If you own a restaurant, you already know how hard it is to make a name for yourself. There’s always a new establishment, food trend, or tech development which seems to command diner attention. In such a saturated and fast-moving world, how can you possibly stand apart?
The good news is that there are easy (and even fun) ways to set your restaurant apart from the rest. You’ll need to be willing to put in some time, effort, and yes, in some cases, even make a monetary investment. But you’ll be rewarded by making your establishment unique in a lasting way, which can gain you loyal, longtime customers.
Here, we’ll detail some creative approaches to make your restaurant stand out from the crowd, and how to make each one work for your establishment.
- Be a trendsetter. There’s always a new trend in restaurant decor, service, or dining options. It’s important to be aware of these trends, but you’re never going to set yourself apart merely by following them. Instead of following the latest trends, instead strive to create them. This means being able to look at your customers and intuit what they want, even if they don’t know it themselves quite yet.
How do you go about doing this? The first step is recognizing who your target customer truly is and what makes them tick. For example, say your target customer is a tech-savvy 20 something clientele. For this audience, offering cuisine with a molecular gastronomic leaning, adding a cool new method of automatization in your restaurant, or adopting new technology, might resonate with them and start a trend. However, this might not be as effective if your restaurant is more popular with the “ladies who lunch” crowd. Figuring out who your target customer is and what they crave (beyond just cuisine) is key in allowing you to be ahead of the curve in creating trends rather than adopting them.
- Create your own “reality show” (but without the drama). Not every restaurant has the good fortune to be scouted for the next Food Network series. However, you can channel part of what makes reality tv so popular by sharing behind the scenes views of your restaurant with your customers.
You could take a number of different approaches to share an intimate look at your restaurant with your clientele. One approach is to share photos or videos on social media. For instance, you could post a quick video with the chef at work on a new special, or featuring one of the bartenders speaking about the process of creating a new drink. Or maybe you post photos of the kitchen during your busiest night of the week to show customers what goes on behind the scenes. It’s a fun way to engage with customers and truly share the restaurant’s heart and soul with them.
- Engage on social media. Alternately, perhaps instead of a “reality” angle as detailed above, you pursue active engagement with customers on social media.
Perhaps you will post potential new recipes on a blog and ask customers what they think, or ask on Facebook what they’d like to see as an upcoming special. It takes some time to build a following on social media, but stick with it. Check out our tips for promoting your restaurant on social media, and really devote yourself to developing a presence and following. It’s likely that you’ll find that your relationship with customers will become deeper and stronger.
- Give back, discreetly. Giving back is a great way to not only improve your community, but it can help improve your business. The key to setting yourself apart with your giving? Do it discreetly. For some customers, advertising your do-gooding can be a turn-off. However, by doing it discreetly and without advertising it in a flashy way, people will appreciate what you do even more because they will know it is motivated by generosity, not merely by potential business gain. Interestingly enough, the more selfless the giving, the more it will be appreciated by the people who do notice!
- Create community. A powerful way to set your restaurant apart and add value to your business is by creating a sense of community. This can transform your restaurant from mere eating place to a place where people gravitate toward to meet, eat, and socialize. When your establishment becomes a neighborhood meeting place, you’re guaranteed business and repeat customers.
The ways in which you can do this are virtually unlimited. For an informal restaurant, you might host a trivia night or game night in which people can form teams or a league. Another is that you could allow groups (such as book or discussion groups) to meet at your space in a back room during non peak hours. While people are meeting, someone is guaranteed to order something. Even if you don’t make a ton of money, you will expose people to your cuisine and they could turn into regular customers.
- Host pop-up dinners. Every so often, consider allowing a guest chef to host a pop-up prix fixe dinner at your establishment. This could be a chef from another local restaurant, or a chef from a catering company. For one night, they take over the duties and offer a unique menu. It’s a great way to cross-pollinate your clientele and marketing efforts. It’s also a great way to mix up your offerings and give customers a cool experience. Plus, it helps reduce chef burnout for your hardworking kitchen staff!
- Offer truly unique specials. Every restaurant needs a strong everyday menu. But specials are truly what makes a restaurant experience unique. How can you adapt your specials so that they are truly something unusual and that they can’t get anywhere else? Are there ingredients which are local or unique, or recipes that aren’t to be found anywhere else? Or could you offer something different than any other restaurant in the area? Offering truly unique specials is a great way to make your restaurant stand out, and it gives you great content for social media and local marketing.
- Make a commitment to offering the best customer service. Have you ever been to a restaurant where the staff is full of pride in their establishment and truly provides standout service? If so, you know how memorable and unique this experience is and how it makes you enthusiastic to return to dine there again.
In an age of constantly-texting, indifferent employees, one of the best ways to set your restaurant apart is by offering the best and most attentive service you can. This is one of the best ways that you can truly make your restaurant unique, but it requires a lot of work on your part. First, you’ll need to take great care in hiring the best staff that you can, and invest time in training them properly, so that they can truly provide thorough and excellent customer service. Then (and this is important) you have to treat your staff well. A happy staff provides great customer service. This will truly make your establishment stand out.
Conclusion: Making your restaurant stand out isn’t always a matter of flashy or gimmicky marketing. To truly make your restaurant stand out in the long term, it’s important to explore ways to improve the dining experience and create a sense of community for your customers. By focusing on genuine, quality service, offering the best food you possibly can, and knowing your customers, you’ll be able to truly make your restaurant stand apart from others.
What makes your restaurant unique?