Q&A

PHILADELPHIA RESTAURANT MANAGEMENT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Welcome to the place where tough Philadelphia food, beverage and entertainment management questions are asked and answered! When owners and managers of hospitality enterprises in the Philly area need help or advice or just someone to talk to who knows from experience what they are going through they come here to the Philadelphia Restaurant Consultant convenient learning hub. Feel free to engage with our hospitality industry experts, they seriously enjoy helping food industry professionals solve their management problems. Ask away Philadelphia. We are here to help. Contact us: anewtale191@live.com

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MANAGEMENT QUESTION – What is a Philadelphia Restaurant Marketing Consultant?

MANAGEMENT ANSWER – A Philadelphia Restaurant Marketing Consultant brings local hospitality industry hands-on experience and expertise to the table that a non-local marketing consultant no matter how successful, experienced and world renown cannot even begin to grasp. A keen knowledge of the people of Philadelphia, her culture, history and specific idiosyncrasies must be incorporated into any marketing plan executed here in order to be a success! Having a keen grasp of what is hip, trending and just plan relevant to Philadelphians can increase the return of investment of all you marketing efforts by leaps and bounds.

Philadelphians have different views about dining out and particular tastes. We look for certain requirements in the food and beverage establishments we are loyal to. Tap into the emotions of the Philadelphian diner and you will gain viral word of mouth praise and promotion like no other city offers. But do not push our buttons because Philly does pushes back!

There are so many diverse communities in the great City of Brotherly Love. Each has her own personality. Your advertising has to compliment the pulse and heart of the neighborhood you are doing business in. To find out how to make your food, beverage or entertainment establishment your neighborhood’s prime gathering spot and all other competitors for blocks and blocks around obsolete contact Philadelphia Restaurant Consultant: Anewtale191@live.com

GREAT PHILADELPHIA RESTAURANTS EXCEL WITH COMPETITION

By Stu Leventhal

It has always been our contention, here at Philadelphia Restaurant Consultant, that competition is invaluable, even essential for a restaurant’s growth, further development and the achievement of excellence. Competition keeps the best of us on our toes and the challenge should be welcomed as an opportunity or excuse (not that an excuse should be needed) to expand and/or to hone one’s skills. The whole Philadelphia food and beverage industry feeds off of each other’s successes and we all learn from our failures. Everyone prospers as the Philly restaurant, bar and entertainment arena gains in notoriety and prestige. So, when Philadelphia restaurateur Robby Z sent in his questions and concerns about a big chain restaurant’s announcement that they planned to open up shop just one walking block away from the small but quaint restaurant business Robby and his wife spent the past two and a half years building up, we, the Philadelphia Restaurant Consultant jumped at the chance to lend expertise and advice as well as build moral.

*What follows is a reprint of our correspondence.

PHILADELPHIA RESTAURANT MANAGEMENT QUESTION:

Dear Philadelphia Restaurant Consultant,

Just wanted to say I love your Philly Restaurant Management Column. The food industry advice is spot on, always thought evoking, valuable and relevant to increasing my North Philadelphia restaurant’s bottom line.

Since you’re always asking for questions I thought I’d tell you about the recent pickle that my restaurant has found itself facing.

Two and a half years ago I hired on as the manager/chef of a small 20 table restaurant and we’ve since built up a nice local business adding eight umbrella tables to our outside sidewalk area which are packed when weather permits. Yesterday we were informed thru the TV media and newspaper that a national chain (who will remain nameless) in our same food niche is breaking ground to build a new restaurant next month, just one block away! My owners are obviously worried and wondering if they should start looking for a new location or prepare for the coming price war? They are especially concerned that our business will drop off to nil during the grand opening promotional blitz since this company is known for continuing their aggressive and excessive marketing launch campaign for at least three months or more. We have three more years on the lease but it can be broken with a stiff penalty. How can a small Mom and Pop family restaurant ever hope to compete with the large chains and all their funds, resources and marketing campaigns?

Worried about my future,

Chef Robby Z.

PHILADELPHIA RESTAURANT CONSULTANT ANSWER:

Hi Robby,

There’s no reason for a well running restaurant to go into a panic when new competition moves into the neighborhood. First of all, you can never control when that is going to happen so worrying about something that is totally out of your control is pointless. The facts are you should prepare for a substantial increase in business at your restaurant especially when the big promotional launch hits and throughout those first three grand opening months. Contrary to your fears of being effected negatively, there will be, what we in the industry call, spill off business from all your competitor’s marketing efforts. This means, more business will initially be coming your way, not less so gear up and spruce up the restaurant so you can take advantage of the extra business.

The new restaurant will no doubt be pushing specials, coupons and all kinds of introductory offers based on price breaks mainly and added promotional volumes of food for their first couple of months, including free samples and tastings. They may even have some local celebrities endorse them and greet their guests with photos and autograph signings and giveaways and prizes which will draw loads of people. Your number one job is to make sure your restaurant is very visible from the street so the customers who drive by and don’t want to wait in the long line for a seat or who don’t like dealing with loud crowds or are just not in the mood for all the hoopla at the grand opening, will view your place as their oasis.

Traditionally, during a new competitor’s launch faze, nearby restaurants have an increase of business of 10-13% sometimes more. So, bulk up your crew roster and get them trained to handle the coming spike of additional customers. Long term the trick is to leverage the national chain’s marketing campaign to your advantage. They will bring people in droves to your location with radio, TV and other advertising that is far too expensive for your privately owned, single establishment to ever invest in. Many of these people would never have found your establishment. These customers will eventually say “Hey let’s try that cute small place on the next corner for a change of pace.” And you have to capitalize on that!

