As American Express OPEN culinary advisor, Richard Williams provides guidance and expertise to American Express OPEN, the small business division of American Express, to help create a robust set of online resources specifically for small business owners in the culinary industry.
When restaurant operators are faced with a downturn in the business cycle, they can throw up their hands and complain about forces beyond their control, or they can make a conscious decision to do what it takes to get more than their fair share of the business that exists in the market. Marketing your restaurant is always important but becomes even more important in challenging times.
American Express OPEN Culinary Advisor Dick Williams has put together these helpful tips on marketing:
Communicate with your customers.
Use email to send personal and customized offerings to regular customers. Include a link to your web site. Invite someone back who has not been to your restaurant recently. Build an email address list by encouraging guests to leave business cards or fill in a short customer profile including email address.
Motivate your staff.
Run contests for your staff so they are motivated to sell. Contests can include specific entrées, desserts, wine, or mixed drinks. Incentives must work for staff and guests, so be sure to explain to your wait staff the benefits to the guests for ordering the specific featured item, e.g., this item is only available for a short time or this wine is specially priced to pass on our purchase savings to the customer.
Know your customers.
For marketing to be effective, you need to know your target customer and which other restaurants are also competing for their dining dollars. Visit tables to personally introduce yourself to your guests. You will then be able to put a face with a name when the guest returns in the future.
Know your competition.
Visit your competitors periodically to observe what they are doing to capture the same customers you seek.
Get to know writers of the local newspaper food column. Invite them to your restaurant for lunch or dinner and schedule the time so that you can eat with them. You can use the time to promote a new menu or a seasonal change to a menu, or make the writer aware of a newsworthy story about your restaurant.
Focus your efforts.
With the increased price of gas, more restaurants will be drawing their customers from a smaller radius. Focus your marketing efforts on customers within a three-to-five mile area.
In addition to his advisory role with OPEN, Williams, a 40-year industry veteran, serves as Managing Director and Founder of HVS Food & Beverage Services, a global consulting and services organization focused on the hotel, restaurant, shared ownership, gaming and leisure industries.
Williams entered the restaurant business by serving a two-year apprenticeship under a Swiss chef at the Café Promenade. Soon after, Richard became the Executive Chef at the Chateau Pyrenees Restaurant with increased responsibilities in management. Subsequently, he moved into front-of-the house management as the Managing Partner at two restaurants.
Undoubtedly, his most well-known venture has been the revitalization of the world famous Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant in Denver. Representing the Buckhorn Exchange since 1978, Richard has instilled vital changes as the restaurant manager and enhanced its reputation.
In addition to acting as manager and owner to several of Denver, Colorado’s finest restaurants, Williams has performed over 500 real estate appraisals of restaurants, hotels and resorts since joining HVS in 1993. He specializes in market studies, feasibility studies, appraisals, and on-going consulting needs for several historic restaurants and hotels. His extensive background in business management has formed him into a widely successful business and restaurant owner in the Colorado area.
Richard is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. He is a certified general appraiser and a licensed real estate broker and holds the MAI designation of the Appraisal Institute.