Restaurant Marketing

14 Aug

It was only a matter of time before I brought the old day job into this, but I reckon marketing a restaurant must be a tough gig. If you’re not part of a large scale fast food or national restaurant chain, it’s highly unlikely you wield the budget or man power needed to effectively spread the word about your lovely new independent eaterie or local chain, so how do you encourage the hungry masses to come taste your wares?

TV, radio and press advertising can be freaking expensive, and though countless lifestyle and food review sites offer seemingly reasonable rates for advertising and direct marketing, the lack of a market leading publication at national or local level must be an issue. Without the readership, audience targeting and reporting capabilities needed to determine whether your event listing or price promotion converted into new customers, how sensible an outlet is it in which to invest?

There’s always PR of course, with food editors and bloggers lining up to put pen to paper for free food, but despite effectively being a free advert, it still costs. A considerable amount of time needs to be spent courting the press, (if you can’t afford an agency that is), not to mention footing the food bill and using your staff’s precious time to serve non-paying customers, which despite all your efforts could result in a bad review. That said though, unless you have the goods to deliver a great dining experience, why put yourself on the line?

The holy grail, of course, is to let the marketing do itself through word of mouth. Though there is still trust placed in restaurant reviews, nothing can beat the recommendation of a friend, family member or peer who has been and experienced a place first hand. You have to get punters through the door first though, and one of the most instant and accessible ways in which to do this is through the use of social media, and most popular in the case of hospitality businesses, through Twitter.

Managing your business’s social media is a huge investment, as getting the right tone of voice, providing relevant content and building genuine relationships with your target audience requires time, effort and skill. Despite much discussion in the marketing world over social media’s value and effectiveness, for a small businesses who can closely monitor the conversation, count the retweets and conversions into customers (should you be close enough to your operation), the rewards are all there to see.

Some get it uncomfortably wrong, like new favourite Slice, who last week got a ticking off from Gordo, of Manchester Confidential fame, for requesting a retweet only three weeks into opening, with no attempt at wooing the man. Some do it spectacularly well however, like Almost Famous Burgers, which through the buzz created on Twitter for the semi-secret burger pop up achieved queues half way down Edge Street, so desperate were people to get through the door and try a bitch juice or triple nom burger.

Whereas Almost Famous became notorious through peddling exclusivity and playing on people’s desire to be in the know, Solita NQ, the newest addition to the Northern Quarter dining scene, has launched through a beautifully executed campaign of inclusivity. In the run up, they tweeted menu items, asked for dish testers, educated their followers on the magic that is the Inka Grill and (being savvy) reached out to the most mouthy foodies in Manchester (hello) to review and blog the menu, all of which hit launch day and resulted in an almighty scrap to get a table and try the pulled pork sundae, amongst other delicious things.

Free opening weekend aperol spritzers for all, tasters of the constantly updated menu and being on first name terms with most of their customers has put Dom, Franco and Simon up there amongst the warmest and most welcoming hosts in Manchester. In addition to the incredibly good value for money and innovative comfort food they serve, they really have created a special place which comes widely recommended, much to their delight.

Most admirable, however, is that Solita NQ openly seeks to refine what it does, with my most recent jaunt being in aid of providing open feedback on the whole experience. It’s a rare thing for a restaurant to do, and in the face of the fickle nature of the Manchester food scene, where people would attend the opening of a crisp packet, it makes good business sense to keep innovating and improving, engaging your customers in the process and building a relationship that will last beyond the first few months of trading.

As a marketer, I admire them massively, but as foodie, I love them even more, because they deliver on every promise they make, making great headway in establishing a strong new food brand for the city, and keep on promising to get better. So here’s a little something for the fellow food lovers. It speaks for itself.

Rooster Scratchings. Salty, crispy chicken skin.

Pulled Pork Sundae. Rich anise flavoured meat with buttery mash.

The Hungry Hoss Burger. Two 6oz burgers with kentucky fried bacon, melted cheddar cheese, bbq sauce and red onion marmalade.

Lobster Roll. Lobster in a brioche bun with mayonnaise, pickles, smoked butter and fries on the side.

*For other fab Solita NQ reviews, see Mrs Petticoat, Things to Do in Manchester and the legendary Hungry Hoss, who due to his much valued custom has had a Solita NQ burger named after him. Let it never be said these guys don’t value their customers.

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