September 2005 Edition
Reaching Out

Reaching Out

Are your customers getting your message?


Your customers need to know where you are and what you have to offer. But getting the message out on a budget can be challenging for restaurateurs.

Joel Cohen of recognizes that many independent restaurants don’t have the budget to advertise. For them, marketing means knowing who and where their customers are, and making sure those people know that the restaurant is there, and what it offers. Location can play a big role in meeting those goals.

“You want to be located where people can see you, and get to you easily. You want to be located where customers live and/or work,” Cohen says.

Offering something appropriate for the customers near your location is also vital. For example, a high-end restaurant in a residential area may be priced too high for locals with high mortgage payments. In cities in which the downtown core is deserted after business hours, a 24-hour fast food outlet is not likely to attract many late-night customers.

“You have to have a really intimate knowledge of your trading area in order to then determine, Who am I going to go after as customers?” says Cohen, who works directly with restaurant clients in addition to offering marketing courses through

A restaurant needs to know what it’s doing right, what it may be doing wrong, and what its customers are saying about it.

“The restaurateur has to take off his or her operations hat and realize that he or she has to actively market the restaurant both inside and outside the restaurant,” Cohen says.

Inside the restaurant, marketing can focus on service and the dining experience.

“Courtesy, smiling, sincerity, conversation, shaking a hand, great plate presentation, a server telling a story or factoid about the restaurant—just overall giving the diners a comfortable, stress-free dining experience,” Cohen says.

“Outside the restaurant is where you develop your local restaurant marketing plan, and that really starts off by intimately knowing your trading areas, so you know who to go after as potential guests,” he adds. “It’s knowing where your customers live and or work and then going out and marketing yourself to those groups.”

Intelligent Audio recognizes the importance of getting your message out, and of making advertising and other marketing avenues available to restaurateurs. Intelligent Audio acts as an advertising agency on behalf of the Sysco I-Care program.

“We provide restaurant owners with marketing advice,” says Ray Schilens of Intelligent Audio. The process begins with a free media consultation over the telephone. Intelligent Audio provides advice about what avenues—radio, television, print, direct mail, etc.—might be best for the client.

“Very few of them have the budgets to do any type of advertising,” Schilens says. “They’re all looking to get more people in their seats, but they really don’t know how to do that. So what we do is try to give them the most cost-effective solution to generate new business.”

Any type of a message that an advertiser sends out needs to be integrated, he adds. It needs to have the same look and feel, so people can easily recognize the advertiser.

“The hardest thing for an advertiser to recognize is their singular benefit: the most important thing about their operation,” Schilens says. Intelligent Audio helps the client identify the most salient points about the restaurant, and focus on that.

Each and every restaurant has something that makes it unique,” he says.

Every campaign is unique, too, depending on the restaurant.

“There are no cookie cutter things that we can say, Do this, this and this, and it will work for you,” Schilens says.

“One of the most important things is what type of a budget do you have. I think that’s what we have to look at, because the margins are so slim in the restaurant business, we have to be very conscious of how we spend the client’s money,” he adds. “One of the worst things a restaurant owner or operator can do is not have a sufficient budget to advertise.”

Schilens advises that if a client only has $500 to spend on advertising, he or she should put the money away and save it until a more effective campaign is in the budget.

“Another mistake that advertisers make is they spend a little bit of money for a short period of time,” he adds. “We suggest that if you are going to advertise that you give it at least six months to a year to work. But again, with the margins in the restaurant business, they may not have the capital to fund something like that. So we have to find alternative ways to help them get the message out.”