Holiday Marketing, Marketing Tips, Restaurant Stories, Social Media

Maximizing the Madness: Making Your Business the Go-to Place to Watch the Biggest Tournament of the Year

Each year, people from all over the country tune in to what is arguably among the most prestigious and exciting athletic tournaments in the world. Following Selection Sunday on March 11th, the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off and millions will be watching along with brackets in hand as the best college basketball teams in the nation vie for a national championship. We’re here to offer solutions and make sure that your business is the place to be for your community to experience March Madness.

This tournament is one of the most unique and dynamic sports and cultural fixtures.  Spanning the entire remaining month of March and featuring near constant sports action and coverage, March Madness engages your basketball die-hards and casual fans alike rooting for hometown schools, the underdog, the integrity of their own bracket, and even those just enjoying the game day atmosphere. As a business, the opportunities to capitalize on this special phenomenon are near limitless.

Organize A Bracket

One of the more straightforward ways to make your establishment a gameday destination is to organize a bracket pool amongst your regulars. It has never been easier for people to organize pools of this kind using online services that track tournament results and participant scoring. Offering local and friendly competition to your regulars is a great way to pique the interest of the passionate and casual fan alike.

Brackets can also be used as a fun way to promote menu items or introduce new specials, while getting your customers involved. For example, have your wings go head-to-head; Buffalo vs. Garlic Parmesan. The winner moves on to verse Honey BBQ, and the loser is eliminated from the bracket. Want to take it a step further? Partner with another local business and compete against one of their specialties! They’re promoting your business, while you’re promoting theirs. It’s a win-win!

Stick With What You Already Do Well

As accessible as the personalized bracket services are, you’re running a business, you’re busy enough. The real secret to success here is capitalizing on what you already do well and making the most of it during this time of year.

Especially at the start of the tournament, these games are all day every day, which means that snack foods are the way to go. Fries, wings, and finger foods will keep people content without over stuffing them. All the more reason for your patrons to stick with you for the long haul.

Get Them Back in the Door

Speaking of the long haul, did we mention that this tournament lasts for weeks? There are going to be a lot of options for people to watch the game, so it’s crucial that you use social media to advertise all of the promotions you plan to run—and well in advance.

Consider signing up patrons for a March Madness club, where customers who sign up are eligible for deals on apps or drinks for the duration of the tournament. Raffles for hometown college gear, or even a credit to your own business towards a future dining experience are great ways to draw people through your door and most importantly, keep them there. The camaraderie of these games is contagious enough as it is, we just want to make sure that your community experiences this magic at your business.

Make it fun!

Keep it exciting by giving your guests ways to interact with these games in real time.

Was there an upset? Your next drink is half off.

Buzzer beater? Try these fries on the house.

You don’t have to take those deals to heart, every business is going to be different, but when your guests drink 3 beers over the course of a game waiting to see if their fourth is going to be discounted courtesy of a Cinderella team upsetting a college powerhouse, these kinds of deals can pay immediate dividends.

Keep in mind that not all your guests will necessarily be paying attention to the game, but they will be paying attention to your menu. Get a theme going with menu items named after teams or March Madness lingo (i.e. First 4, Sweet Sixteen, Elite 8, Final 4), or get creative and make something that visually fits the theme, like orange Jell-O shots with basketball lines piped on.

Every business is unique, but hopefully these ideas help get the ball rolling as you start to think about how you can maximize March Madness for your establishment. If you need an extra “assist” that’s where our marketing experts come in. We’re here to help you get off the bench and into the game and make sure the tournament experience of your business is a slam dunk.

 

Holiday Marketing, Marketing Tips, Restaurant Stories, Social Media

Table For (more than) 2 Please! Why You May Want To Rethink How You Take On Valentine’s Day…

February 14th.

A day some may look forward to each year, and a holiday others would prefer simply didn’t exist.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the many hues of pink, dozens of rose ads, and being surrounded by more heart-shaped chocolate than you can handle – Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and if you’re a restaurant owner, this may be one of the biggest days of the year for you.

