Restaurant Marketing – Does Yours Suck too?

“YOUR Restaurant Marketing Really Sucks!”

(And What You Can Do About It!)

By Tom Larsen

   It simply amazes me how many businesses are still using techniques from the 1980’s and 1990’s in today’s world. I see so much sloppy marketing (or non-marketing, really) that it sickens me, so I had to write about it. This report will be filled with examples from dentist to car dealers to insurance agents to restaurants. All still either playing following the leader in their industry or doing the same things they were doing 20 years ago.

  I’ll start with a few recent experiences I had encountered – very real, current stuff going on out there! Incredibly how each one either drops the ball or fails to see me for future sales!


My bad Auto Dealers Experience (and Their Sales People) Are Awful Marketers!

  Let me start with auto dealers and what recently happened to me – some of the worst marketers out there! I recently leased a car for my wife, through a dealer I did not know and had no prior contact with. I went there because they are the largest dealer of Chevrolet’s in the US and she had settled on a Chevy Cruze to lease for 2 years. This dealer is on TV constantly with ad after ad of the deals they have and then do full page ads in the daily newspaper. To me, it is like fishing where the fish aren’t and hoping you land 1 for the time & energy (and money) you’ve spent.

  We leased the Cruze because it was a good deal, after doing my search online and figuring out what was best for us. It is what happened after the sale that confuses me……….NOTHING! No Thank You note, no “welcome to our family” package, no note from the sales girl – nothing. And what do these sales people do after a sale? Wait around for their “turn” and the next prospect or sit around shooting the bull (with other salespeople) until a “hopeful” referral or family member walks in the door.

  First off, they had me at the sale and could have tried to sell me more (Isn’t the easiest sale to make, is the one to who just bought?). I’m not talking about the extended warranty, seal coating, etc. the F&I person tries to sell you. What about 5 oil changes for $95? Get me back into the dealership 5 more times in the next year. Or how about a discounted interior cleaning for $10 at the 6 month mark? When does my inspection expire – they know that, what about pre-pay your next inspection, or free tire rotation? I’m not in the dealership business but I am sure there is a lot more they could upsell after the initial sale!

   How come the sales woman isn’t on Facebook or other social media, showing a picture of us by the car and saying something like “another satisfied customer of Jessica’s!” And the other thing is it is a 2 year lease, so why wouldn’t you send me monthly or bi-monthly tips on how to drive in winter or how important tire pressure is and keep in front of me for the next 24 months? Instead, you go back to your TV ads, huge newspaper ads, spending money with “if comes” (if they come when I advertise), instead of with your current clients?

  I personally use a system called Allclients to send tips, e-blasts and monthly newsletters to clients, prospects and centers of influence. For tips, I can pre-set 15 or 24 or 30 tips to go out at certain day intervals and be done with it! Each new customer/client would be entered into the system and then automatically receive my emails, every 10 days or 14 days, however I pre-program the system (you can even personalize them – %firstname% – so your emails would more likely be opened).

 If I don’t hear anything from this dealer in next 2 years, do you think I will go back there again?

Referral Rewards Marketing

  So what do you do – golf, coach soccer, run, build bird houses….write about it! Make your newsletter more human by letting people know you are a real person, just like them! I take the done-for-you newsletter and make it my own this way!

  Plus, in my insurance agency, we have a referral reward program, where we thank the referral party in the newsletter, mail them a $10 Target or Paula’s Donut & Coffee gift card and then enter them in our annual 42” flat screen TV giveaway. People love seeing their name in print, love being acknowledged for giving your name out and love getting something for FREE!

  This is how we change up our newsletter and don’t just use it as it is written. We personalize it with the referral reward, my daughter’s article or even my dog writing an article. Make it fun and people will love to take it home with them! So use some sort of stock newsletter but personalize it to make you & your business more “human”.


Restaurant Marketing

Your Restaurant – Another Marketing Nightmare!

  Since this report is about you – your restaurant, let’s be honest – your marketing sucks. Restaurant owners are the typical “follow-the-leader” group, who go in the dining books (buy 1, get 1 free) or use a site like Groupon. Why are you giving a total stranger 50% off their food bill, when you don’t give your returning customers anything? I get it – “try our restaurant and you’ll be back”. But I say not so fast.

  What is the best way a new restaurant grows? Word of mouth-right? There is no better advertising you can do, than to get other’s to spread the word for you. So why isn’t Mr. or Mrs. Restaurant Owner sending out (via the email you now collected!) free glass of wine coupons or come on Tuesday for a free appetizer or this Thursday you get a free dessert. Know why they cannot control “word of mouth”? Because none of them are collecting email addresses!

  My wife and I go out to eat a lot (dear daughter previously mentioned is now in Chicago) and exactly 1 restaurant has us on an email list – ONE. I already mentioned how other businesses can use auto-responders or e-blasts to email to their list, restaurants can’t because they have NO LIST! What about asking your customer’s to forward that email to 5 friends? Isn’t that a form of word of mouth?

  Collecting and using email addresses is the fastest way for any restaurant to grow their business! Having a contest amoungst the servers is the easiest way to get this going too. $100 cash to the server winner over a month period or free gift card to the mall. And yet they keep pushing the 50% off or buy 1 entrée get 1 free garbage!

