THE BLOG
07/23/2014 03:47 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2014

How Restaurant Owners and Managers Can Increase Sales

It seems to be an ongoing struggle for restaurants to keep their heads afloat during these tough economic times. Just in my hometown of Greenwich Village, several well-known eateries I grew up with, have shut their doors forever and well-known fast food chains are now taking their place. The most obvious reason why this is happening is due to sales, which beckons the question, "How can restaurants increase their sales?"

Personable Marketing = Potentially Increased Sales

In a sluggish economy, people are still choosing to eat at McDonalds, Starbucks or Kentucky Fried Chicken and save themselves the sit-down service of a family style restaurant. Additionally, people are pressed for time squeezing in more than one job, so grabbing a quick bite on the go seems reasonable. Sadly "increased competition from fast food chains into the casual dining field, increased food and labor costs as well as an economy that will continue to struggle to get back to where it was are all factors that family style restaurants will need to deal with," says Martin Doerfler of Menu Shoppe.

To keep their clients coming back (word of mouth greatly spreads in the food business) restaurants need to not just focus on the delivery of the marketing (i.e. sending out fliers, updating a Facebook page or email weekly ezines) but also should consider the degree to which they "show up" whether it's online or in-person and how they talk about what they do with confidence. "Showing up" from a online marketing perspective means building relationships and not pushing towards a hard and fast sell which can potentially drive away customers.

Increase Restaurant Sales by Building Potential Relationships with Customers

Let's say a restaurant owner buys fresh fish at a local market twice a week. The owner or manager can take pictures for their ezine and other marketing materials and also insert a caption or a description. There can also be a "before" and "after" pictures.

Another way to use images effectively is with blogging. A restaurant owner or manager can include sstory snippets about the significance of the dish and maybe have a tasting or sample hour on the weekly. This is an example of "showing up" as a way of building relationships in the online media world. "It will become more and more important for smaller chains and independent owners to create a unique image that separates them from the herd. Connecting with local food suppliers to present fresh, healthy items, free from pesticides and preservatives, that are also appetizing in taste and attractive in appearance may be the most effective way to do this. In other words creativity will remain just as important as location" says Martin Doerfler of Menu Shoppe.

Increase Restaurant Sales by Positioning its Uniqueness

Not only is there competition with fast food chains, but there is also competition within family style restaurants. Restaurant owners are adapting their menus with the growing trends of healthy organic styles. Restaurant owners and managers can approach the marketing by learning what makes their restaurant special over others. By special,

Some questions to ponder:

1. The obvious place to start is with the menu. Does the menu offer healthy eating options and how are these options different than a restaurant that offers similar options? For example, if two competing Mediterranean restaurants are offering falafel, is there a way to offer an organic side or main dish?
2. Are there special events that can be tied to different foods?
3. Does the menu highlight and showcase special elements like a history or fact of one of the dishes? This can certainly enhance the menus and set apart the competition.

Finally, Consider the Professional Story

Restaurant owners can use snippets of story in all elements of marketing from menus to ezines and eye catching posters. Most business owners don't feel comfortable with just telling the story, but from experience, I know I am always searching for some history or story snippet when I sit down to eat at a new place. There are many restaurants including coffee shop that tell the story and each time, I'm gravitated to reading more about the story. Did I miss anything? What makes this story memorable or unique?

An easier way to approach this idea of "story" is by creating a story around the dish and perhaps include this story snippet on one of the menus.

Of course, nothing can beat excellent customer service. A restaurant may invest hundred if not thousands of dollars on store layout, decor, marketing, and advertising but if the customer service isn't what it should be, then it will be that much harder to market. It costs ten thousand dollars more to get a new customer than to resell to a previous or current customer.