Just like any other holiday, this Hallmark-heavy, love-filled 24 hours is one that is synonymous with a romantic meal to cap off the day’s expression of emotion. But what once was a formal occasion to be enjoyed by loving couples only, has taken a sharp turn and morphed into a time to acknowledge friendships, family, an opportunity to dine together as a group, and even a celebration in being single. #GalentinesDay or #SinglesDay anyone?

While we can certainly expect the majority of your tables or take out orders to lean towards 2 people, perhaps rethinking how you market your menu, encourage reservations for groups, and promote Valentine’s Day festivities a bit less traditionally, can be beneficial to the success of your night.

Follow Social Trends and Stick to Holiday Themes.

Simply being conscious of the fact that larger groups may want a nice place to dine out together is just the start. You may offer a price-fixed menu for couples, but perhaps in addition, offering family style portions to parties of 4 or more may be a way to attract larger tables. Offer a discount on a second bottle of wine to a larger table when one may not be enough for the group. Maybe offering ‘Valentine’s Party Packs’ to-go – consisting of combo meals or appetizers and entrees that compliment each other (with clever names) may work, and give the option to select the number of people it will feed.

Some may not want to get fancy, and opt to spend Valentine’s day hanging out at home with friends or a loved one. Personal heart-shaped pizzas to-go would be a great treat for someone dining solo, and of course larger pies to feed multiple people should be featured as well.

Decorating your items with edible flowers (although this can potentially get pricey) is a fun way to add something different to your typical plating techniques.

Think Pink. You can create red and pink cocktails or mocktails with candied rims, or slather sweeter drinks with chocolate for added decadence. Maybe the icing or decor on desserts or even your plate ware can incorporate hearts and themed colors as well.

Giving Something Away Isn’t A Loss…

Leaving a lasting impression on your guests goes a long way. The thoughtful way you say goodbye as they leave and wishing them a Happy Valentine’s Day are hospitality no-brainers… but perhaps offering them a small (inexpensive) festive dessert on the house, or sending them on their way with a few chocolates or a rose for the ladies as they leave, would be that much more effective. Going that extra inch will cause them to remember such a sweet notion the next time they are looking for somewhere to eat, or a place to bring their friends.

How Should I Spread The Word?

Social Media needs to be your first go-to. But what if you lack followers? What if you have no one to manage your social media and can’t stay on top of it?

If you lack followers, staying diligent on providing valuable and shareable content is where you should start, but since we aren’t working with much time before the holiday, let’s explore other options.

Email Marketing is huge. Not only do your messages not get lost in the constant updating of someone’s social feed, but you have more room to work with. You can add more text, multiple images, and make it more personal. If you have collected email addresses, this is the way to go!

Let’s also not forget to spread the word to your guests while they are visiting you. Prep your servers for what’s to come, and have them inform your guests about your plans for Valentine’s Day, reminding them to jump on pre-ordering or firming up reservations before you fill up!

Pay Attention to Menu Items and Staffing

Using seasonally appropriate menu items should make crafting your menu easier, as those ingredients will be fresh, and should be readily available. Make sure however, to select items that are cost effective, as you will be doing larger volumes that evening and you want to be conscious of how costs will add up.

To follow that point, it’s essential that you should make sure to order enough to supply the demand of this holiday. The last thing you want is to run out of something on your limited menu (should you choose to offer only a selection of the full menu or price fixed menu that evening) and leave any of your guests disappointed.

This is why a price fixed menu may be a solution to maximize your revenue and help you plan. Since you will inevitably be catering largely to tables of two, you may want to avoid losing a table to a couple whose entire meal may consist of sharing a $6 appetizer and a $7 glass of wine (and then remain at the table all night staring lovingly into one another’s eyes) and instead lead them towards the experience of a full meal. Make it known at the time the table is reserved however, that there will be a special menu that evening, and share the cost so there are no surprises the night of.

In regards to staffing – take a step back and think about your stronger staff. It’s an important night to provide your best service and impress your guests. You don’t want to try and save money with under-staffing or trying out new positions for your team that night. Stick with what’s been working, and make sure to let your staff know they are on for that night because their skills are valued and you know that they will provide a wonderful experience for the guests that evening.

