I don't see restaurants using email very often and I think they're missing the boat. Email is such a powerful tool for bringing return visitors back to a restaurant or filling slow nights.
I noticed a story last week about a restaurant that gave a discount for "well behaved kids". The parents were proud, and quite surprised to be rewarded for their kids good behavior. What I found more interesting about this story is what I noticed at the bottom of the tab.
A "Join Our Mailing List" reminder and a bit of a benefit statement for doing so. Here's an example of a restaurant that over time will identify a group of patrons that will help their bottom line.
Tell me as a restaurant owner you wouldn't know what to do with the names of 500 customers who appreciate or are interested in wine.
As an example:
- announce special wine tasting events - like on Saturday afternoon
- survey them to find special wines THEY want on the wine list
- offer a free glass of wine if they drop by the day AFTER Valentine's Day
- bring in a wine maker and do a special 5 course tasting dinner
- try a gift certificate with a free glass of wine attached
- fill your bar with a mix and mingle night based on how to taste Sauv Blanc
- you could even educate them on wine in a monthly newsletter - share your knowledge
...and so on.
Do this for one year and you'll soon see the power of email marketing in a restaurant setting.
I'm not ashamed to say I'm a big fan of pizza. My waistline doesn't agree but who's in charge here.
One company that I think does an excellent job and the discipline of marketing is Papa Johns. I've got a ton of great marketing campaigns and today's example is a fundamental tenant of marketing that you just shouldn't ignore for your business.
This strategy is particularly effective via email but let's break it down into it's parts and then examine why it's so well suited for email marketing campaigns.
Here's the offer:
This screen shot is from the home page of the Papa Johns website and is one of 4 they present. I liked this offer because it's a good example of the "Add Fries" strategy you hear so often attributed to McDonalds. (followed by the "Supersize Me" offer)
Here's why it works.
Let's assume you're on the Papa Johns website because you're hungry and you want to order a pizza. You don't want to read a lot and you don't want to dilly dally around…
… you're hungry, remember?
As you read the offers you see something different. A CD AND a pizza for 22 bucks. Now I know you're thinking, "That's crazy, who would order that? Wouldn't they go for chicken wings or breadsticks or some other 'Add Fries" offer?"
It may be true, BUT think about the whole bundle. This offer is only TARGETED for someone who:
A) Likes Taylor Swift and B) hasn't downloaded or picked up the CD yet.
As it turns out there will be a large number of people who are in just that situation.
The key is to then run your statistics and see just how many people (as a percentage of orders) take this one. And if enough people do you've done one very important thing to strengthen your business. You have increased a $14 One Topping order into a $22 One Topping and CD order. If you did it properly you've added an item which increases your margin too!
How it works in email.
Next time you plan and send a promotion, take your offer and spend some time to pick an appropriate "Add Fries" bundle and see if you can increase your order size AND your margin.
If you are doing more advanced email marketing this would make an excellent A/B split test.
Send your basic offer to half your list and send your "Add Fries" offer to the other half.
The split with the highest MARGIN wins! Rinse and Repeat!
You'll find that good marketing really, really takes place between your ears :)
One building block at a time.
One of the big challenges I hear from potential clients is that they are worried they don't a big enough email list to have an impact on their business.
It's true that if you don't have a list now, you should be working hard to get one. If I had a restaurant I would sure keep an eye on which of my local competitors are on the email bandwagon.
I dropped by a local pub/restaurant last week and noticed something at the bottom of the bill. Take a look at the offer. It's pretty clear they are making an effort to motivate you to join their list.
But wait until you check out their website. It's clear where they have set their priorities. Build the list!
Now let's say you have a restaurant nearby and serve the same demographic. One year from now they will be able to fill a quiet Tuesday night with an email-specific event or offer. How will you respond?
Without a list your options are limited.
Now when you think about building your list, start to get creative and spend some time to get it right!
Next year you'll be happy you did.
Have you caught the QR code bug yet? You may have seen codes like the one below showing up at tradeshow booths, in magazines, and on store shelves.
The 17 year old technology (QR stands for Quick Response) was designed to be read by scanners for quick identification.
Today the scanner is your iPhone. Download a quick app (I use ScanLife) and you can read these codes with your phone.
The way to use a QR code is to think of places you could put one (like for instance in a Winery Tasting Room, or a retail checkout) that people would be able to quickly scan it.
I'd suggest you create a QR code and use it to send a visitor to a simple sign up page. On the sign up page offer something of value like a free report (scan the code above to see it in action).
The possibilities are endless for marketing but I like QR codes for building your email list faster and easier than before.
Look for opportunities with any place where you or your product or service interact with a prospect or customer.
