Know your neighbors
Community matters. Your surrounding restaurants are friendly competition – get to know them for they could be a good resource for leads, local consumer behavior, or even good for borrowing things (party of 10 walks in and needs 5 highchairs and you have only 3?!). Take them, as well as surrounding businesses, a small sample of your goods with your business card and invite them in personally. While you’re at it, let them know there are specials for building tenants, the nearby business park, mall employees, etc… In exchange, you might see if they’d let you leave some collateral in their lobby for any upcoming events or specials.
Target convention visitors
Conventions are a fickle business and being able to know when, how many and for how long, is helpful when making your schedule. If you are not within walking distance of your convention center, develop a strategy ways to get them to you. Team up with a limo/shuttle service and offer a dinner package that includes transportation. Prospect the exhibitors on the convention’s website and reach out to them ahead of time to tell them about this amazingly convenient package you have created just for them. If you can track down the convention organizer, they might just let you put a coupon or flier in their attendee bags.
Woo the gatekeepers
Most offices have managers or administrators who can connect you with their company's decision makers. These companies have employee birthday lunches, team building happy hours and the highly coveted holiday office party. When cold calling, remember that you have something they need, so go in with confidence.
Prospect business with local publications
Companies that have money to pay for ads, probably have money to spend in your restaurant. Business Journals are an outstanding resource, and if you are lucky enough to be in or near these California markets – East Bay, Newport Beach, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, San Francisco and San Jose – you can get their annual publication, “The Book of Lists.” “The Book of Lists" gives you essential information on the leading buyers, businesses and employers…a snapshot of local economies with a perspective you can’t get anywhere else.” (purchase required) www.bizjournals.com/bizbooks
Create a referral program
You should want the concierges and hotel employees to refer their guests to dine with you. Provide incentives and build rapport – even feed them. The more they get to know you, the more likely they will think of you when someone asks them where they should go. Also, some restaurants have been known to give credit for referrals (i.e. Nick gets $2/guest he refers to dine at your establishment). However, tracking this needs to be done by someone who is well-trained on your reservation system. OpenTable, for example, is capable of doing this. Make the concierge look good by comping a dessert or small app and say it is from them (mutual backscratching goes a long way). “Thank you for dining with us tonight. Please enjoy this piece of pie from Nick, your concierge at the Marriott.” See the pattern here?
Use your reservation system
Customization is king, and the guest experience is more important than ever. There is a “Notes” tab on most reservation systems for each guest. Use it. From the person taking the reservation to the server waiting on them – they are information gatherers, and should note anything of importance under their name in your system. As long as they make a reservation again under the same name, you will have that insight the next time they dine with you. Examples are what they like to drink, their birth date or anniversary, their name, spouse’s/kids’ names, what they ordered and loved, etc… Anything that will help you provide the personal experience they’re looking for and keep them coming back is helpful to keep in your system.
Offer booking incentives
A common, and relatively easy incentive to execute, is to offer a percentage of F&B sales back on a gift card – 1) you win their business, 2) they’ll come back to spend their gift card that you sent with a thank you note (and because you saw in their notes they loved their glass of Kim Crawford Sauv Blanc and had one waiting for them when they got there).
Use a leads group
Working with your competitors to share business is an emerging way to support the community and build relationships with guests – while adding to your bottom line. When you can’t help a guest with their large party because you are already booked and another date won’t work for them, connect them with your restaurant pals who might be able to help. Not only will the guest thank you and remember you for relieving them of all the footwork, but so will your fellow restaurateurs.
Get to know your local cra chapter
Being part of a group with a common goal is a powerful thing. You are all there for one major reason: the health of your industry. Together, you discuss the industry, identify challenges and discuss how to overcome them. The CRA uses this input to fine-tune our messaging and shape policy positions used in advocating at the Capitol, in the offices of your local officials, or any other time we have the opportunity to convey your thoughts to decision makers. Chapter events and meetings are great opportunities to network, engage and stay up-to-date on current events regarding your community and industry.