How to Find the Guests Your Restaurants Deserve

If you tell yourself that your restaurants appeal to everyone aged 4-74 – or anything similar to that – that is wrong.

If you tell yourself that you compete with all restaurants – wrong again.  

One of my clients was telling me these things, and it was only by going beyond that kind of thinking that we could heroically reverse a negative sales trend and make this operator’s exit strategy dream come true.  

They first reached out to me concerned that sales across 13 units had been declining every year for multiple years.

Panic and confusion had started to eat away at the owner, who had been planning to sell and retire within five years.

Was it possible that his life’s work had deteriorated to the point where he would not be able to enjoy the exit payday he’d expected?


How We Did It

First I established that his restaurant’s offerings were actually quite good and were something people wanted.

The menu included big flavors and super-Instagrammable food that tasted (and looked) on trend.

The problem? The brand failed to shout about these items, and internally no one knew where the target was.

This group had to up its game in marketing and messaging to reach the type of guest that enjoys the experience the restaurant offers.  

We used my process of “slotting” a brand in a segment to identify what concepts resided closest to my client’s brand-eliminating most of the so-called competition as an issue.

The result allowed us to laser-target guests to join us, instead of going wide for every guest.

How did we do that? Through new branding, messaging, and social media that highlighted the items people really wanted to eat – if only they could remember where they could eat them.

Oh, and a change in operations director and a redefined culture really helped.

Sales started to increase.

This continued to the point where an attractive sale price became real.

My client sold for the price he wanted, retired, and the legacy of the brand lives on.  

Reality Beats Delusion

Most owners overestimate the size of their true competitive set.

Do not suffer from a similar delusion.   

Sure, you can make the argument that you compete with anyone selling food – from convenience and grocery stores to a 5-Star resort – but in reality, you compete with a very small number of restaurants in your segment that have offerings similar to yours.

When you understand your differentiators, culture, and how you serve your community, these restaurant guests turn out to be the easiest to convert to be your guests.

Over to you. We all talk about increasing revenue through guest count. What action attracts new guests and makes sure your current guests visit you more often? How do you communicate with, market to, and remind people that you have what they want?

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