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Selling food, photos or furniture—meeting expectations equals customer retention.

swedish meatballsMany would-be restaurant entrepreneurs wrongfully fear failure due to lack of experience in the food service business, and bankers’ err when citing false statistics such as the fabled, “90% of restaurants fail in the first year due to inexperience”. Really? Not so according to surveys published by Cornell University, the University of Tennessee and UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management. According to their surveys, the failure rate for an independent restaurant is no different from any other in wholesale, agriculture, education, health, finance, insurance, real estate, and retail. And as far as I can see after 23 years in retail and as many in independent food service, food, furniture, or phones, retail is retail.

Meet expectations
Don’t disappoint your customer. If you advertise Swedish meatballs, they expect them to be “round” and with a flavor to which they have become accustomed. Your Latin interpretation in the shape of a jalapeno will definitely disappoint, no matter how good they taste or how cheap they are.

Stay ahead of competition
So, the restaurant around the corner has not only stolen your recipes, but your marketing plan along with customers as well. If you want to stand out, you must differentiate yourself. If you are successful, someone will copy. Think ahead to the next plan before that happens. Yes, I agree that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but flattery doesn’t pay the bills.

Anticipate macro problems
Weather, football games, road closings, and rising gasoline prices change consumers’ habits. But, forewarned is forearmed and since most of these events are predicted, scheduled or reported, anticipate and be proactive. Advertising a lamb stew special for a weekend with a weather forecast of 100 degree temperatures is just plain dumb. But, a free dessert to the driver of a car pool during a gas shortage might give you the advantage over competitors. That is, until they steal that idea, too!

The framing effect
The framing effect is a marketing tool which has become popular with online retailers, a sneaky way to get us to pick “their choice”. Well, it works equally well on a restaurant menu by placing visually, the choices you want your customers to make. Have a most popular and most profitable item or overproduced food product? That’s the one you place far right, center of the menu page, “framed”, forcing customers to look there first and last!

Buon Appetito e Buona Salute, Chef Angela Bell
Beyond the Bulll (an “eat smart” kitchen)
233 W. Main St., Central, SC 29630
http://antiaginggastronomy.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ChefAngelaB

Last modified: February 12, 2013
Angela Bell


This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

Category: Insider's perspective, MPR Authored, Restaurants, Small Business, Small Business Corner, small business owners, tips

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