It also never hurts to offer staff incentives when they are scheduled to work holidays, or on days they normally aren’t scheduled to come in. It doesn’t have to be a large gesture, but perhaps a friendly competition or reaching a set goal, can help motivate and encourage some fun within your staff on an otherwise hectic evening.

Have Fun With It.

Valentine’s Day can be overwhelming as a restaurant owner, but try and have fun with it. Your guests will take notice of the vibe that you and your staff sets for the evening, and it will only enhance their visit. If you have any questions on how you can better market your business for this holiday or another one, email one of our marketing experts at solutions@ordereze.com today!

 

online ordering

It’s Time To Join The Online Ordering World.

Look around. Are most people talking on their phones, or do they have their heads down tapping away at tiny keyboards, texting, searching, or navigating their way through the day?

You know the answer – and you currently may be doing the same.

We jam pack our lives with ‘things’ we need to get done, work that must be accomplished, and social calendars that fill in all the blanks — and a lot of our daily duties can be accomplished without even speaking to another human. We aren’t looking to delve into the topic of how this will impact the future of interpersonal skills in today’s younger generation, but instead to shed light on strategic business trends that must be addressed and discussed.

What’s very important to realize, for any business owner, is you need to be where your customers are looking. You need to make sure your opportunity to sell, is in other places besides your physical storefront. You need to be online; and according to some, the fate of your business may depend on it.

Convenience is key in this fast paced world we live in, and if you lack offering a convenient way for your customers to purchase from you,  you may lose them to a competitor. From 2010 to 2015, just 5 short years, the number of individuals placing online orders grew from 403 million to 904 million – more than doubling – resulting in a 124% growth, with 47% of Americans ordering food online. (credit: quartz media)

In addition to convenience for the customer, offering the option to order online can greatly increase your revenue. On average, an online order tends to carry a 23% larger check size than in-store checks. That’s huge!

Remember that “online ordering” doesn’t have to mean “delivery”. Although adding the option to deliver will prove its obvious benefits, if you’re not equipped to add additional delivery staff or manage this service, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start with a pick-up option, and then once you can handle the volume and the kitchen has a good rhythm, offer your customers the option for delivery.

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Trends have shown an increase in the amount of companies offering online ordering services, as a result of its growing demand. Choosing the right company to work with can be a tricky one. Depending on your business model,  where you are located, and how you market your business, can hold weight on what takes priority when choosing which online ordering service to use.

Our advice is to be careful!

While some may entice you with low to no monthly fees, you may end up giving away more of a percentage on each sale than you can afford. Some require taking a minimum of 50% of each order, those that act as more of an “online ordering directory” tend to be among them. Companies like this will charge a larger percentage of your orders just so you can show up on the top of their list of restaurants to order from within a certain location – this might work if you don’t need the extra cash, but it helps gain exposure in big (and competitive) cities.

Other companies decide not to take a percentage, but charge large amounts on a monthly basis to use their service, usually tying you in to a year-long, or even a two-year long contract – some even asking for a full payment upfront. Some models will however, set a cap on what they will charge you, so you can predict what you will pay each month, leaving less guesswork in your month to month revenue.

Learn more about what Ordereze offers your business when it comes to Online Ordering. Since we work with smaller restaurant groups and individually owned businesses, we tend to fit that model and provide a boost in revenue, while helping market to your existing customers so they return again and again!

 

 

Marketing Tips, Restaurant Stories, Social Media

Why Bad Reviews Are Written About Your Restaurant.

Unfortunately, there are times when bad reviews can be justified; but in some cases, they might just be written by someone having a bad day, and they decided it should be taken out on you.

Thankfully, as the act of leaving reviews has become more popular, people tend to take the outrageous ones with a grain of salt, especially if they are few and far between amongst a sea of positive feedback.

Whether you seem to have a strong hold on your online reputation or not, reviews tend to hold tremendous weight on the success or decline in business at many food service establishments. Below are some of the most common reasons a negative review might be left about your restaurant.

1.) Poor Customer Service.

The customer wants what they want, when they want it; And although some may not meet you with dissatisfied remarks right then at the table, if they feel that their service was lacking in any way, they very well may leave a review about it — and more often than not, never return.

