Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Were You Thinking?

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Last week, I was at an upscale restaurant having dinner. The restaurant had just opened for dinner service and a guy comes in and asks for the manager. He introduces himself as a “Marketer” and was at the restaurant to introduce his client’s product and started his pitch. This guy struck out on 3 pitches. As someone in the restaurant biz, you don’t come in during dinner service to “pitch” a product, Strike 1. Based on his presentation, it appeared that he had no idea what the restaurant concept was, who the clients were, or anything about the restaurant business, Strike 2. The funny thing was that he didn’t know much about the product either, the only information he has was a product sample, Strike 3. At this point, he tried to throw around buzz words, like he was in the industry. But when you don’t believe in what you’re saying, it sounds even worse. Hit the Showers, You’re Done!

Just because you’re a promoter in the entertainment or fashion industry (as an example), doesn’t mean that you can transfer to food without a hitch. This guy was so far off, I was surprised that he didn’t fall off his chair. You have to learn the food and the concept first. A French chef would have no idea what to do in a Chinese kitchen set-up with only woks.

I'm sitting at a nearby table and couldn't believe what I was hearing from this guy. One would think that he would've done his homework before seeing a possible client. I embarrassed for this guy, but also angry that he was giving marketers, like me, a bad name. Don't think that his product would EVER get into that restaurant. Word to the wise, Never approach a restaurant owner or chef when they’re in the middle of service to pitch something. If I was the client, I would be really upset that a company I hired would promote my product in this manner. I should have gotten the name of the product and have gone after that business...

Isn’t this just common sense? I appreciate your comments. Thank you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Era in Consumer Marketing

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When was the last time you flipped through the Yellowpages looking for a service or scanned the newspaper for a coupon? These days a lot of us rely on word of mouth marketing or recommendations. Are paper coupons a way of the past?

With advertising budgets being slashed, how many of retailers can advertise in weekly mailers, coupon packets, and print media? How many consumers these days go through these types of media to find deals?

I discussed this with a client this morning, he was asking what the impact of social media was on businesses like his? "It's HUGE!", I replied. Small businesses need to figure out a strategy that works for them and then to take the time to set it up. Many people think it's too time consuming to set-up something. I'll admit that the set-up will take awhile to get it the way you want it, but once set-up, it takes only a few minutes - just like checking email. Listen to the comments, wants and needs of the consumers.

I've seen a couple of foodservice retailers doing amazing promotions. Some of them are pretty wacky, but they work and drive traffic. They either don't know better or just wacky enough to be remembered. In a world of 3D promotions, you need to be that 4th dimension that stands out in the crowd or is remembered by the consumer.

The tide is changing, don't get caught facing the wrong direction when the next wave comes...

Please let me know your comments. Thank you!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Doesn't Service Matter?

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I work in the restaurant industry and have been to some horrible kitchens and dining rooms. Not that they're really dirty or need new equipment, although I've seen some pretty bad places, but that they need to be taken care of. Same with the customers who come in to eat, they need to be taken care of too.

Service starts with a smile, a couple of recommendations from the menu or daily specials, and takes a drink order. Did the server suggest to save room for dessert? Was the water glasses refilled? In California, we have to watch our water usage, so servers should really ask first. If a first timer, explain what the restaurant's speciality is or a "Must Try" item. How many times have you been to a place and then afterwards someone asks you if you had the ____. You reply, "Oh, I didn't know that was their speciality."

A year ago, I was in a small restaurant for lunch. It was my first time and I asked the server what she recommended? She answered with 3 entrees, they all sounded good and I couldn't decide. She asked the kitchen if they could do a small sampler plate with all three and the kitchen said they would. This server suggested a wonderful homemade soup and kept telling me to save room for dessert (about 3 times). I ended up having soup, an entree sampler, and dessert. She kept my drink refilled and I left that establishment very happy. All of her recommendations were excellent, just think I was probably going to order a club sandwich. She was a pro at customer service and because of it, I listened to her. Here's the kicker, I ended up spending 2x what I would if I just had the club sandwich, but I wasn't thinking about what it cost for lunch, I left happy. I'm sure this server was happy too, as her tip was doubled.

When I'm training servers, I tell this story. Most people don't get it, they try to up sell everyone. Making suggestions is great, but it's the customer service and the details that's important. I'm always asked for my opinion on restaurants that I've visited as a customer. Food is 40%, Service is 40%, and Atmosphere is 20%. My friends are always wondering why I talk about "Service" being an important part when they just want to hear about the food. I believe it's the Total Dining Experience that's important. Regardless if it's a fast food place, fine dining, or a taco truck, the review should be the complete package. If servers want to make more tips, they should focus on customer service and evaluate the level of service they provide. I was pretty successful at serving, but I had a very good teacher...

Please share your comments with me, I appreciate it.