Snapchat, making their friends a little jealous. What can you add that’s bigger, brighter and bolder?

Speed and Movement is next – it’s the opposite of slow and boring. Most times we don’t want to be rushed, but if we only have 30 minutes for lunch, the place that can seat, serve and take our payment in 25 minutes is the one we will tell all our friends about. Or a place with a visible kitchen, and chefs flaming food and calling orders. Or the cocktail bar is alive with action as drinks are built, shaken and served with flare – have you been to that place? You can design in these features, but make sure you don’t sacrifice service.

Generosity is a sure-fire WOM promoter – did you see those family-size pizzas loaded with toppings? Not like the $10 special that disappointed us last week. Help yourself at the amazing buffet, and your wine by the glass is filled to half full, not just a mean little puddle.

This also works in the community – people hear about your consistent support for community groups, apprentice training, recycling programs and homeless relief. Make sure they acknowledge your contribution.

Great Flavours drive word of mouth – Australians like big, bold tastes and textures. The famous Strawberry Watermelon Cake at Black Star Pastry, or the hot, spicy coconut laksa at your favourite Malaysian place. The IPA ales that a new craft brewery creates are way better than the beer giants, or that delicate Victorian pinot gris you serve by the glass. Memorable.

Inside Information is your final WOM booster – with the crazy growth of TV food shows, cooking classes and social photos, everyone loves to know what’s happening back-of-house. Where the beef comes from (and why you changed suppliers), how you get such intense flavours in the dessert, and where the pastry chef was trained. And with that $20,000 oven you’ve just installed – offer a sneaky kitchen tour when the rush dies down. And is that Justin the head chef talking to customers? Wait till I tell my friends!

Fresh quinces are an unusual thing to find in a cafe, and sure to be something that food-loves notice…

How Restaurant & Cafe Owners Can Learn from Sport Teams and Violin Players

What can sporting clubs and a classical violinist teach us about staying in touch with our customers? And not just ‘don’t forget me’ messages, but spending this time of enforced separation to build their love, enthusiasm and loyalty?

Two widely contrasting social media posts landed in my feed recently – one from ‘sports fan engagement specialist’ Blair Hughes, and the other from young violinist rock star Ray Chen.

Blair is a lifelong sports nut, and watches the way smart clubs build their connection with fans, spectators and players – at the game and through the rest of the week, online and offline 24/7. He’s just shared 200 Fan Engagement Ideas to Educate, Entertain & Connect Sport Fans During Covid-19. A week later he shared one that’s even more relevant for cafes & restaurants: 150+ Fan Engagement Ideas for Craft Breweries to Entertain, Educate and Drive Revenue.

Ray Chen started as a child prodigy violin player in Brisbane, then moved to the US on a scholarship when he was 15. His career has skyrocketed since then and he travels the world giving concerts, until the start of 2020, when live events ground to a halt. He’s rapidly pivoted to a wide range of YouTube activities – live streams, practice sessions with fans, online meetings with other performers. He even has merchandise for sale. These are not just the usual ‘turn on the camera and start recording’ videos, but he gets them cleverly edited to add snap, crackle and fun. He knows his audience!

What do they have in common? Imagination, and a commitment to the pleasure, enthusiasm and loyalty of every single fan and follower. What lessons can we take from these two passionate experts to maintain and develop our own customer connections and fan base?

Here’s Ray in a recent online coaching session, and here he is jamming Waltzing Matilda

Preparing your Cafe and Restaurant for the 2020 Recession

The last time we had an impact like this in Australia was back in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks in New York. Then there was the Global Financial Crisis in 2007 – 2009, which affected Australia to some extent, but a rapid economic response by the government stopped it from having the effect here that it had elsewhere.

I wrote a fairly lengthy article back in 2001, with advice on how to manage the effects on small businesses – it still holds up well. Plus some thoughts last month on the need for a 2020 Plan B.

Now we can see another recession unfolding in front of us.

In Australia, 120,000 Chinese tourists have stopped arriving (one sixth of the normal total), and at Feb 29th 2020, there are still more than 100,000 Chinese students who can’t come back to school or university in Australia – one in four of our international students are from China. And Chinese restaurants, one of the foundations of our modern industry, are facing a catastrophic loss of customers – many have already closed.

Dramatic disruption to Chinese manufacturing and supply chains mean there could be shortages of kitchen equipment, spare parts, appliances, packaged food and chemicals. In Australia, China makes (or supplies parts for) almost everything we use!

China is a massive importer of our raw materials (from coal and minerals to lobsters and meat) – as they and other countries close borders, trade will be hit in many, many areas. A record number of purchase and supply contracts are being cancelled because of force majeure (unforseeable force).

Hospitality thrives on optimism and prosperity, not fear and contraction – we will feel these cold winds very quickly.

Can hospitality handle this crisis more effectively than before?

