There is one method of building sales that is cheaper than any advertising campaign and allows an independent restaurant or small franchise to stay competitive with larger restaurant companies.

Local store marketing is a specific plan that targets specially selected groups of consumers who live or work within three to five miles of your restaurant. The purpose of local store marketing is to drive traffic through special offers and community programs. The beauty of local store marketing is that it is within every operation’s price range.

Every restaurant can benefit from integrating local store marketing into its promotional efforts, but local store marketing is frequently dismissed by restaurateurs because of the amount of time involved.

Instead of implementing tactics within the community, many operators direct large amounts of money into mass media advertising instead. Yet local store marketing only requires a fraction of the money that outdated methods, such as mass media advertising, call for and generally brings in a more reliable return on investment. The small sums of money allotted to local strategies are complementary to the entire marketing plan.

What can local store marketing do for you?

First and foremost, local store marketing builds sales. But unlike the temporary sales spikes that advertising may yield, local store marketing helps create a loyal customer base that drives long-term sales.

Executing your local store marketing plan.

The basis for local store marketing is simple: build new trial (first-time guests) and increase guest frequency, check averages and party size. The question is; how can you accomplish this?

Local store marketing should build brand awareness within the community, resulting in new guests. First impressions are difficult to change, so the way potential guests perceive your concept will determine if they will visit in the future. Although new guests are an important part of your business, you shouldn’t allocate the majority of your marketing budget to winning them over.

Work on retaining regular guests and increasing frequency by building relationships with your existing patrons. Offer loyalty and rewards programs to promote return visits. If a guest visits your restaurant once a month, get them to visit twice. Congratulations, you’ve just doubled your sales.

Increasing check averages is a simple, but an often overlooked, method of building sales. Imagine what would happen to your sales if every server was able to sell one more appetizer or dessert to each table. Suggestive selling and up-selling are only effective if your employees are informed and enthusiastic about the menu. Focus on building training and incentive programs that get your employees excited about the brand.

Increasing party size involves convincing your regulars to spread the good word about your restaurant. Refer-a-friend programs, kids-eat-free nights and large-party incentives can also boost business and increase brand awareness.

Local store marketing starts with your internal guests

Treat employees as your internal guests. They are your company’s best asset.  An employee who loves their job will speak volumes about your restaurant. Create an environment where employees feel valued and appreciated. When the staff is happy and well-trained, servers sell more, food comes out quicker and guests leave satisfied. All the advertising in the world can’t beat that.

Community partnerships

Examine your target demographic and partner with organizations that interact with those consumers. Are you trying to attract families? Sponsor a local sports team or school. Want business professionals to visit your restaurant? Get involved with the local Chamber of Commerce. Partnering with an area non-profit organization can garner invaluable media coverage and sends a message to the community that you’re a good corporate neighbor.

Can local store marketing be combined with public relations?

Combining local store marketing efforts with public relations is a cost-effective way of getting your message out to the community.  The media exposure that good public relations efforts can generate is far more credible and less expensive than advertising.  A public relations firm can keep the media abreast of what’s happening at your restaurant and formulate story angles that will keep your restaurant in the news. The more often you publicize your local store marketing efforts, the more likely it is that you will attract the guests you’re targeting.

Commitment is key.

Your operations team, from regional managers to franchisees, must be committed to executing your local store marketing program. A successful marketing program is strategically implemented so it doesn’t burden the operators. By introducing local store marketing tactics one at a time, you can gauge each one’s effectiveness before moving on to the next. Local store marketing is a long-term solution and should be treated as such. While it’s not a quick fix, the pay-off is well worth it.

The Aaron Allen & Associate’s team of expert consultants can pinpoint your restaurant’s needs and develop effective training, marketing and public relations programs that can bolster sales and strengthen your image in the community.