Promoting Your Restaurant on a Small Budget

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Male Owner Of Coffee ShopOK so you opened your restaurant and you’re trying to get the word out about the new place in town. Or, you’ve been open a while and want to try to drum up some new business. Either way, you’re probably wondering where to start.

Let’s start with the budget. Think about how much your average customer spends. You can calculate that on the average table or you can calculate it based on the customer. Then, calculate how much you make off that ticket. So, for every person or table that walks in the door, you make an average of $x. Of that money, what percent do you feel comfortable spending on advertising?

Another consideration: what percent of your customers come back? You might be able to spend a bit more to get someone to come in the first time if most of your new customers turn into repeat customers. Keep in mind, if you’re offering a coupon or opt to run a Groupon-type special, you’re likely to see fewer customers return than your average. There is always the table/person that is just there because they got a good deal. Don’t let that discourage you – just account for it in the budget.

Don’t stress about a small budget. There are a number of ways to promote your business without breaking the bank. Avoid the big three: TV, Radio and Print – those will bust your budget, and fast! Here are some options for those on a smaller budget:

Think social! Social media is an affordable way to advertise and maintain a relationship with your customers. Don’t feel obligated to post only about specials and deals on your social media. While enticing at first, most customers will bore of the same content over and over. Use this avenue to allow customers to get to know you. Did you see a funny picture? Share it! Did you go to a winery to taste some wines that you’ll soon be carrying? Post a picture! If you notice that a post is getting some good attention (i.e. lots of “likes”, “shares”, “comments” etc) consider “boosting” your post. On Facebook and Twitter, you are able to spend a small amount and share your post with some very specific target audiences – think men and women, in your area, that like your type of food.

Referrals! It doesn’t get any cheaper than word of mouth advertising. Would you believe the cheapest promotion is also the most effective?!  Consider creating a referral program for your customers. Give them “free appetizer” cards to hand out (one for them, one for their friend), offer a free dessert if they “check in” at your restaurant on social media – bonus points if they share a picture of their food, get creative and have some fun with it.

Give-Aways and Sweepstakes! You can run these in-store, online or both. In store, have guests leave a business card, or fill out a simple form with their name and email address to win a free meal. You’ll get a ton of email addresses – that you can add to your email list and keep in touch that way. Online, you can post a pic of a new dessert and have a contest to see who comes up with the most clever name. Use the name on your menu and they get a free one on their next visit. People will share these posts with their friends and boom! You’ve been promoted.

These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. You obviously know your customers better than I do. Choose promotions that will resonate with them. Don’t be afraid to try anything once. Some will work out better than others. Don’t panic if one promotion doesn’t bring a ton of attention, just remember that didn’t turn out the way you thought it would, learn from it and try something else next time. A lot of marketing is trial and error. Failing is ok, so long as it doesn’t stop you. I heard a quote, and I can’t remember where, but they said, “An unsuccessful person will fail. A successful person will keep failing until they succeed!”

One final word of advice. Start somewhere. Don’t think about it for days or weeks trying to settle on the “perfect” promotion. There’s no such thing. Just pick something and try it today!

Stop, Watch and Learn

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Line Cooks In Restaurant KitchenSince I’m in the biz, I can’t stop watching and analyzing operations in restaurants… often times to my wife’s dismay! I look for missed opportunities and often suggest to the managers a slight change that might make a big difference. Recently, I was at a diner where my family and I enjoy dining on a regular basis. The place is always packed on the weekends and the speed of service is… fair. The food offsets the wait for a seat and the time it takes to get served. The diner is an open-kitchen operation. You can sit at the counter and watch the sausage being made. A couple visits ago, the place was a madhouse. Customers were waiting, the kitchen staff was arguing and the food was moving slowly and with little accuracy. Remakes were clogging the already bogged down line.

In the hour or so I waited for my food, I drank coffee and watched the craziness, I noticed something. The font on the tickets was too small! The confusion in the back was being greatly increased because the tickets were hard to read. The staff had to actually pull the tickets off the rack and hold them up to their eyes to see what they said. On top of that, everyone had reading glasses on their heads. They needed two hands to read each ticket! (more…)

BBQ Season in Texas

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Grilled Meat On BarbequeWhen I first started this topic, I thought that March or April would kick off the barbeque competition season here in Texas. Upon further research, it looks like the “season” really has no beginning, or ending for that matter. As I’m sure you’ve heard, we take our BBQ seriously in the Lone Star State! Some rumors and legend are just that (like riding horses to work?), but this one folks, is true! (Thank Goodness!)

According to the International Barbeque Cookers Association website, there are competitions starting in early January, and they run all year long until the 2nd weekend in December. I guess the pros take a short break for the holiday season. No matter where you live in Texas, you’re sure to have a competition near your location sometime during the year. (more…)

Save Water – Save Money – Save the Environment

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

 

Running FaucetMany parts of the country are experiencing droughts like they haven’t seen in years (I’m talking to you Texas and California!). Businesses and residents are being asked to conserve water and make lifestyle changes to preserve the water supply. Even if you don’t live in one of the hardest hit areas of the country, you can still benefit from conserving water. Yes, it’s better for the environment, but it’s also great for the bottom line.

Don’t let the thought of conserving water intimidate you. There are 3 areas of any restaurant where taking steps to saving water will make a large impact, with minimal effort on your part.

Ice Machines

Ice machines are a large source of water usage in all restaurants. Some things you might consider help conserve: (more…)

Weekly Food Inventory Counts Can Save Time And Money

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Short-Order_Food-InventoryDid you know that according to industry averages, chain restaurants are two to three times as profitable as independent restaurants? How do they do it?! One way to cut costs is to do a weekly food inventory count and food cost calculation. While most independent restaurants do a monthly food inventory count, most chains calculate their food inventory weekly.