2.) Inconsistency

You are running a well-oiled machine and you have a lot of happy regulars. They are regulars for a reason — you’re doing something (or everything) right! The problem can arise however, if someone has visited your restaurant a few times to experience stellar food and service, and sporadically get met with a night where things are just “off”.

Maybe you are understaffed, the fryer broke, a table of 15 just walked in and are slowing up the kitchen… whatever it may be, your customers won’t care about your problems if they don’t know what’s causing delays with the food or have to wait to be seated. They are there for THEIR meal, THEIR time, and THEIR enjoyment. If the service is not consistent, or the food somehow isn’t how they remember, they may not return.

In addition to this, many often choose that one poor experience to review. Customers tend to be more apt to share the negative before raving about the previous few occasions in which they left your restaurant happy and full.

Sometimes transparency is key. Let your customers know, while they are still in your restaurant, that it’s a bit of a rough night and it doesn’t reflect the norm. You may just earn some hospitality points right there with your honesty!

3.) Food Quality

People dine out for a variety of reasons. Some, simply never cook at home, while others view dining out as something that is done on a special occasion. Either way, the food you serve should be a reflection of you, your standards, and the business you run. If the quality of your food or how it’s presented to your guests is causing it to be sent back or not eaten, you bet someone will not only write a review sharing their experience, but you can be sure that there will be photos attached to the post for all to see.

The point here, is that the food you serve should be as high of a priority as customer service. Guests may even choose to return somewhere with less-than-stellar customer service, just because the food is so amazing.

So consistency, quality, and pride in what comes out of the kitchen is a MUST if you want to remain successful, and avoid negative reviews.

4.) Cleanliness

This really goes without saying. If you don’t run a clean restaurant, chances are your customers won’t be the only ones giving you a poor review — the board of health won’t be far behind.

It is common however, that customers will point out dirty floors, greasy looking kitchens, and even unorganized hostess stations. So for the sake of safety, the health of your customers, aesthetics, and of course preventing a review pointing out that you’re a complete mess… keep things clean!

 

As we mentioned, not all of this is entirely in your control, so unfortunately we must take the bad with the good and respond to the negative reviews when they do happen to roll in. Need help? You can always talk to one of our Customer Success representatives about our options to manage your online reputation for you, or you can check out some tips in our past blog post on how to answer negative reviews.

Marketing Tips

Email Marketing Is Far From Dead — Just Don’t Kill It With These Common Mistakes…

1.) Don’t SPAM your audience.

78% of consumers have unsubscribed from emails because a brand was sending too many emails. (HubSpot, 2016)

How many times do you bypass emails in your inbox because you see the same sender pitching deals and promotions day after day after day? Less is more when it comes to reaching out to your customers. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, perhaps when you would like to promote daily specials to your followers — but this has still been proven to work best when sent on a weekly basis, and then additionally encouraging your audience to follow you on social media for daily updates and engagement.

2.) Keep it simple.

As the number of images in an email increases, the clickthrough rate of the email tends to decrease. (HubSpot, 2014)

Get to the point. Too many words, a multitude of buttons and a collage of pictures will only lessen the impact and muddle the message you are trying to communicate. Plus, most emails are read on mobile devices, so you want to make sure you provide a visually clear and straightforward message, which will cause your readers to click on and read more!

3.) Make it personal.

Brands that personalize promotional marketing emails experience 27% higher unique click rates and 11% higher open rates than those that do not personalize. (Source: Experian, 2016)

Don’t make your emails seem too ‘spammy’. In other words, relate to your customers. You know what they want, so talk to them as if they were already in your restaurant or business, and add that personal touch to your email campaigns. For example, sending them emails on their birthday to perhaps offer a free dessert or drink, will let them know you value them as a customer — and they deserve to be celebrated!

4.) People are listening!

The number of e-mail users in the US is projected to grow to 244.5 million by the end of 2017. That number is forecast to grow to 254.7 million by 2020. (Source: Statista, 2016)

It’s amazing when you hear from some experts that email marketing is dead. There is no argument that social media is a necessary tool to market your business, and email provides an outlet to not only specifically target your selected audience, but as a tool to track, inform, and educate your customers in a way that puts the information directly at their fingertips — to read when they have time.

