• May 20, 2013
2 minutes Read
Fast food restaurants have gotten some bad press in recent years, but they’re not going away any time soon. In a fast-paced world, even “foodies” may occasionally scarf down a burger or burrito, and there will always be people who just want food in a hurry.
Can you, as the owner or manager of a full-service restaurant, really compete? Can you actually lure customers away from so-called “convenient” joints?
We say you can. Granted, it may not be as easy to do as it once was, due to a challenging economy and other factors.
You probably won’t compete with the quick-serves on price or volume, but you can score points by: 1) offering stuff the fast food restaurants can’t; and 2) finding something you can do as well as, or even better, than fast-food places.
A few tips to consider:
Emphasize what makes your restaurant unique.
You probably won’t have to think too hard to come up with what sets you apart. It could be that you’re a family business that’s been operating for the past 80 years. Maybe you offer delicious, authentic home cooking that reflects your roots (whether those roots are in New Delhi or New Jersey). It could be that you go out of your way to offer warm, welcoming service. Or you could have the best live entertainment in the area. Figure out a few things that make it worth a hungry customer’s time. Then capitalize on those unique selling points.
Take advantage of current foodie trends.
Load your menu with truly healthy fare. Make an effort to use locally sourced, fresh ingredients whenever possible, and advertise that you’re doing it. Become best buddies with the vendors at the local farmers’ market. Offer an organic cupcake of the week or a fusion food of the month. But don’t fake it. Don’t boast that you use all organic ingredients when you don’t. Do make an effort to keep up with trends, and adopt the ones that fit your restaurant.
Offer unique incentives and promotions.
Fast-food restaurants are always doing this, and the larger chains often enter into co-branded ad campaigns with other companies to promote, say, a movie or a major sports event. While you may not be able to team up with Disney, you can be a little creative and come up with your own promotions. Look at some of your competition’s ads, and you may be able to draw some inspiration. Perhaps you can partner with your local organic producers or a farmers’ market, or one of your local sports teams.
Become your own fast-food restaurant.
Not long ago, “food trucks” meant the taco truck on the corner. For the past few years, however, there’s been an upscale food truck trend, with a variety of cuisines being served. While many food trucks are standalone operations, brick-and-mortar restaurants are opening food trucks of their own. If it’s feasible for you, this is something you might consider. You may not be able to offer your entire menu, but you can serve a sampling that might make people come to the “real” restaurant. You can even provide sit-down coupons, so people will have an incentive to visit your restaurant.
Of course, the best restaurant in the country isn’t going to do very well if nobody knows about it. You can’t just rely on word of mouth. You also have to market yourself. But the good news is that you don’t have to have a big budget to get the word out. Take advantage of social media, maintain a blog, have a professionally designed web site that features your menu. Again, consider co-branded advertising with other local businesses, and promotional agreements with area employers.
Photo credit: Lucky Business/shutterstock.com
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