Though it seems like a daunting task to tackle weekly, don’t fear! We found some tips from RestaruantOwner.com to help you streamline the process.

Get organized! Accurate inventory counts can go out the window when your stock room and refrigerated storage are unorganized. Products should be easy to see and count. (more…)

Can you make GREEN by going green?

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Garden on the RoofIn his recent article on FastCasual.com, Ed Zimmerman asks the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind these days: “Is your restaurant green?” According to a recent survey among consumers regarding food trends, environmental sustainability ranked first!
The reasons to “go green” are numerous. It’s responsible, it shows you care about your community, but now you can add customer interest to the list – which means it’s profitable.

How can you go green?

Shop local. Locally sourced food is a growing trend and local farmers are more than happy to work with you. Develop monthly specials based on season. Don’t be afraid of adding it to the “featured menu,” even if there’s not a ton of product. If you run out for the night, it will increase the demand on future nights!

Source green foods. There are so many options! Chefs can now find green options year-round, even fruits and vegetables, pasta, cheese, wine and more. (more…)

Countdown to the New Year with the Top 10 Foods of the Last Decade  

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Ice Cream Biscuit SandwichesThe American diet is an ever-changing creature, with constant surprises from newcomers like Sriracha, which has taken the nation by storm in recent years, becoming more popular than Tabasco in some parts of the country. But for all that, the core of the American diet doesn’t really change that much over the course of a decade. Or does it?

Actually, it turns out it does. While there are those trends that exploded, peaked, and then vanished all within the last 10 years, there are a few that have stuck with us, and you’ll probably be surprised at what they are. The data below is taken from a survey done by NPD research group that found the 10 foods that have grown the most in popularity over the past 10 years.

10: Pancakes

Yup! If you thought that pancakes peaked back when IHOP was at the height of its popularity, you haven’t been paying close enough attention. Be careful with traditional definitions of pancakes, because a ‘pancake’ isn’t always just simply, a pancake. The rise of savory pancakes like the San Francisco new-classic Sourdough-and-Sauerkraut Pancake and the Korean-American scallion pancake make this entry significantly broader than you might think. When you add in the fact that there’s a brand new PancakeBot 3D printer out there that will turn any graphic you give it into edible pancake art, you can see that this is far from the round buttermilk standby of your youth. If you’re getting serious about pancake making, we have this heavy-duty electric griddle for mornings when you need to feed a crowd quickly. (more…)

Fall Beer and Food Pairings to Offer Diners

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Assortment of Beers and AlesThere is something completely natural about the desire to pair beer with autumn food. Maybe it’s because the beverage shares a color with the leaves, or maybe it’s because the earthy flavors evoke the smell of the rain-soaked land…or maybe they just taste great together. If you’re running with that last theory, here’s our take on maximizing the flavor profile of your fall pairings:

Strong Beers for Strong Spices

Traditional autumn flavors are warm and spicy; nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. To pair with these strong flavors, you want a strong beer. Pair these classic fall flavors with hoppy harvest brews or caramel-tinted American amber ales for the best effect. The significant exception; if you’re going to eat a traditional Mexican mole sauce, you’re better off pairing it with a pumpkin brew. The spice profile fits neatly in with the sweetness of that particular beer.

Hoppy harvests and American ambers pair well with soft, ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert. Similarly, intensely sweet fruit such as poached pears or bananas foster are perfectly balanced by the intensity of the harvest brews and amber ales. (more…)

Future Food Service Trends

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Short-Order_Kitchen-ChefsLike everything else in the world of business, food service is constantly evolving. Exactly what the future will bring is naturally a matter of educated guessing more than certain understanding. Here are some of the trends we believe restaurant kitchens should prepare for in 2015 and beyond:

Energy Issues

Barring a radical innovation, electricity costs are likely to rise as time goes on, which means that cutting energy costs will continue to be a big part of food service in the future. Look for restaurants to switch to LED lighting, energy-efficient appliances, smart refrigeration, smart holding trays, and other energy-saving methods to lower overhead and promote sustainability.

Multi-Purposed Restaurant Equipment

As customers become more demanding and discerning and their requirements become more specific, restaurants are going to need equipment that is multifunctional and can be assigned to a variety of different purposes as seasons change, new menus roll out, and customers approach with unique requests. (more…)

Prepare Your Restaurant for Fall & Everything it Brings

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Chefs in a Restaurant KitchenFall is here, and it’s time to get ready for the changes the autumn season brings. No, not the changes in the leaves; the ones that are relevant to the restaurant industry. That means:

  • Football season
  • Back-to-school
  • Colder weather
  • Holidays approaching

 

Football season means piles of guys coming in asking for beer, finger foods (usually fried), and a clear view of The Game on one (or several) flat screen TVs. At the minimum, you’re going to want to change the filters on your deep fryers and your ice machines in order to keep them producing the freshest food and drinks they can. Also, if you haven’t already switched to craft beer on tap, this is the best time to do it. (more…)

Short Order | What's Cookin'

A Restaurant Equipment Blog for the Enhanced Professional Kitchen

View ShortOrder's Product Lines

Gen2
Gen2
Luxor
Luxor
Nemco
Nemco
Vulcan
Vulcan Ranges
Scotsman
Scotsman Ice Machines

Low Price Guarantee

ShortOrder.com is committed to being the low price leader. Not only will we meet, but we'll beat any legitimate advertised price from a competing food service equipment dealer for any item in our inventory. We will gladly refund 110% of the difference on an identical item from another dealer (including all freight charges.) Contact us at 800-211-0282 if you feel you have located an item that is priced lower than ShortOrder.com.

We beat any price

PRODUCT CATEGORIES