5.) Know that it takes work, in order to work.

Constant Contact surveyed small business owners and found that 49% do not use email marketing data to assist with their email marketing campaigns because they do not know where to begin. (Source: Constant Contact, 2016)

As mentioned above, with email marketing, you can track your audience’s behavior. You can see who has opened your emails, who has clicked into them, and what they clicked on. From here you can target advertising to those groups, resulting in a MUCH bigger potential for converting that email subscriber into a customer, or prompting them to revisit you. So take your time, create thoughtful and impactful campaigns which will help build brand awareness and a larger customer base – but know this takes time and effort, and to ask for help when needed. Marketing effectively is crucial to your business!

Marketing Tips

Creating Your Own Voice On Social Media

Developing a unique personality in a huge digital world can come across as a daunting task, we know – but once you create your own voice and decide what message you need to communicate to your followers, the ability to stay on a schedule rich with content tends to get easier the more you practice.

Here are some tips to start developing your distinct (and effective) digital voice:

1. Know the answer to the question: “Who are you?”

That should be simple enough to figure out right? After all, it’s your business — and all you have to do to begin your marketing efforts is let your social media followers know exactly who you are, what your business model is, what you have going on, and how you plan to (ultimately) get them through your door… Sure, piece of cake! (gulp)

OK, maybe it’s a little more complicated than it seems.

First things first – establish a personality for your business, and stay true to yourself. This may be the most important aspect of marketing your business.

Are you an upscale dining establishment that offers fine wine and a pricey cuisine? Then perhaps using a humor tactic may not fit the vibe you’re going for. Instead you may want to focus on sharing beautiful photos of your food accompanied with wine pairing suggestions, or run specials to attract visitors that may not typically gravitate towards a business like yours.

Are you a fast-paced deli or pizzeria catering to those on-the-go with little time to spare? Perhaps scheduling out daily tweets or Facebook posts before the busy rush will provide those ‘time-starved’ patrons a quick glimpse of what to order when they come in.

Start by writing a list containing the main components of your business. What type of food or service do you provide? Who are your customers? When are you the busiest? How do you fall on average compared to your competitors in regards to price point?

For Example:

  • Food/Drink Served: Italian, Wine, Brick Oven Pizza, Espresso drinks
  • Customer demographic: Men & Women ages 30-50
  • Busy Hours: 8am- 9am, 11am-2pm, M-F
  • Price point: Moderate

When you first start thinking about customizing your digital voice, follow this procedure and it will help you identify who you are and who your customer is. From here, you will tailor how you deliver the message and when you need to speak to your online audience.

2. What are your goals?

We all set goals – in all facets of life. But especially when it comes to your business, make them realistic. Start small then get more aggressive from there as to not get overwhelmed as you begin — but know definitively what your goals are, and keep working at them. Your overall long term goals may include a plan for your digital marketing efforts to save you money while bringing new customers in your door, ultimately allowing you to have more free time away from your business.

When it comes to setting goals for marketing your business digitally, one thing to always remember is that results seldom happen overnight, for many reasons, so patience is key. But how can you be patient and still set accurate and aggressive goals for yourself?

Start by creating a timeline. Perhaps in the first 3-6 or even 12 months, you work hard at building your social media audience. Begin defining your audience by finding out who is looking for you, acting as a consumer yourself. Begin following businesses like yours, take notes of what your competitors may be doing, and stay true to your business “motto” and the overall feel of how you want your business portrayed. You will slowly and steadily begin to gain followers to share your message with.

Next, decide how you plan to share information with your audience and begin to delegate that responsibility. Is managing your social media or digital marketing efforts too difficult or time consuming? Decide whether you need the help of someone else to post on social media for you, or to send out email campaigns to keep your followers in the loop and wanting more.

Marketing your business takes time, and you want to make sure to provide an accurate and consistent message, and to not overwhelm them. Which brings us to our third tip.

