The biggest struggle for small restaurants and other businesses is not getting overlooked by the big-name chains and franchises. Consumers might completely disregard your restaurant unless they know who you are and what you have to offer that separates you from the big guys.
Obviously the most important thing would be to make your restaurant familiar amongst possible customers. The biggest reason why people keep going back to the big chains is because they are comfortable there. If they go to a large restaurant and have a good meal, there will be that sense of familiarity and customers feel good about going there again. In the end, humans are creatures of habit. According to psychologist Dr. James Gordon, “Change is inconvenient because people are afraid of the unknown. Our society has conditioned us to believe that the unknown in life is like walking the plank, harrowing and dangerous.” To keep customers from passing over your unknown restaurant, you must make yourself familiar in your area first. The easiest way to accomplish this is through brand marketing.
Nicholas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard University says, “People are better able to make changes in their lives when they do this with a large number of other people.” The easiest way to do this is to spread your brand through social networks, because if people see that their friends are doing something there is a greater chance that they will do it as well. Christakis believes, “social networks have this interesting property of magnifying whatever they are seeded with, and so taking advantage of your social network ties can result in a magnification of your own efforts.”
However, you can’t expect for social networking (on and offline) to do all the work. Brand naming through advertising and marketing is a very important part of the process. Recently, attraction marketing has become the new biggest thing in marketing. Attraction marketing is the use of techniques specifically designed to teach the customer what you are doing and how a service or product will benefit them well before they purchase it. Attraction marketing is centered on getting customers to buy into what you are selling rather than forcing it upon them with a sales pitch. So give people a reason to come to your restaurant. Advertise your specialty. Do you offer the best desserts in town, amazing steaks, a fun appetizer menu, awesome drinks specials? Make it known what your restaurant is like. Is it family friendly, kid friendly, vegetarian friendly? Whatever it is that you offer that separates you from the big restaurants, promote it, sell it, live by it.
Another beneficial technique could be partnering up with other local businesses. Other restaurants are your only real competition so teaming up with other businesses for join discounts and advertising could greatly increase your customer base. Another thing to consider is to have deals all the time and avidly promote them. This is an easy way to get new customers into your restaurant to not only take advantage of the current deal but spend their money on other products as well.
Remember, the most important aspect for a small restaurant not getting overlooked is the sense of familiarity amongst possible consumers. So keep spreading your brand name.