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Restaurant Success: The Main Ingredients

Restaurant Success: The Main Ingredients

Eileen Figure Sandlin | Entrepreneur Magazine

Tell Them About It

Seasoned restaurateurs are the first to admit they don’t spend much – if anything – on advertising. “In a fine-dining environment like New York, advertising makes you look desperate,” says Lo. “It’s better to make sure everyone who comes in leaves happy—that’s your best advertising.”

Curcio believes that if you have to spend more than 5 percent of your operating budget on advertising, then there’s something wrong in your business plan. Others think that print advertising isn’t particularly effective for drawing customers, TV and radio are way too expensive, and coupons don’t build repeat business—just business from customers who come in only when they can get a discount.

Even so, it’s important to get the word out to potential clientele when you are just starting out. Unless you are opening a linen-tablecloth restaurant, try announcing your presence in the neighborhood by distributing fliers (at 4 cents each or less) and by holding a grand opening. This is one event you’ll actually want to advertise in the local newspaper and by sending out news releases to the local media. Host the event a few weeks after the doors actually open to make sure all your equipment, cuisine and staff are up and running smoothly. Offer specials, give balloons to the kids and hold fun activities to make a favorable impression on new customers. Have business cards and printed menus at the hostess stand or cash register that customers can pick up, and consider giving away promotional items like pens or keychains imprinted with your business name and phone number. And don’t forget to invite the media. Free press from food critics, life-style writers, columnists and others is worth its weight in gold.

Word-of-mouth is another potent publicity resource. At Four Food Studio, the partners create their own buzz by holding special events, like Monday “Industry Night,” which attracts up to 500 people who want to network with other professionals. They also held a brunch recently that featured horses, a petting zoo and blow-up slides in front of the restaurant to attract families.

“It’s not the same old, same old,” says Grossman, the restaurant’s crea-tive marketer. “We try to create a place with a different feel, a different flavor every time someone visits.”