Learn from Your Competitors in the Restaurant Biz
Many restaurant owners are struggling to make their business stand out from the crowd. Well, the best thing to do may be to look right back at this crowd! By observing the practices of your competitors, you can isolate the key strategies to take the marketing of your restaurant to the next level.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the top five completely vital things you will learn by seeing what your competitors are doing better than you. The first step to using these tools is to recognize who your top competitors are. By figuring out which businesses are directly drawing customers away from your restaurant, you can begin to figure out two key things.
- Do they offer something you do not?
- Do they advertise this “something” in a way you do not?
To fully answer these questions, you need to look beyond their storefront establishments to gain a full understanding of where they sit in your town’s culinary landscape. Once you size up your challengers, you can begin your plan of attack to share your message as broadly and clearly as they do to draw in more business for yourself.
How to gain the competitive advantage
- Know your competitors inside and out. This means following their traditional and social media campaigns, browsing their menus, and exploring their website. Sign up for their email blasts so you can monitor what events and changes they have going on. Meet their customers and ask them about their experience with your competitors. This may help you figure out how to make these same people YOUR customers instead. Finally, visit their restaurant as a “mystery shopper” guest to see firsthand what distinguishes their business from yours.
- Know your customers inside and out. You and your direct competitors share a common customer base. Successful competitors will target their marketing outreach to this base and provide them with a tailored dining experience. By knowing key information about your shared customers, such as demographics, income, age, and trend preferences, you can work backwards to identify how your competitors are drawing these same people through the door. Certainly, there is no point in advertising your bespoke kombucha cocktail menu to retiring baby boomers, when there is a young tech hub down the street.
- Celebrate your differences. By discerning what your competition is doing differently in their day-to-day operations, you can begin to identify the little things that may be sending customers to their establishment over yours. Does your competition service a price range that you do not? Are they open for more popular hours than you are? How’s their customer service? What’s their reputation? How likeable is their brand? These and many more questions can help you pinpoint what makes the experience they offer markedly different than your own. The next step is to embrace these differences. If your competitor still has people piling through the door at 10pm on a Tuesday night, consider expanding your hours. Conversely, if your happy hour includes more beers on tap than neighboring venues, get the word out!
- Define your mission statement. We all know that the differences are more than surface deep. Good lighting and comfy seats only have so much appeal. Beyond the functional details, recognize the identity or “soul” your competitors are offering patrons. Use this to help craft and advertise your own identity. Is your restaurant on a mission to bring local ingredients to life with flavors inspired by your Moroccan ancestors? Well, tell that story! Focus on incorporating this story into the message you advertise so that potential customers know what makes your restaurant unique and worth a visit. This will help you break out from your competition.
- Numbers are your friend. The biggest mistake you could possibly make with your marketing strategy is to miss the opportunity to measure impact. Before embarking on a new tactic, record your baseline numbers (such as revenue, feet through the door, repeat customers, percentage of tables reserved, etc.). Next, implement your plan using the above framework to guide your outreach. Then, once you’ve had a few months with your newly defined marketing strategy out in the wild, you can compare the updated figures to identify what works and what doesn’t. The most successful businesses in the world are driven by data, not anecdotal feedback. Words walk, numbers talk.
Your competition can teach you a lot about the market you are in and what will work for it. Look to them for guidance and contrast with them to help define your own brand and services. At the end of the day, though, your competitors are just the starting block for launching your own way of sharing your message to your targeted customers. By following these guidelines above, you will be able to develop your own marketing strategy that suits you and your restaurant.