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This question has been answered, and points have been awarded.
I Need Ideas To Get My Restaurant Busy
11/16/2009 at 8:15 PM ET
I own a restaurant in a very tourist area and I am very busy in the summer but I have a very slow business in the winter. There is more winter than summer and I need to get more people in my restaurant or I wont survive, My place serves all italian and when I get people in they love the food I always have people come out to the kitchen and tell me how much they love it, but I still have people that live a half mile down the street and come in and ask me how long we have been here, we have been here 10 years. I advertize in the local paper but it does not help.
11/16/2009 at 8:39 PM
Ah, yes. When people aren't coming to your restaurant there's just no stopping 'em, is there?
If you've been in business for 10 years, then you've obviously been through 10 winters. What did you do in previous winters? How did you survive then? Is this winter worse than all the previous winters? Is it the economy? Who isn't coming to your restaurant now that used to come last winter and the winter before?
If you're relying on locals, then you probably need to reach out to them via some kind of advertising or promotion. You say that advertising in the local paper doesn't help. Is it possible the ad isn't persuasive? Do you have a good offer? Are you promising the benefit your target audience wants?
It's difficult, without more detailed information, to diagnose what's not working or what the problem is. Start by letting us know how this winter is different from last winter, or the winters before that. Then maybe you can talk to some of your regulars and ask them what they like about your place, what other restaurants they like (and why), and if they have any ideas about how you can improve your offering.
Listen hard to what they say. Maybe even take notes and analyze them critically. Talk to at least 6 or 8 different customers this way. (You can comp them a dessert or a glass of wine for their help.) Then review the notes and see if you can identify a common thread that might give you an idea about how to solve your winter problem.
Short of a serious consulting project, I don't know that we can solve your problem ... at least with the information we have. But with more information we might be able to help guide you to a few things that might work.
Peter (henna gaijin)
11/17/2009 at 1:30 AM
On the locals, perhaps you can print up "door hangers" with info on your restaurant and have them hung on all the doors in the neighborhood. Maybe include a coupon, along with info on your restaurant and partial menu.
11/17/2009 at 7:46 AM
I'm not sure where you're located, but given the state of the world's economy, a trend has developed regarding where people eat when they eat out. They've opted to gulp down "fast food" they view as less expensive rather than go to their favorite "sit-down" restaurants and enjoy a real meal, one that obviously costs more and which usually requires that they tip their server.
People can fill their bellies at a "fast food" joint for what they might otherwise leave as a tip at a "sit-down."
What you might want to try are daily "specials," your traditional food fare, but perhaps smaller portions, perhaps one meat ball rather than two, or leave off the salad or bread.
But make sure you advertise them as limited time specials at the lower price or people might think you're cutting prices on all your menu items.
Hope that helps.
11/17/2009 at 8:32 AM
Has your restaurant had many reviews published (either in your local newspaper or on a social media site such as Yelp)? If not, you need to get people to write up how wonderful the food is so others can see.
Does your restaurant have a website? Is the site listed in Local Business listings (such as:
Can you deliver lunch to local businesses? Can you host your local Chamber of Commerce event?
11/17/2009 at 12:44 PM
The beauty of restaurants is its so easy to create your own holiday and excitement. Give people more than food as the reason to come in. The holidays are almost here-- invite local school children to sing carols. Invite local artist to do an exhibit. Do winemaker dinners. Tap your alcohol reps-- they have deep pockets. I recently made as an excuse for a party Julia Child's birthday. An Italian chef would work for you. I have a couple books on the menus on the Titanic and have made dinner parties around that theme.
I'm on the road and picked up a local paper announcing it's "cashew" day. Later this week is "stay home cause you're well day", or "pins & needle's" day.
No matter what you do you'll always have someone come by and say "they didn't know you were here". Don't take that personally!
11/19/2009 at 6:54 PM
Here's two different ideas:
1. What about trying a couple of nights where you do a family style menu. Have a lasagna night. This would help you to limit your menu (and cost) and get back to the family dinner time theme. You could even write a press release for the local paper or call the food editor and ask them if they would be interested in interviewing you. Pick your slowest night of the week to do this and push it as your restaurant is bringing families back together. Maybe even work with the local PTA to have a family fund raising night. When families coming in on Wednesdays for family style night, a portion of the proceeds go to the school. You would just need to determine how much you can give. That way you are offering a service to the community, getting families in the door and establishing the family style idea. This is something I bet the local news would be willing to pick up.
2. Work off of the concept that Subway did with their $5 foot longs. Come up with a couple of Italian dishes that you can offer for $5. Spaghetti with tomato sauce, Alfredo w/o chicken, whatever your menu allows. The key is that it is something you can offer at $5 and still make a profit, but don't offer the premium stuff. If they want to add meatballs or chicken, they can do that for an extra $1 or $2, but the main advertising is the $5 home cooked Italian meals, just like your Momma used to make! If they want garlic bread, add it on for an extra charge. I would even offer this at lunch time and hit some of the local businesses with flyers promoting your new $5 lunch boxes.
Hope this helps!
11/29/2009 at 5:19 AM
I am closing this question since there has been no activity in 10 days.
Thanks for participating!
Carrie (Production Editor)
9/7/2012 at 2:39 PM
This is a very good questions that I am sure many local restaurants would like more information on how they can still find ways to attract new customers. Well, there a website out there built to help the small restaurants owners connect with new customers called
. They allow you to post new offers online and your restaurant information on there as well. It's one of the best tools for you if you don't want to spend much on advertising or operating on a low budget.
9/7/2012 at 3:23 PM
Are you THAT short of leads that you have to post jack a question that's three years old?
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