I used to work in hospitality, nearly bought a cafe once and still to this day have a fantasy about starting a chain of eateries of some description. Of course, I am not a restauranteur; I am a marketing consultant. But the dream persists.
Consequently, whenever I eat out, be it fast food or fine-dining, I am always thinking of marketing ideas for restaurants. Here is one of my own, perhaps the most important one of all, because it is about strategy, not just tactics:
Rethink Your Entire Concept
The biggest marketing idea of all, in my opinion, no matter what business you’re in is to actually look at the whole concept of your business. From what kind of food you serve to how efficiently you serve it, you need to differentiate yourself.
Why? Because, unless you’re the only game in town, there is a lot of competition. It’s not just your direct competitors (other similar eateries), it’s also different food choices (fast vs. fine, eat-in vs. take-out, etc) and other forms of entertainment (Netflix, sporting events, visiting friends, etc).
The most powerful marketing of all is a unique concept that resonates wildly with a certain section of the community, creating raving fans.
So if I were to start a restaurant I would look very carefully at how others have created unique value propositions by addressing common bugbears in food service. How do you think fast food started? People were sick of getting inconsistent food, slowly.
For example: I hate buying coffee out and here’s why: in Australia it’s all about barista coffee: lattes, flat whites, cappuccinos, etc. The problem with this is:
A) the cost: it’s $4 – 5 per latte now, which is WAY more than I want to pay, especially when…
B) it’s so inconsistent. Apparently, anyone can use a coffee machine now … except it is patently not true. I reckon I get a truly good coffee about one third of the time. So every time I order one I am quietly cringing in anticipation at the result.
C) It takes too long. As soon as there are a bunch of people after a caffeine fix, you know it is going to take a while because barista coffee is labour intensive to make. The problem with this is, I don’t want to wait that long — and if the coffee is then disappointing, well that just doubles the pain!
Finally, and this may not be as big a problem for many people, I don’t know, but…
D) the coffee machines are so damn noisy: they drive me nuts when I am sitting in a cafe. I have pretty shattered ears after decades of rock n’ roll music (I’m a musician) and I know plenty of others who also struggle to hear in loud cafes. The hubbub of conversation is fine, but the industrial deafening that the average coffee machine subjects one to is irritating.
Oh, and a bonus:
E) coffee culture is kind of annoying and pretentious.
I mean really, does it have to be such a big deal? Can you really smell undertones of beetle-nut and ginger and can you really sense the subtle after-taste of mountain pepper or whatever the hell? Honestly, spare me … and maybe get that beard trimmed with the time you save, it looks kind of unhygienic.
So here’s a marketing idea: be the place where coffee is cheap and fast.
OK you can go to 7/11 for this, but I am talking about espresso coffee in a cafe eatery still, but minus the blah blah blah. Like they served it to me in Paris. It came in a tiny or a small cup, with or without milk on the side. Boom.
Spare us all “The Theatre of the Barista” and put the machine out the back somewhere. And just say no if anyone asks for any kind of variation on tiny or regular, with or without milk on the side.
Boom: Cheaper (could price it at $2 -3). Faster. Consistent quality (there’s not much to get wrong). Less noise and less pretentious, fussy people.
I like it.
Anyway, maybe this is a bad idea because it’s possible I would be the only customer, but the point is: find something that enough people dislike about eating out and fix it.
Bake the fix into your whole concept, like McDonalds did when they started serving burgers “in 30 seconds instead of 30 minutes”. I mean, McDonalds may not be your thing, but it is not hard to see how this would have been one hell of a value proposition at the time!