  • We can see it coming – this is a slowly unfolding catastrophe, so we can do some planning, but speed is essential, and there will still be unexpected events and panics.
  • We have much better management tools for handling cost-cutting – rostering systems, powerful POS systems to pinpoint customer spending, transparent online ordering for the best prices, and bookkeeping systems that give immediate insight into Profit & Loss.
  • There are great options to rent new equipment – no need to run down your capital. Renewal and innovation can’t stop during a slowdown.
  • We also have low-cost and sophisticated ways to reach out to customers, through targeted social media, email marketing, online bookings, websites and online directories – we can communicate much more effectively.
  • What’s not different is the painful necessity of reducing staff hours and paying the same rent with fewer sales dollars.

Buckle up folks – I’m an optimist by nature, but 2020 is going to be a very bumpy ride!

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome – please send them to me through Linkedin or Facebook.

Taking the Stress & Shame Out of Self Promotion

Where did we learn that self promotion is a bad thing, and why do we accept that as the truth? Marie Forleo feels you should feel ashamed if you don’t promote your skills and achievements.

This should resonate with people in hospitality – by definition most of us have to be ‘out there’ with the public and promoting the next event, tomorrow’s lunch or just an extra round of coffees. In many small operations, the owner is the business.

She sums up the issues in this snappy video:

  • Focus on what you can give, rather than what you can get – see self-promotion as service.
  • Stop caring! Not about other people, just what they think – who are you living your life for? If they don’t like you, being quiet probably won’t make much difference!
  • Don’t be a broken record – endlessly talking about how great you are! In Australia we have the expression FIGJAM – it stands for F* I’m Great, Just Ask Me. We’ve all met the FIGJAM people – and you’re not one of them!

A few more suggestions… from Ken Burgin 😉

  • Update your Linkedin profile (here’s how) – it does the promotion for you. When you describe yourself in the ‘Summary section’, use some numbers to show the scale of what you’ve done eg number of people in your team, or number of customers served each day.
  • Talk about ‘our team’ when appropriate – you may feel more comfortable including the people who work for you., when describing achievements.
  • There are many simple ways you can stand out as someone with interesting insights and ideas – a thought-leader. More suggestions here

Most people grow up being told not to brag or show off – let’s untangle that message from the importance of sharing your gifts with the world.

Event Booking & Management Systems for Restaurant and Function Venues…

The value of these systems has always been there, but they used to be very expensive, and would often need equipment upgrades to allow them to work across a network. Now that they’re cloud-based, everything has changed, although some still need a per-seat license.

Systems I have seen (and this list is developing):

Priava – ‘a purpose-built enterprise venue and event management booking system in the cloud for managing all types of venue and event bookings. All the complexities involved with multi-venue availability, event logistics, catering, equipment and resource requirements, and the delivery of those services are all available within Priava’.

Eventpro – ‘built from the ground up to be a single system where the Venue Booking, Event Management and Catering Management components are all seamlessly integrated’.

Ivvy – ‘we put the fun back into events with online, real-time event management tools that deliver real results. Trust iVvy to give you the best selection of locations, suppliers and event management tools to deliver more, faster’.

Function Tracker – ‘our calendar based system allows you to easily manage every event in your venue from beginning to end, including catering, beverage, equipment and staff management and much, much more. From the initial enquiry to the final invoice, every aspect of event management is catered for. You can also send invoices (including integration with accounting software), contracts, quotes & run sheets, manage customers, manage event ticketing and registration.’

Eventbrite – super simple system for when you want to set up a booking page for an event. Free for events that you’re not charging for, and also enables paid events, for which you pay a small commission on the ticket price. Does not integrate with diaries and suppliers, unlike the other systems above.

Sticky Tickets, Humanitix and Eventbee – similar features to Eventbrite for setting up booking pages and selling tickets.

Table booking apps can also be useful for large groups: NowBookIt, ResDiary and Respak (part of OpenTable).

Google and Outlook Calendars – yes they can manage bookings, and you can set up systems with different colours for different locations. But if you’re taking events seriously, you will (and should) grow out of this method quickly.

ALSO CHECK our lists of Recipe Software and Rostering & Staff Scheduling Systems.

How to ask your Member of Parliament for financial help or to change a policy…

Tourism and hospitality are reeling from fires, drought and the COVID-19 crisis – the effects on small business are catastrophic. That means a lot less employment, no-one investing in new equipment, and a lot less money in the economy. A recession is already here.

It’s time for much more government financial support for small business operators in Australia – on the scale of what was done after the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) in 2007-9. Through generous, and targeted government spending, Australia was one of the few countries in the world that managed to avoid most of the terrible consequences of that downturn.

It’s also time to write to your local member and request more action – the Australian government holds the purse strings. Government spending can help to revive business, but they need to hear from those affected. Too often business owners complain quietly to themselves but only act at an election.

