What did we say is the best way to gauge the success of a restaurant? Other than smashing popularity and exceptional sales, an age-old way of measuring an independent restaurant’s success is staying power.
Yes, the ability to stay in business despite the odds–because it’s sure not easy to do. Excellent food, friendly service and a pleasant ambiance aren’t always enough; competition is just too much, and restaurants nowadays must actively market their businesses to still be up and about.
The secret? A solid customer base. We’ve said this before and we’ll mention it again—a lot of successful independent operators do not really use traditional advertising to attract customers to their restaurants—instead, they find it more productive to focus their efforts on the people who are most likely to visit them: those customers who have already gone to their establishments, tasted their food and experienced their service.
So how do successful independents develop a solid customer base? The first step to developing a reliable customer base is to get the names, contact numbers, addresses as well as other information of their existing customers. The only hindrance is that most people are hesitant to give out their personal information; restaurateurs just have to come up with an effective yet beneficial ploy to get them to willingly release their information.
And the best way to do this is through VIP clubs or birthday clubs. We have already featured (and hopefully convinced you) about the steps to do to develop your very own VIP Club, so now we shall focus on Birthday Clubs.
According to various consumer surveys, birthdays are the number one occasion that people celebrate in restaurants. Birthday Clubs, then, are one of the most effective ways to increase restaurant sales and profit all year round, aside from being the easiest way to have a real, accurate, honest to goodness and up-to-date list of your customers.
Step one is to get yourself a catchy club name—try not to name it a simple birthday club—use something that interconnects with the type of diners you often have and the image that your restaurant wants to project. Come up with a nice logo—you’ll be needing a good one and fine graphics later on during your promotions, such as those that you shall use in your menus, posters, cards and table tents.
Step two? Come up with your Birthday Form—but don’t limit the data to names and birthdays only—include contact numbers, anniversaries, spouse and children information (including contact numbers and birthdays as well).
Step three would be to think of a good incentive that you can give your customers to reward them for filling up the form completely. A free drink, simple appetizer or dessert is adequate enough, along with the promise of a free entrée (or a simple free dessert or appetizer) or dinner on their birthdays.
And lastly, promote! There are a variety of restaurant marketing ways to do this: you can make an announcement in your menu or you can post signages in your dining area. You can place table tents that introduce the club, or you can dedicate a space in your website that’s solely for your new club. You can also come up with an incentive for your servers to actively recruit customers to join, or include your club in whatever media efforts you’re doing to promote your restaurant.
This, of course, would take another round of efforts on your part. But think of how a Birthday Club can benefit you, once established—imagine all the things that you can do with a list of 1,000 (or 10,000) customer names, mobile numbers and emails. You can email them or text them of your promotions, boost your customer traffic and allow you to hit, if not surpass, your bottom line. (Check out the links below to get tips on how to do effective email and text brigades.)