From starting your own catering business to running a fully-fledged chain, the hospitality sector is notoriously tough. Whether you’re hiring staff, changing suppliers or kitting out your kitchen, the on-going success of your business hinges on good marketing.
No matter what type of business you run, from a catering company or food truck to restaurant or bar, you need to promote yourself.
Advertising agencies, television and radio are all effective methods, but can be costly. And adding more expensive outgoings to an already long list is something every hospitality business can do without. There are many ways of gaining maximum exposure at a fraction of the cost.
Try community radio
Most community stations have a specialist food program and their breakfast /afternoon programs are always looking for guests to interview. It’s a free way to reach locals. Community stations have ads costing a lot less than commercial radio – yet specifically targeting your local audience.
There may be a small charge for advertising in your local newspaper, but if you can find an aspect of your business that’s newsworthy, the story they write will have the added bonus of promoting your business.
Are you the only coffee shop in the area? The only Thai? Food truck? Then leave your leaflets/ business cards with other food outlets nearby (take theirs in return). They will be happy to promote you (if you are not competition). Even give them a display rack for the purpose.
Get personal: have business cards/leaflets printed and make sure no-one visits your business without leaving with at least three of them. Ask your customers to share your business cards with their friends, family and work colleagues – word of mouth is one of the most powerful methods of marketing – and a referral scheme will speed it up: reward customers with a 10% discount when they dine with 3 or more friends.
Get personal (part 2): Everyone’s watched Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares .In promoting a reviving restaurant’s change of direction, he goes ‘to the street’ with samples of the new menu: there is NOTHING that compares to this personal approach. People value you for expending time & energy to reach them in-person. They remember you.
Are you a new coffee shop? Take a dozen complimentary flat whites to the reception of the office block across the road: “We’re new here – thought you might like to try our coffee.” Leave some leaflets.
There are many business clubs (Rotary, for example). Being a guest speaker at one of their meetings means you reach dozens of fellow business people who can talk about you to hundreds of their customers.
The most important aspect of online is a website that says who you are/what you do and provides images of your menu, interiors, staff, etc.
It’s probably best to hire a site-designer but there are multiple companies offering website builders for the novice which produce a professional looking website for just a small fee.
This can really get your brand noticed.
Facebook: recently plagued by controversy, and considered by some to be a bit passé, it is still the largest fully-featured social network where customers can ‘follow’ your business.
Twitter: a great way to create a regular flow of micro-commentary – and – you can check what’s being said about you!
Linked In: virtually an online CV and a means to establish your professional experience and make contacts with other business-people.
YouTube: upload your own videos of recipes/cooking tips. People can see you/hear you; if you want to flaunt your personality, this is where to do it!
Instagram: owned by Facebook, it’s very good for photos and videos.
Back to Gordon Ramsay
One admirable aspect of that irascible Scot is his fervour for standards: standards of food hygiene, preparation and presentation. You can do all the marketing in the world but if you are not producing a fresh, consistent, quality product, the customers you attract will soon drift away.
Quality catering equipment makes it easier to produce consistent, quality fare – and the reputation that produces is the best promotion of all!