It used to be there were essentially three things a restaurant could do to attract, satisfy, and keep customers; three things they had virtually total control over, not counting advertising and marketing, which has almost always been about pricing (coupons, two-for-ones, etc.):
The quality of food
The quality and attentiveness of service
Atmosphere or ambience
These three things can be broken down into lots of sub-areas, e.g. type of food, number of choices, speed of preparation, cleanliness (or decor) of the bathrooms, etc., but just about everything restaurant owners and their staff have control over comes down to these three choices. Much like the mantra heard in large, project focussed organizations says, “Quality – Price – Speed. You May Choose Two“, people might overlook one of these if the other two met or exceeded their expectations, but provide them with only one and it better be extraordinary if you want to survive for very long.
If your patrons are dissatisfied with any of these, they might decide sacrificing one for the other two is worthwhile. They might even think it’s a good bargain. On the other hand, they might not be happy about it and not only refuse to return, but also tell their friends if the subject happens to come up. If they had a particularly bad experience – say, a surly or inattentive waiter or a dish that wasn’t prepared properly – they could tell you and, if you cared at all, you could comp their meal or offer them a refund, etc. Unfortunately for many, a lot of people will not say a word; they just won’t come back.
Well, things have changed; dramatically, in my opinion. Thanks to the ever-growing popularity of location-based applications for smart phones, as well as the addition to those applications of review-writing and gaming aspects, this is no longer the case. People who are dissatisfied – I mean truly dissatisfied for good reason – have a bully pulpit from which to share their grief, and it’s no longer confined to just their friends and acquaintances.
The two services I am most familiar with inhabit two similar, yet distinct niches in this expanding field. They are Foursquare and Yelp. If you own a restaurant, or a retail shop, or even a service-based business and you don’t participate in these two applications, you are really missing out on a great bargain and, perhaps, even hurting your ability to compete. Here’s what you need to do.
- Go to both of these services and claim your venue. Upon doing so, you will have access to tools designed specifically to help you take advantage of their offering
- Complete as much information as they provide space for, e.g. business name, address, phone number, hours of service, general pricing, photos (especially good for pictures of food creations and other products), etc.
- On Yelp, create an offer (much like a coupon, but free!)
- On Foursqaure, create a special and, once you understand how it works and you have lots of foot traffic, a Mayor’s special as well
- Encourage your patrons to share their experiences or to provide tips (in Yelp and Foursquare, respectively)
Doing these reasonably simple things will give you access to the basic tools you need to start taking advantage of these powerful location-based services. Remember, if your marketing and advertising are only reaching people who read papers and their junk mail, or who only use the Internet, you’re addressing a shrinking part of the population. Young people are all carrying smart phones, and they’re talking to each other or, in the case of those who use Foursquare and Yelp, they’re actually playing games with one another as they use them. Why not have them spend their time at your place?
I will be writing more about some of the specific ways in which you can take advantage of these two services and truly engage with your customers/clients/patients, as well as explaining the value of other, similar services like Urban Spoon, Groupon, and local listing services you can take advantage of.
There is such as thing as bad publicity. Maybe not for someone who can thrive on notoriety, but most small business owners would soon be looking for a job if they were unfortunate enough to receive it. However, you can’t have enough good publicity, even if it’s only getting your name out in as many places as possible. Caveat here: You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, as each of these services may be free, but they require some time and energy to use properly.