Saturday, August 17, 2013

Restaurant Consulting NYC | Attracting Customers | 4Q Consulting, LLC

Attracting Customers

We have often been asked, “What is the best way to attract customers to my restaurant”? That is a difficult question to answer, because there is no single best way. Spending money on advertising, mailing flyers and promoting dining specials can be a good start and may get people in your door – once, especially if you’re the new place in town. However, the real trick is getting customers to come back – that is the key to a successful restaurant.

In our opinion, it is the customer experience at your establishment that drives repeat business, which will attract new business, as you will read below. Even if your publicity and marketing program is nothing more than an easel on the sidewalk in front if your sandwich shop, there are broader concepts that you can apply to bring people to your door again and again.

Here are 4 basic things all restaurants should be doing to attract customers:

Be The Best, Consistently – Seems easy enough: Strive to offer the best food and the best service. However, you should also be the best boss to your staff; hire only the best employees (with the right attitude) and enable them to be awesome through excellent training, to give the best customer service; have the highest possible sanitation standards; buy only the freshest ingredients; get involved and give back to your community.  Be mindful of being consistent in all these things so that customers have the same good experience time and time again. This will pay off, as you will read below.

Manage Your Reputation – These days reputation management needs to take place both on-line and off.  On-line reputation management is a frequent topic of debate, with review sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor providing near-real time feedback from unhappy customers. Complaining about or simply ignoring poor on-line reviews will not make them go away, they are a reality of doing business today; they require timely, professional responses that address problems, quell issues and regain customers. Using customer reviews as a training tool can actually help to improve your operating procedures; see our Blog on how to use: Customer Feedback in your Pre-Service Meetings. However, restaurant owners must also manage their reputation off-line, meaning in person at their restaurant. Additionally, training your managers and front-line staff to resolve customer issues effectively will go a long way in guarding your good reputation. See our blog: Bad Experiences Can Make Loyal Customers.

Social Media – Traditional advertising is static and communicates in one direction. Social media is dynamic and can be to be a powerful sales tool. It allows you to engage customers directly like never before, encouraging a dialogue with you, as well as between customers and their friends, to discuss your restaurant. The key to enhancing your restaurant sales through sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest is to use them actively - daily postings of food photos, promotions, upcoming events, specials, video instruction of how to make your recipes -  all work to drive engagement, which in-turn drives traffic to your restaurant. The most important thing that a good social media program gives you is feedback from your customers, which we noted above can help improve your operations.

Everyone is a Sales Person – Traditional marketing tells us it is easier and cheaper to have repeat customers than to attract new customers. However, that adage doesn't remind us that happy customers are the easiest and cheapest way to get new customers.  You may remember the commercial: “I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on.” If every customer you serve has an excellent experience, from the food, to the service, to the cleanliness, to how a problem is handled, they might sing your praises to others, both on-line and off. You start to create “Raving Fans”, who will tell two friends off-line; on a social media website, that could be 2000 “friends” – they have become your salespeople.

Similarly, as we discussed in our Blog: Employees are Your First Customers, happy employees, who believe in your brand, are proud of where they work, and will give the effort needed to achieve the level of service you require.  Also, away from work, they will speak positively of your restaurant and become brand ambassadors out in the world.

A satisfied customer is the most valuable form of advertising and marketing. You can’t buy it, you can only earn it through good customer experiences, fortified by staying top of their mind. By focusing on what happens during customers’ interactions with your restaurant, in all forms, you will have a much more successful and sustainable business – And people will come to your door.

Don’t know where to begin?  4Q Consulting can develop customized Sales and Marketing plans, and operational guidelines to help you grow your business. Email us today for a free business consultation at

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Restaurant Consulting, LLC | Location, Location, Location... | 4Q Consulting, LLC

Location, Location, Location...

Everyone has heard the expression: “Location, Location, Location”. A restaurant's site selection is as crucial to its success as great food and service. However, many restaurants that open in “great locations”, fail because they don’t adjust their business model to the particularities of that location.  

Choosing a location involves more than picking a place and signing a lease. Your location selection will influence many parts of your business plans and operations. 

It is highly recommended to work with a licensed real estate broker who knows your local market. They will best be able to guide you to appropriate properties, and to negotiate the best possible deal on your behalf; be patient as this process takes time.  If you already have a certain location in mind, you shouldn't become too attached until you know it meets your needs.

Before you create a business plan, write a menu, or dash off to the bank to apply for a loan, here are 4 essential elements of a location to consider:

Population Base/ Demographics – There need to be enough people who live or work in, or pass through, the area on a regular basis to keep your restaurant busy.  The population base and the different types of traffic will dictate some of your operating procedures.  For example, if you are in a thriving downtown commercial area, you might only open for breakfast and lunch but close for dinner, as there is not enough foot traffic to stay open. Your location, and its demographics, may influence your menu design, as well.

To analyze the population base of a particular area fully, you can commission a site study. A reputable local real estate broker or the local chamber of commerce can also provide some of this basic information. 

Financial Realities – Rent is usually your largest fixed expense, and you will probably have significant capital investment to prepare the space to be operational, therefore your business plan must account for covering and recuperating these expenses.  In building your business plan, you will have to budget several scenarios to determine how many guests you will have to serve, at a specific check average to be profitable at a given rent; you will also need to determine if the plan is sustainable over time, to meet your financial obligations.

Accessibility – There is a reason that major restaurant chains are often located near main intersections or highway and freeway exits. Most successful restaurants, whether in urban or suburban areas, are easy to find.  Your restaurant should be street-facing and not tucked away in a building or set back. 

How your customers get to you is also a consideration. A parking lot, easy public or street parking, and nearby public transit all improve accessibility; alternately you might offer valet service. The bottom line is that your customers need to be able to find you, and should be able to get to you - make it easy for them!

Operational Needs – A space that does not immediately accommodate your operational needs is not a bad space, it may in fact be a very good space; it just changes your financial calculations. A few examples of items that can affect the capital investment or the targeted cash flow of your business:  Many office buildings do not allow cooking in the attached retail spaces, as they do not want smells permeating the building; if they do allow it, you may have to build out proper ventilation.   Ensure the space is ADA compliant, and meets local public safety codes; if it is not, you will have to alter the space to adhere to regulations. The zoning of a location is vital; some municipalities may limit sidewalk or outside seating, or may not issue liquor licenses if you are located near a school or house of worship. 

Do your due diligence. By understanding each of these elements, and how they may affect your business plan, you can better choose the right location for your new restaurant.

4Q can provide restaurant site selection consulting services and works with New York’s best commercial real estate brokers to find a location that meets your every need. 

Don’t know where to begin?  Ask yourself, do you have the proper business plan in place to help you be as profitable as possible?  4Q Consulting can develop customized business plans, and operational guidelines to meet your needs.  Email us today for a free business consultation at

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013. 

Noelle E. Ifshin, President, 4Q Consulting, LLC        
244 5th Avenue, Suite 1430, NY, NY 10001