Define 'Good'

Restaurants Hopper2

How do you know if you had a good day, if you don't know what a good day looks like?

By Charlie Hopper

Stacking clean, just-dried dishes. Re-setting the walk-in for tomorrow. Wiping counters. Running hot grease from the fry station through the strainer, as servers clock out and joke in the parking lot.

What is that feeling coming over you? Something like peace? Was today a success?

In the marketing department, success is measured on a longer arc. Still, at the end of the day there can arrive a sense of “Well, that was a good day” as co-workers’ car keys begin jingling from down the hall.

Was it a good day? Does it feel like a good day? Is “feel” any way to judge the day?

Well, yes, of course, from one perspective. We’re only human. From another angle, though, especially when viewed through the marketing lens, it seems like we might define some parameters.

Did anyone mention you on social media today? And if so, did you respond?

Two things about social media mentions – one is, it’s the closest you can come to measuring word-of-mouth, which is still about as powerful as any marketing tool in the kit. Are people talking you up? Good, good.

Now, are you in conversation with them? That’s where social media beats just having a good reputation. You can woo. Charm. Involve yourself. Note how all those actions are human, social interactions – not pushing out boring marketing messages. You can push messaging; that might be what got you in a conversation. But the conversation is what can win over someone who either hasn’t been, wouldn’t have come back, or plans to come back but never gets around to it. First and foremost, all social media is an attempt to replicate real-life one-on-one relationship building. Don’t confuse it with a banner ad.

Were the items you sold today the items you wanted to sell?

Did your marketing materials or servers guide customers toward food you do really well? That’s the surest way to bounce somebody back.

Did your regulars, or your coupons, or your recent media spending bring in new people? Did the new people have a good experience?

This is the big moment: first impressions are, as they say, everything. Take extra care of people you’ve never seen before, because if they have a more-than-decent meal, you might see them again.

Did somebody put out advertising or brand activation that was a plus for the brand – or at the least, not a minus?

So, was there a misspelled sign placed on the restroom while it was being cleaned? Did the advertising run with bad acting and inane scripting? Did your external and internal reflections of your business make you look smart and likable and highly competent, or did it make you look like you’re barely holding things together? People infer how you’re doing by the evidence you present to them, and they assume it’s a fair sample of everything that happens at your place. Convince them a smart, highly competent crew is running the ship.

Was the food photography on your in-store materials good enough to get a “point and grunt” at least a few times?

Was it so good that someone made a joke about the mismatch between the photo and the delivered food? Who monitors that? Do your servers gather intel for you or do you have to observe it for yourself?

Don’t bother asking the customer if the photography influenced them one way or another, though: consumers can’t tell you why they do what they do. They just do. But you can watch and see how it happens. Or if your server is really good (and “in” on what’s supposed to be happening), you can find out second-hand.

Did you witness someone enjoying some part of your branding – not just enduring or submitting to it? Could it be communications, in-store materials, smiling at the décor, or responding to the server’s upselling in a good-natured and affirmative way? Something? Anything?

What if people loved you partly for your food, and partly for a reason they can’t put into words? That second reason-to-be-loved is your brand. People, again, can’t tell you why they like something – they just do. Did you see evidence that the materials, presentation, the atmosphere or the people you’ve trained were getting the reaction you want, and increasing customer loyalty? Or was it just another day?

Did somebody go out of their way to compliment some aspect of the meal?

Clearly, this is the top of the heap for good days. Celebrate a day when a customer comes out of their protective shell, their veneer of restraint based on the general knowledge that, as the buyer, they must beware. You’ve broken through and gained a toehold in the marketing assault on consumer indifference. If you’re wearing a tie, loosen it.

If you’re wearing tight clothes, unbutton a couple buttons. Kick off the shoes, and enjoy a good moment. Also: find out what happened – was this a simple “save” performed by an ultra-competent server or was it the result of the unscientifically arrived-at, unpredictable tipping point that enough good marketing moments put together can create?

Maybe wait till tomorrow to pursue it, though. Savor the moment for now.

Charlie Hopper, principal/writer of ad agency Young & Laramore, shares views on restaurant marketing at SellingEating.com, as well as recently publish books Nuggets, Nibbles, Morsels, Crumbs: Selected Restaurant Marketing Columns from Food & Drink magazine, and Selling Eating: Restaurant Marketing Beyond the Word Delicious. Hopper is known for his unique and witty perspective on food and restaurant brands and is a regular contributor to Food & Drink.

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