One of the new applications I really ilke is done by Winergy Inc. who got the use of this technology in wineries right away.
One question I get frequently is "How do I grow my list?" I've shown some great examples of list building techniques here in this blog but I came across one yesterday that I thought was quite well done.
Use an iPad as a data entry screen.
This is a simple three step process and you've added a new way to collect email addresses.
1. Place an iPad at your point of sale. First you need to use the technology to it's advantage. iPads are sexy and cool and people love them.
I've seen (two) businesses that use a small laptop for this purpose but an iPad has a much higher form factor. Not everyone has seen or touched one.
Place a small sign nearby and invite people to join your list in order to get the latest news, info, and offers. (In case you're worried there are ways to secure your iPad so it doesn't walk out the door. Have you ever tried to get one out of the Apple store?)
2. Create a webpage with an optin form on it. You could of course write an App that collects data (there's already one for winery tasting rooms) but let's keep this simple.
Use a simple html web page with a sign up form. Ask for name and email address (any maybe State) and it's as simple as that.
3. Send out an autoresponder message or series. This is a pretty important piece of the puzzle. Keep in mind that signing up for your list on an iPad was only one small part of someone's day. You'll need to remind them they did so and you'll want to start to build a stronger relationship.
I've written lots about autoresponders so you already know how to use them.
I'll be watching for the first iPad I see with this on it. If you see one let me know!
The iPad has made quite a splash this year in all industries and it was only a matter of time before innovative marketers figured out how to use the iPad to increase direct to consumer wine sales.
I've seen a few blog posts recently which highlighted how an iPad can help collect email addresses in a winery tasting room but I recently came across a company who has taken it to the next level.
What Ra-software has done is to really understand and help winery tasting room visitors to remember their visit to your tasting room--and at the same time give your visitor a good reason to leave behind their email address.
What you see on the right is an example of their software application (which runs on an iPad) set up to help visitors remember their visit to YOUR tasting room.
Many visitors to a wine region like Napa or Sonoma will visit more than a single winery. It's not uncommon to visit 4 or 5 wineries in a single day!
It can be easy to forget which wine you wanted to refer back to later.
Ra-software has built an easy-to-use application which solves that problem.
Using the iPad app, a visitor can rate a wine on a scale from 1 to 5, input their email address, and the application sends them an email summarizing their tasting notes!
Just like that, your winery has improved the visitor experience and now stands apart from other wineries in the area.
If the visitor gives their permission, the winery may then add the visitor to their newsletter to keep in touch.
Take a look at their website to read more>
To me running a restaurant seems like galloping on a horse that you almost control but not quite. Things happen fast, lots can go wrong, and there are lots of moving parts.
So I'll give it to you straight. I'm not a restaurant marketing expert, I'm an email marketing expert.
But I find so few restaurants are using this killer medium I thought it was time to give a small prod.
Here's a simple strategy that ANY restaurant can follow that will absolutely, positively, increase your sales.
I'll give you the general strategy and you can modify it to suit your size, style, type of restaurant, and your disposition.
Restaurant Marketing Idea.
Step One. Collect email addresses. I've shown two examples of an email collection in restaurants in earlier posts but this is what you do. You can put a guest book at the till, or provide a business card drop for a drawing, or have your server ask at the table, or you can have the hostess ask. You can ask straight up or you can make a trade for the email address. If you have coupons, or free lunch drawings, or free appetizer offers, use one of those. (Don't forget to tell people you're going to send them something-like notices of special events and offers.)
Just make sure you have a customer-friendly method to collect an email address and a name.
Step Two. Get an account to manage your email addresses and send messages. You just don't want to have to manage all the bits and pieces of doing a mailing, removing people who request unsubscribes, and complying with the email laws without this type of specialty software. Some of the most popular are iContact, Aweber, and Constant Contact.
Step Three. Send a personal message. Don't fiddle around with fancy templates and layouts. Send a message the way you would send it if you sat down and sent it to one person. Certainly you want people to know you are the restaurant but let me tell you that when the owner or chef of a restaurant sends me an email, I'll read it.
Bonus Tip: You can use email to boost your current promotions and events. Standard fare, like Hot Wing Wednesday, Mother's Day Brunch, Dine Out Advertising, Feature items are all worth sending out information on, however I think that if you have a good restaurant you'll be booked on Mother's Day so don't create overbooking situations.
My thought, find your slowest night, and send a personal email to your list telling them you would love to have them return to your restaurant soon and if they come by on that night, you'll treat them to a desert to say Thank You.
Anybody see a restaurant do this well lately?
Photo Credit: Mr T in DC