  The other thing is to give away the recipes you use in the restaurant. If you make a mean French Onion Soup, tell them how to make it. Giving stuff away is sometimes the best way to force word of mouth, as they will definitely tell others (especially women, who like to trade recipes). I can just see restaurant owners saying “why would I do that?” Well do you think they will make it as good as you do or with the same brand of stock that you do? Of course not, so they’ll be back to try yours again and again.

  One restaurant we like always seems busy on a Friday night – big fish fry night. (In big, catholic cities, a Friday fish fry is still popular). I hear the owner turn people away, telling them they are all filled with reservations tonight. Well he doesn’t know if that party of 5 he just turned away is their 1st attempt to try his restaurant. By turning them away, he may never, ever see them again. I said “Why not hand them a coupon to come back (not on a Friday, though). Something like a free drink on your next visit, a free soup, free dessert – anything to want them to return again. Give that party of 5 some reason to want to come back again. He never took me up on my suggestion!

  If they have email addresses and a typical Tuesday is always slow, they could e-blast a special for this Tuesday, $xx off any pizza or free glass of wine with any dinner. The ONE restaurant who’s list I am on, used to do this on a regular bases (new management now) but not so much anymore. They once had bought too much vodka of a certain brand, which wasn’t moving. So they did an e-blast that said – the next 3 Monday’s, all club card holder’s it is $2.00 vodka Mondays. Crowded on the one Monday I went.

Brilliant – then they stopped. (Maybe it worked too well).

Stop giving away 50% of your meals! You know you are losing money by doing this, so why continue? Concentrate on your core current customers and grow from there! It really isn’t that hard to do. Takes some effort and a little time, but the returns will be well worth it for you!                      

Call us today 716.684.3203      


Insurance Agents Don’t Do Much Better Either.

  Name, rank & serial number is how insurance agents advertise. Like – In business since 1949 or no on refused insurance or worse, put their business card in an ad in the local Pennysaver: Dave Smith, Smith Insurance 123 main St Any town, NY 111-1111 – “one call does it all”. Who cares if they have been in business since 1949 – what does that mean to the consumer? Does that save me money on my insurance? Insurance agencies are like the other businesses mentioned here – they follow what others in their profession have done for the last 40 or 50 years. But doing this in 2013 does not work anymore.

  I have previously mentioned some of what we do at Larsen Insurance including a monthly newsletter, Referral Reward Program, Tom’s Tuesday Tip, Realtor Reward Program, e-blast on current topics, blog each week, posts on LinkedIn, Posts on our Facebook page. We also have individual niche websites, like for landlords, for restaurants, one for personal umbrella insurance and one for contractors.

 So we do a lot of things that a typical insurance agency doesn’t. If we advertise it is directly to the restaurant industry or landlords or contractors. We don’t blanket ad like, “Call us to shop your insurance for you – in business since 1968.” Nobody will respond or call on an ad like that. So when an advertising sales person comes in, we typically don’t take an ad out with them. Their mindset is also stuck like its 1998, where they think they know how to advertise my insurance agency. Guess what – they don’t.

  So my industry is no better that a restaurant or a dentist or a car dealer. All of them keep doing what others in their industry have done – which doesn’t work anymore. So when I say how terrible it is in the auto industry, for example, it is really no better in my industry.


Restaurant Marketing

So Who is Ready to Take Action? Call us 716.684.3203

  I used to belong to a marketing group of insurance agents and always finished in the top 10 for marketer-of-the-year. But out of 350+ members, it really wasn’t that hard because MANY OF THEM NEVER DID ANY MARKETING! They came to the conferences, took pages of notes but then asked on the community boards – ‘How do I start a newsletter?” and “What program do you use for your auto-responders?” “Do you send out birthday cards?”

 I knew 1 guy in there who actually wrote his 1st newsletter 4 years after joining! So the people who really take action aren’t that many. So if 12 or 15 of your competitors are getting this same report – not to worry. Most of them won’t do anything at all – it takes some work & some action to get results!

 Action is where the challenge is because I’ve given you enough idea’s to get started. I am sure if you brainstormed with your wife, husband, partner or business associate, you can come up with 7-10 more idea’s for your industry. There is so much room for improvement in your field that you would stand above the crowd. It’s simple but takes WORK.

  I’ve given you lots of industry specific examples because I want you to think outside your own industry. Think of how you can customize this for yourself. There is lots more ideas than I have written here, so take some time AWAY from your business to think about ways to market your restaurant.

   Panera is a good example of a national chain that gets this (and where I am writing this report). They have a swipe card they use, tied to your phone number (if you don’t have your card) where they reward your loyalty – free coffee, free bagel, $1.00 off sandwich. People love this stuff and come back again and again!

   You can try a service like or a similar loyalty reward program. Or do a Google search for other companies like them. I cannot do this in insurance, as it is illegal to rebate clients. I can reward them for referring their neighbor, friend, co-worker but I cannot reward them for buying insurance directly from me. You don’t have that same legality in the restaurant business.

 If you want to hang out some, I’m on Google+ a lot, chatting and sharing ideas. Or you can shoot me an email:

 I also do phone consulting by appointment (716) 684-3203

 Do yourself a favor and take some ACTION for your business.

 Take Care,

  Tom Larsen,

Speaker, Author, Adviser, Insurance Consultant –

  8665 Sheridan Dr. Williamsville, NY 14221

P.S.- We insure lots of restaurants, so we can help you here too. This is one of specialties at Larsen Insurance Agency (Only in New York though – not licensed in other states). Give us a call (716) 684-3203