It’s something every multi-site operator has experienced – that one black sheep among a repertoire of sites, the one venue that doesn’t perform as well as the others, with no obvious cause or reason. These sites suck energy and time out of organisations. I know area managers who just dread negative figures, sites not hitting budget or poor like-for-like sales – they are so aware that these sites will be the focus of attention until they turn around their performance. It’s such a pain when they know that they could deliver so much more if they spent their precious time driving their more successful units rather than working on problem ones.
We do work with many clients on turning around underperforming sites. If they believe in the operator and they think their offer meets market needs, then the solution is often an increased focus on local marketing. We can handle the marketing of any site on a one off basis without troubling the manager too much. It’s often a godsend for the busy area manager who wants his unit teams to focus on delivering excellent and consistent consumer experiences inside their own four walls rather than trying to develop and implement their own marketing plans outside of those walls.
Local marketing can be incredibly broad and there are lots of ways of making it work – here are just three of the things to do: get the database right, be active in the community and get the influencers on-side. Get the database right Every operator understands the need for data but it’s not as easy as it sounds to build and maintain a database. There needs to be a concerted effort to gather data. Simply having cards that customers can choose to fill out doesn’t get cut through nowadays and won’t get enough uptake. There needs to be an incentive, a reason for people to hand over their data.
Then it’s a case of regular and engaging communication with the database – not bombarding them with irrelevant nonsense. It’s about being in touch regularly enough to always be in mind when they’re deciding where to go and eat. It’s about simple stuff like giving them an email with a voucher just before their birthday. It’s easy once the right information is in place. Be seen in the community Being ‘community-friendly’ means more than just making an annual donation to charity although that’s important.
Restaurants and pubs must be involved in their community – give prizes, donate meal vouchers, attend fetes, support the local blog. They should look at sponsorship opportunities – be it a local cricket club or an under 12s football team. They get their picture in the paper quite often, and of course it’s a great PR story. People won’t decide to come to a venue if they don’t remember it exists in the first place. Get the influencers talking Word-of-mouth is just as important now as it ever has been. 92% of consumers trust a word of mouth recommendation – higher than any other form of recommendation be it on social media or in the Press.
I once ran an exercise with an operator where we brainstormed how many local influencers we could name. We got to well over 300 names including hairdressers, all those who worked on the local paper, taxi drivers, concierges, vicars, headmasters, the WI, rotary clubs, youth clubs – there were loads of them to make contact with. Our research also showed that giving a great experience to one of these people meant they told four other people about their visit. It was a cheap, easy and cost-effective way to drive traffic. Under-performing sites don’t need to be a nightmare for long but they do need a well thought out and implemented marketing plan which is cost-effective, time-efficient, delivers results and doesn’t demand anything of the management apart from operational brilliance. Easy when you know how.
Written by: Ann Elliott, CEO