2018 – New Year, New Strategy?

Observing the U.K. restaurant scene over the last 12 months has been extremely interesting.

Whilst increases in rent, rates, national living wage and costs linked to inflation have been giving operators a headache, a continued string of new openings has heightened competition, resulting in dilution of consumer spending and a skilled labour shortage across the board …I haven’t even mentioned Brexit yet. On a positive note, national spending on pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels was up, with reports showing people are spending more on experience and social-led activities than on retail and luxury items.

2018 is set to be a challenging year for the hospitality industry and with that in mind I’m interested to see how operators are going to cut through the competition and grab consumer attention for their brand. There were, without question, some brilliant marketing campaigns in the sector last year, however, the majority of bars and restaurants opted for the lazy route of heavily-discounted food and drink advertised though local publications – a dated method which is no longer effective.

So, New Year, New Strategy? …I think so! Here are five areas operators should focus on in 2018.

 

  1. Discounts Are Boring

Promotions damage your brand and your bottom line; you’d be far better adding value to the customer experience than devaluing it. Besides, anyone can offer a discount, so all that happens is you end up on the same shelf as your competitors or in a bidding war of who has the fiercest discount – which is silly.

Operators need to remember, or update, their brand USP’s and give consumers a reason to visit the restaurant, ideally something the competition can’t or would struggle to offer to the same standard. This provides the brand with stronger marketing campaigns and incentivises consumer loyalty.

  1. What’s Your Reason?

Experiences are popular, they create a reason for people to get out of the house, visit restaurants and socialise. There’s also a hysteria surrounding the fear of missing out when it comes to experiences and events.

Although there’s nothing wrong with networking, tastings and parties, they’ve all been done to death – I’d suggest thinking outside the box to design something unique, something authentic, something people can’t get elsewhere.

Collaborating with suppliers will increase your potential target audience as well as making things more cost effective, whilst the event itself will be a great opportunity to capture data and update creative for future campaigns.

  1. Tell your story like it’s 2018

Whether it’s digital or non-digital you’ve got to work out the best way to communicate with potential consumers for the next 12 months – please don’t simply carry on doing what you did last year. Once you’ve decided on a distribution method/s it’s vital your creative is designed specific to each platform in order for it to be effective – for example, you wouldn’t send a b2c billboard poster through the mail.

Digital platforms are perfect tools to reach huge targeted audiences, control costs and measure the success of your campaigns; be sure to get people involved who can use the technology and paid media correctly and have an understanding of how to drive your brand online. Whilst digital media continues to make advertising with local publications less attractive, if you are continuing to use third parties to push your marketing campaigns, set ROI targets against contract timelines to ensure you’re achieving the required levels of exposure and engagement from their readership.

  1. Sell. Sell. Sell.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to recruit a Sales Exec, or if you have a Business Development Manager (BDM) already, it’s time to incorporate hard sales with monetary targets in to their job description. A BDM’s responsibilities are often blurred with taking inbound reservations, hosting, supervising events and social media. To drive business, operators need to convert this role in to a sales-led position with bonus structures for lead generation and conversion, whilst creating and maintaining relationships with the local community and corporate infrastructure.

Responsible for selling seats, tables and events though networking, relationships and online platforms the Sales Exec should be forecasting and reporting sales during company meetings, working alongside Marketing to build a database and communicating with Management Ops to maximise revenue against reservations.

  1. Get Help

Getting help used to be frowned upon – it’s great the see this is no longer the case and that businesses are becoming more successful through support from speciality firms.

Restaurants, bars & hotels are complex businesses to run; operators have their hands full most of the time and this is usually the reason strategic planning, sales development and marketing get left behind and the dreaded ‘percentage discount’ comes in to play. At the end of the day that’s cool – you’re an operator, you’re supposed to be busy and you’re certainly not expected to keep up with the ins and outs of Sales & Marketing, particularly when technology has everything on fast forward.

Enlisting support from specialist restaurant agencies provides operators the opportunity to proactively grow their business whilst perfecting their product offering, service style and spending more time with their team and customers on the restaurant floor.

 

These five areas will provide operators with the foundations of a long-term strategy to improve business and increase distance from the competition. Most will be worried about moving away from short-term money in the form of discounts, or reluctant to spend on internal sales and outsourced support – but I’d rather be investing in driving a brand forwards than discounting products to get people through the door.

 

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