 3. Consistency is Key!

Above all, you never want to confuse your Social Media followers. Revisit the answer to “Who are you?” every time you post on social media or respond to a review – and continue that theme throughout all of your marketing efforts.

Use repeated and thoughtful hashtags to begin showing up in online searches pertaining to your business category. Make a schedule of when you would like to post on your social media sites, send out email campaigns, and stay on top of reviews left about your business and make sure to respond to each one.

Sporadic activity and engagement will not only cause you to get lost in the shuffle, but lose effectiveness of your content and disengage your followers awaiting to hear from you. Keep in mind however, that there is a such thing as TOO much activity. A little mystery, leaving your followers and customers wanting more, will typically result in more excitement when you share some news, a new promotion, or spread the word about an upcoming event.

It will be a bit of trial and error while analyzing what your audience likes, but that is all part of growing your social media following, reaching your goals, and creating that unique and profitable voice to fit with your business in the digital world we live in.

Marketing Tips

How To Handle A Negative Restaurant Review

Online reviews can make or break your business—which is why it is very important to respond appropriately whenever you receive one! With 92% of consumers reporting that they read online reviews, making sure that you know how to handle the situation when things turn sour is extremely important. Here are three tips to help guide you through dealing with a bad review.

1. Leave emotion out of your response

Let’s face it, your business means everything to you. It’s hard to keep cool when something you work so hard for is under attack. When you’re notified that someone has left you a 1-star review, your gut reaction is to retaliate and respond to put the negativity to rest – but be careful! A negative review may be completely out of left field, or at times justified (we can’t be perfect ALL the time) but the most crucial thing to remember, is that it’s important to be the bigger person in these situations. Just because someone else lost their cool does not mean that you should.

Additionally, you have more at stake here than they do. While a reviewer may be “untouchable” or anonymous online, you have to think about the public image of your business. How you handle a bad review can be a reflection to online readers of how you value customer service. So take a deep breath and try to not let this get under your skin.

Once you have your emotions settled, now it’s time to get down to responding to your review.

2. Admit if a mistake was made and defend your reputation

Nobody is perfect, nor does every night run smoothly at your restaurant. Unfortunately, after a stressful shift, someone pointing out that it was a rough night by leaving a bad review can be aggravating. But once you have your emotions in-check, it’s time to seriously consider what they have to say. Is there some truth to their critique?

When responding to negative reviews, we often find that being transparent and admitting fault when there was one, isn’t a bad thing. Customers really appreciate the honesty—and by apologizing and promising a better experience the next time, you reinforce that you do care about your customers and you’re willing to work on things to make amends.

That is not to say that you should ever let your customers dictate how you run your business. If what was left in the review is unsubstantiated or untrue (it happens sometimes), it’s very important to stand up for yourself—while also being polite. Address their concern, reinforce the high quality and standards that you set for your business, and offer advice for the future— such as the option to speak to a manager if one feels that their needs are not being serviced properly at the time of their visit.

3. Do not wait to respond to a negative review

Although we do suggest to let your emotions cool off before responding to a negative review, it is very important that you do not wait too long before responding. Addressing a customer’s concern sooner rather than later is not only appreciated by the person who left the review, but since everything is public on the internet, it is noticed by potential customers looking to try your business. Responding promptly, politely, and reasonably when faced with a negative review, shows that you care about your customers and are willing to do whatever you can to solve the issue and set the record straight.

In our experience it is best to reply to reviews within 48-72 hours of them being published. Timeliness is important not just for addressing concerns, but to better protect your business from the potential backlash that a bad review might generate. It’s about being proactive and showing that you care. This is something that all great businesses do, but with the rise in traffic to review sites, maintaining your online reputation is more important now than ever.

Remember – Responding to online reviews means that you care! 

Responding quickly and appropriately to your online reviews is one of the most important things that you can do to protect your business’ online reputation. While it is time consuming, the effort is never wasted as reviews can continue working for (or against) your business for months and years to come.

If you don’t have time to respond to all your reviews, or it just seems too confusing to manage keeping up with them, no need to worry —  We have a variety of options to work with any budget, and fulfill any of your business’ needs!