Most restaurateurs and industry experts we spoke to agreed that marketing, and public and guest relations in particular, are crucial to a restaurant's success. This is more so for destination restaurants, places that people consciously decide to visit, rather than for places that are visited as a consequence of their location, like Udipis and fast food outlets. Kishore D F, director of Waterblue Restaurants & Food Services, who co-owns Lemon Grass Café, Pot Pourri, Seijo & The Soul Dish, and Melting Moments in Mumbai, gives us the insider's view.
What is one major challenge for new entrepreneurs who want to start a restaurant?
As an independent operator, the competition comes from chain operators who are very focused on capturing market share and have the marketing budgets. Five years ago, all one needed was a great location, today, marketing and positioning your restaurant is of paramount importance. Simply having a semi-launch with celebrities in attendance will not help in the long run. Marketing is a multi-faceted concept, and starts from the day a customer walks in to your restaurant for the first time.
How can one overcome this challenge?
A key component of successful restaurant marketing is to keep trying innovative ways of communicating to your customer. Constantly experiment with inexpensive ways of attracting attention and create interest in your restaurant. Focus and capitalise on the human dimension of service. Successful food service is fundamentally and ultimately based on human relationships and personal connection.
What marketing methods will work in today's crowded market?
Employing a management executive who will be responsible for interfacing between the customers and the restaurant, pampering the customer with discounts, loyalty cards, special offers, freebies etc, sending mails updating patrons on the restaurant's new menus, special offers, innovative schemes, events, etc, create a food blog where you and your customers can post interesting anecdotes, comments or feedback on the restaurant, use any available display and advertising space within and outside the restaurant to convey specials, festivals and happenings at the restaurant and yes, do hire a good PR agency to plan and execute the launch as well as regular coverage in various media.