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How NOT to advertise a local restaurant?

The staff at HotOperator does a lot of business coaching for small and medium sized restaurant operators nationwide. Recently the co owners of The Land Run Steakhouse in Enid Oklahoma called and asked for advice. Since we have worked with this business for more than a decade, we listened and then offered advice.

The Problem for The Land Run Steakhouse

At the moment, The Land Run Steakhouse is a diminished business. Their sales peaked a number of years ago at just over $1.3M in sales. Recently, they will be lucky to make half of that. The owners at the restaurant think that is the problem, but it’s not. It’s actually a symptom of other problems. Convincing them of that turned out to be very difficult. And in this case, it has become a story of how not to advertise a local restaurant.

The Business of The Land Run Steakhouse

The business is actually very good. The chefs are excellent at their jobs, the interior space is wonderful, the staff is friendly and well trained. By all accounts, the business should be doing very well. Even their reviews on social media are high, with a 4+ star review on nearly every platform. Even on Yelp, they have a level above 3.5, which is actually pretty good for the Yelp bitch session.

What the Co Owners Think

When asked, the co owners both think the problem with few people showing up is that the prices are too high. They both pointed to anecdotal evidence that customers would sometimes take a look at the menu and then get up and leave. They stuck to that as the main issue. They have a few steaks that are over $30.00, but most of their offerings are in the mid twenties, and some of their items are in the high teens. 

Our advice was to develop a local survey through their chamber of commerce.

After looking over the survey, unless asked directly if the prices were too high, none of the more than 300 respondents said high prices were a problem. And when asked which local restaurants were too expensive in the local community, The Land Run never came up.

So, that couldn’t be it, right?

One thing that did stand out in the survey was, when consumers were asked to list the top three restaurants in their area, The Land Run didn’t come up there, either.

As it turns out, they have a brand awareness issue. There may be some people who think the prices are high, but more people simply are not thinking of The Land Run as a place to eat. Simply put, The Land Run Steakhouse is not top of mind with the right people (or anyone, for that matter).

The Land Run: What To Do

After reviewing the survey and looking over the business matrix, our advice was to advertise. What we told them was, if they don’t advertise, they will go out of business, sooner rather than later. We came up with a plan to help market the business that included some radio, social media and billboards. We kept the marketing spend as low as possible, but there are some minimums that need to be met. As an example, if you’re on social media and going to advertise, the minimum amount to spend is around $500.00 per month. This is because the traction you get really kicks up after that amount. Less than that, and we recommend not spending anything at all.

The Land Run: What Will They Do?

As it turns out, very little of what we recommended. The only thing they agreed to was the social media advertising, which is a helpful part of the solution, but probably not enough to turn things around for them.

Some of the marketing messages we gave them may make a difference. Here is a list of what we offered as far as a marketing position.

Dine Upscale: The Land Run is not a cheap restaurant. The food quality and service along with the location and atmosphere is upscale. They need to accept that, and enhance that message. This is ‘not for everyone’, but is the ‘desire of everyone’ at the same time.

The message needs to be about making people excited to dine there, and find the exclusive crowd that can eat there a couple times per week.

The basic math is simple. We’re looking for about 200 people to dine with the restaurant about 2X per week spending about $155.00 per visit to reach a goal of about $3.2M in sales annually. In a market of 50K+, this should be achievable.

Dine Local: The Land Run is a part of their local community, so they listen intently to the local crowd as their guests. They live locally, support their community and make it an interesting place to live. Chain restaurants can never do that.

Enjoy Local Eatertainment: With happy hours, special features, tasting menus and weekly piano bar, The Land Run is the place to gather together with friends for a great night out. Whether it’s just us girls, a business lunch, a personal celebration or a date, The Land run is always top of mind.

Be A Local ‘Insider’: This message would offer special ‘hijack products and specials’ that only ‘The Land Run Insiders’ can get. These would be special, laminated cards given to repeat guests and those on social media who are active with their account that they can flash to the server for something ‘free or discounted’ on each visit. This might be a special little appetizer, a special drink of some kind, and definitely a special meal offering that only ‘the insider’ can order. 

Keep Your Fingers Crossed

The first step in advertising a local restaurant is to actually advertise. In this case, they are not being aggressive enough. Part of the reason for this is they have another restaurant in the same community and they have never advertised that business and it is successful. Having said that, that local business is an Italian Family Restaurant with absolutely no competition in the market. 

The Land Run however is in Oklahoma selling steaks. That’s something everyone is doing, including Texas Roadhouse.

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