Once they set foot in your place, win them over! SHINE! Together your two competing companies will attract many more diners to the location as people who love to eat your type of food niche start to consider that area of the neighborhood as the go to place for your food type. The fast food industry utilizes this piggy back marketing strategy expertly, which is why you see a cluster of MacDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Taco Bells… all huddled at one intersection or highway exit instead of each trying to open at their own exit.

This new national restaurant neighbor of yours is going to put your smaller establishment on the map at no cost to you! Everyone for miles and miles around will soon know where your restaurant is at. You can compete by making your establishment more homey, offering custom personalized service and higher quality cuisine with a more artistic and professional presentation. Give the customers a better ambiance to dine in, serve them with flair. It is easy for you to show clearly your restaurant is the better choice! The prestigious choice! Ignore the price war completely and let them have the reputation of being the bottom, budget basement provider. And you become the suave place where anybody who is anybody comes to dine.

As part of a large corporate machine, they are the vulnerable ones not you. They cannot adapt from what corporate dictates or improvise too much from their herd to meet their unique local situations. Your mom and pop operation can move quickly to take advantage of any opportunity that arises without the corporate bog down of having to get approval from tiers of officials on the corporate totem pole.

You can easily study this national firm’s strengths and find their weaknesses. You can invest your efforts in capitalizing on their weaknesses because you know they won’t be changing their concept or how they conduct business by much for many, many years to come. Offer all the extra stuff they don’t. In a similar situation concerning a Mexican restaurant client a few years back when a slew of national franchised Mexican casual theme restaurants seemed to be popping up every other week; we established supremacy simply by offering thirty different flavored hot sauces as well as developing some fresh, unique, condiments and fresh salsas that could not be found anywhere else.

Another restaurant reinvented itself simply by adding a new specialty drink menu offering bright colored visual master pieces served in tall and stunningly sleek glass ware.

We changed the whole ambiance of another establishment by implementing a fancier, yet dicey servers uniform as well as upgrading the formality of the managers, host and hostess outfits. It is amazing how just changing the crew dress requirements can uplift and elevate the status of an establishment. Uniforms raise crew spirits and relieve customer anxiety since every level of the hierarchy is instantly recognizable.

If your new competitor does not deliver you can deliver to grab a bigger piece of the pie. If they don’t cater or only cater certain types of events and price ranges make sure your catering service fills in all their missing gaps. You can add live entertainment, or compete by staying open longer hours than they do. If they are not open for breakfast, you could consider adding a breakfast shift. Are there deserts limited? Expand your desserts to be the piece de resistance. Adding features that cater specifically to children is another easy move for setting yourself apart. Remember often parents allow the children to pick where the whole family dines. Your opportunities are limitless for showing off how much better you are than a national chain. The point is you can adjust to whatever gimmick they throw at you but they can’t do the same.

They will try every customer stealing trick in the book. That’s what their people back at corporate headquarters do; sit around dreaming up ways to drive the local competing establishments across the country nuts. But this is your neighborhood, you and your crew live here, you know the people the culture of Philly and what makes Philadelphians tick! There are plenty of ways to take advantage of your local knowledge, contacts and peculiar neighborhood quirks to out flank marketing campaigns that are being designed twelve states away!

Now is the time to keep your chin up and rise to the challenge. Your owners and your crew will be taking their cues from you and you need to show confidence and exhume enthusiasm. This national chain invading your turf could be a big plus and a huge boost to your business. But you have to leverage their marketing power and promotional efforts correctly so you gain from them instead of being hurt and eventually crushed out of business by them. Understand that whatever marketing they do will also indirectly benefit you too as long as you set yourself up to be able to take advantage of the publicity they manufacture for your shared area. The people have to drive past your place to get to their place and as they pass your place your publicity is growing.

Word of mouth is always working in the local mom and pop restaurant’s favor. People like to brag about interesting places they dine. When you eat at a national chain what is there to shout about. Everyone knows what it is like to eat at a Pizza Hut or Domino’s pizza. But everyone’s ears perk up when someone starts to inform them about a fantastic new pizza place the just dined at that has over 100 unique topping choices.

No matter who the competition is that moves in nearby always take the position and attitude that you are the authority in your field. Formulate a plan that adjusts your brand image so you dominate the niche. Competition should not be shunned or feared but the opportunity competition presents must be embraced. Competition forces learning, excels knowledge and hones excellence.

“Live daringly, boldly, fearlessly. Taste the relish to be found in competition – in having put forth the best within you.” – Henry J. Kaiser

*Extra note, never bad mouth your competition or allow your crew to put down the new restaurant that just moved in down the block or any other competitors. It always sounds tacky, coming off as if you are insecure about something and backfires making you look bad, plus it drives your customers to want to go over there to check out the situation for them self.

If your Philadelphia area restaurant needs assistance, counseling, mentoring or advice about anything managerial or otherwise, especially how to defend against a national chain moving in and thrive!

Contact us: anewtale191@live.com We have been beating up on the national chains for years!

*We specialize in restaurant start-ups, turnarounds marketing and tough restaurant and hospitality management problem solving!

REFERENCES:

  1. When Visiting Philadelphia check out the Official Visitor and Tourism Site for Philadelphia:http://www.visitphilly.com For updated Philadelphia travel and tourism information including hotels, restaurants, events and cool stuff to do, historic events, museums, shows, clubs …
  2. Whether you searching for the perfect mouth watering Philly famous cheese steak, a new downtown vegan restaurant or the best Philadelphia place for crab cakes Stu Leventhal’s Restaurant Review will be your guide. Let Stu filter out the bad and steer you towards the good dining and drinking establishments. http://www.examiner.com/restaurant-195-in-philadelphia/stuart-leventhal

 

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