So you run a spot but business is getting stagnant. You’re not struggling but you’re also not doing the numbers that you know you should be doing. I wish I had a magic bullet but given the nature of the industry, there’s no such thing. That said, there are a few things that you can do to sweeten the pot and get potential customers to pay attention.
Honestly, I hate it and I never use my personal account but in business, it’s critical. Things have changed and the industry has to evolve. Unlike newspaper and radio ads of old, social media gives you a chance to not only advertise your brand but connect with your customers like never before. If you’re new to it, it’s going to take some time to build an audience but it’s worth it in the long run.
Beer, beef, music, whatever. When you do this, you’re not only letting your customers know that you support your community, you’ll also be getting free promotion from the brand letting their customers know where they can get their products. What sounds better, a quarter-pound burger or a quarter-pound burger made from Farmer Johns cattle kingdom served on a bun made this morning at Billy’s bakery up the street?
How’s the service?
I’m going to tell you right now, I don’t care how great the food is or how cheap the drinks are, if the service sucks, I’m not coming back. That said, I’m a regular of my bartender, not the bar and I will gladly follow those in the industry who I admire to wherever they work (in a totally non-creepy way). They know me, they know what I like and they know I’m going to tip well.
If I go somewhere and I get shit service, I’ll give em a pass and go back but if it happens again, I’ll never return. Yes, I know how hard it is to be a server and how much they have to put up with, that’s why I stay in the Kitchen and thus out of jail. Regardless, you have got to make sure that your servers are bringing their A game at all times. One of the best ways the Kitchen can help is to work with the FOH and not be dicks. For the business to be successful, the staff has to work together as a team.
Focus your ads.
Make the most out of your dollars and know who your potential customers are. Facebook lets you tailor the audience to those who are likely to actually visit your spot. If you’re running a small local bar, you want to keep your ads focused on friends of your followers who are over 21 and live within 20 miles. This way, you’re not wasting money trying to get the attention of people who aren’t in your area or demographic.
Have a niche
Dive bars are a dime a dozen yet there are a few gems out there. What makes your place special? What’s the history? What makes you so different and awesome? Don’t try to be everything to everyone, you’ll fail. Figure out who you are and take advantage of that and use your strengths to stand out from the crowd. There are six other bars in town but your spot is the oldest or haunted or has the biggest burger, whatever, you get the idea.
I hate things like Karaoke and trivia but the fact is, they pull people in and more importantly, they pull in people who are new. Double down and have some easy to make specials and you’ll be good. That said, you don’t want these things to become your sole selling point. One or two nights per week to pull in the crowd is often a good balance that won’t bother your regulars who just came to have a few drinks.
Push the food.
Two people come in for a single drink at $10 each. A good server knows how to sell em on an appetizer (another $10) and this turns a $20 ticket into a $50 ticket since of course they’ll have another round while enjoying the food. In order for this to happen, everyone from the owner to the servers needs to believe in and sell the food. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the social media for a place and seen at least 5-10 posts about booze, sports, everything but the food and what little food is posted looks like shit.
Take a few minutes to take some good photos of your food and adjust the lighting. Get descriptive (but don’t write a novel) and entice the customer. Yeah, they can read about it in the menu but when they see cheese melting off the side of that burger, that’s what’s going to make their mouth water.
Talk to your regulars
I’m not saying to do everything that everyone says, I’m saying listen to feedback and find out what they want. Take a look at what’s working and what’s not. You can have the best shrimp cocktail on earth with a recipe passed down from Esscoffier but if your customers ain’t buying it, it’s a loss. At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone but at the same time, you need to focus and what’s going to keep the customers happy and spending money.
Give…. And you will receive.
I call it karma, others call it a tax write-off. Either way, giving back to the community is a great way for you to advertise in a positive light while also supporting the community that supports you. Even small things that don’t require a cash donation on your part will show that you care.
It’s not just one thing.
Any one of these tips by itself isn’t going to make that big of a difference but by taking a multilayer approach, you’ll soon start to see what’s working and what’s not. No, you won’t see a change overnight, it takes time for word to spread and for it to get embedded into peoples minds. Start small, give it a month, and reassess the situation.