You can find your Federal MP here, and they all have a link for emailing them directly.
State Government MPs are here: NSWVictoriaQueenslandSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaTasmaniaACTNorthern Territory

Keep your message short and polite, and quote some real numbers and comparisons. This is the information that shows the reality of a downturn – here are some that you could easily gather:

  • Number of people employed this month (or week) compared to 12 months ago.
  • Number of hours you paid people for this week compared to 12 months ago.
  • Sales this week or month, or in December, compared to 12 months ago.
  • How much you paid your suppliers this month compared to 12 months ago.

Tone down the politics. You may have strong feelings about how climate change has been handled, or the actions of politicians. Keep those for a separate email. For now, make your tone factual and sober – you’re alerting your representative to what this is doing for you and your family, the people you employ and the whole area. These are her voters! Get busy…

How to do retail properly if you sell speciality coffee…

Highly recommend you follow Dublin café owner Colin Harmon on Instagram, and in this short video he shows off all the Christmas gifts you can buy at his cafe.

I heard him speak a couple of years ago in Sydney, and he was fierce on the value of adding good retail to your mix if you sell specialty coffee – he said up to 25% (!) of their total sales come from this. The man is an inspiration in many ways – he also has a great book on running a profitable café…

The Restaurant Management Blogs I’m Finding Most Useful…

Have to admit I’m an information glutton, and part of my job as Community Manager at Silver Chef is to keep employees updated on what’s happening in the wider hospitality community. Generally I prefer to follow blogs and twitter, instead of receiving email newsletters – here are the ones I find most useful at the minute. And I’m very open to suggestions…

Aaron Allen, Quantified Marketing Group – blogging on restaurant marketing internationally

Jim Sullivan of Sullivision – blogging on restaurant management

David Scott Peters, Restaurant Expert – blogging on restaurant management

Typsy, online staff training – blogging on restaurant management & marketing

Toast Tab – blogging on restaurant management & marketing

Restaurant Insider – blogging on restaurant management & marketing

Ask a Manager – blogging on general employment issues

Delaget – blogging on restaurant security

Retail Doctor’s Blog – always relevant to hospitality service

…and one where I write, apart from here 😉

Hospitality magazine – Australia’s leading restaurant magazine, and the articles are featured here, often as a video summary.

Simple Ways to be a ‘Hospitality Thought Leader’ and Build a Reputation

A recent comment on LinkedIn got me thinking:

“LinkedIn is an amazing B2B lead generating tool, but if you are not actively reaching out to prospects and showcasing your thought leadership through regular posting it’s unlikely that you will generate any quality leads…”

‘Thought Leader’ – can’t say I love the term, but I realised there are many ways to share ideas and observations, so people become interested in your experience and opinions. You will stand out because you put them out publicly.

Here are some suggestions to get started, and LinkedIn is a great platform for sharing most of your content. When people Google your name, the LinkedIn profile is usually the #1 entry, so it makes sense.

Share some photos of something interesting you’ve seen, with a comment about their relevance to the industry eg a new shopfront, a plate of new food, modern kitchen equipment, a bar design or some clever lighting. 1 photo + 1 sentence is all you need.

Take better photos with your phone. Concentrate on the lighting and composition, then crop and edit so it’s focused on the main subject. Find photos that tell a story eg the busy restaurant with staff flying past, or the untidy back-lane that gives a lesson about hygiene – this is a very visual industry.

Review places you like on TripAdvisor or Yelp – it gets you in the habit of writing and thinking about how businesses operate. 3 or 4 sentences is plenty, plus a photo if you have one.

Write in a positive tone, focusing on what is useful and interesting. If something is poor quality, talk about it being ‘disappointing’ or ‘not what you expected’. Explain why, and also find at least one positive. Don’t just describe things as ‘crap’ or ‘rubbish’ – only write what you’d say to someone’s face. If it’s really bad, write nothing and move on – negativity shows you up in a bad light.

Share interesting articles or videos you find online – this is much easier than writing everything yourself. It also shows that you’re watching industry trends – most people don’t have time to do this, and depend on people like you as ‘curators’. It’s an important role.

Focus on LinkedIn – here’s how to update your profileAlso consider having a separate Facebook business page and Instagram business profile. Keep your private Facebook profile firmly locked – don’t mix business and personal content. Here’s how I keep a  separate business Facebook Page.

 Use good Facebook Groups to share information and opinions on the industry. I find the Australian Chef Network and the Australian Cafe Owners Network are excellent for this.

Build your confidence writing short posts and opinions, then you’ll be ready to write something longer… like this blog! Or submit opinion or knowledge pieces to trade magazines – they’re always after good, factual content.

Join panels at industry events when you get the chance, and push your way forward if you see one that’s being planned. Especially if you’re not an ‘old white guy’, you will add important diversity to the line-up – organisers are acutely aware of how important this is. Check any trade fairs or conferences coming up.

Whether we like the term ‘thought leader’ or not, there’s a hunger by most people for industry information and thoughtful opinions. Put your fingers on the keyboard and start leading!