Today, BizBox ventures where it normally fears to tread: the New York Times Food section. Today's cover story--written by the paper's chief restaurant critic, Frank Bruni--is about something that should be near and dear to the hearts of small business owners everywhere: how to coax customers to patronize your establishment when they have far less money to spend. The answer, unsurprisingly, is what the paper has elsewhere called "desperation marketing": using any means necessary, and any type of deal, to keep the revenue coming in. As Bruni writes of most New York restaurants, right up to the top ones, "They’ve seldom wanted you so bad, so they’ve rarely treated you so good."
The "hugging" Bruni frequently cites isn't just creative and genuinely solid bargains, by the way. It's the little things, too, the ones that don't cost restaurants any extra money to offer. Like reservation bookers who, announcing nothing available, try to plead with you to book for a different, open night. Or servers who are more attentive than ever. Even the fabled 21 Club is no longer requiring a coat and tie for all its male diners, a concession, perhaps, to recession chic.
But it is also about deals. Those who don't live in New York may not understand what it means to be able to secure a $35 dinner at Jean Georges, or to get a series of $10 dishes on Fridays at Tom Colicchio'sCraft. Suffice to say that these are some pretty tremendous deals.
And it's not just that expensive is being cut down to reasonable; interestingly, hyper-expensive is being cut down just to merely expensive. A decadent, 20-course meal at Mario Batali's Del Posto, formerly $250, can be yours for just (yes, just) $175. Do the math, and look at just how dramatic a cut that is.
The idea behind all of this is simple: customers are better than no customers. And this maxim apparently holds true even, of all places, in the restaurant business, where profit margins are already notorious for being as thin as a line of fishing wire. Even these places feel that their ultimate saving grace is less in cutting costs and more in bringing in the customers--who may order that one extra drink, or that one extra dessert, or come by that one extra time, and end up putting the restaurant over the top in that month.
If you and your business have not already been marketing in this way--offering deals, changing up your games, doing practically anything to keep customers coming through your doors--then let this serve as your wake-up call. Marketing to the recession isn't just the smart thing to do: it's downright fashionable now!
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