It all started in Vancouver a few years ago. A restaurant owner opened a Japanese-style Korean barbecue franchise from Japan location in Vancouver.
The small business restaurant owner selected the location, a space that was way too big in the eyes of all the restaurant owners and professionals in Vancouver, and a place where time after time, restaurants had failed to succeed in the very same space.
You see, the space was much too big for such an obscure chain restaurant doing food and drinks that “normal” Vancouver people may not be able to relate to. Or so the “experts” said.
The location was bad, impossible to see, and too far back from the road, almost subterranean. Parking all around the area was also v e r y expensive.
You see, it just couldn’t work. Unless the small business owner had some kind of a secret weapon.
You could almost hear the little train saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”.
Now a secret weapon the small business owner surely did have! So secret that they could hide it right in plain sight and have no other restaurant owners copy them.
It was so simple that most restaurant owners would actually argue that is not only unnecessary, but possibly even not to be tolerated by restaurant patrons.
Genius, yes. But … frowned upon? Maybe?
The secret weapon was not really a hard thing to do, but it would take some time, some training, some effort, and a possibly even have a small cost.
You see, it would be hard according to most restaurant owners, as someone would have to be made responsible to do it right. One of your already overworked restaurant staff, who has no time at all when it is busy, may have to add a step to their job.
Of course as a restaurant or small business owner, this is always difficult, as you wouldn’t want to put your staff out with a work task they might not like or feel comfortable with. Or worse yet, pay some money to outsource it. You see it just won’t work, so most restaurants never even bother.
Let’s also not forget the fact that almost nobody in the restaurant industry uses this very simple secret weapon, so it must be a bad idea. You as a entrepreneur, restaurant and small business owner should probably stop reason as the Secret Weapon is something really simple and silly and you likely won’t’ like it or believe it.
So just what is the Secret Weapon?
Sorry, not so fast.
This obscure restaurant, did the hard work of setting up this Secret Weapon for only about the first 3 months of their existence.
Then they reaped the rewards of its awesome power for YEARS to come…
They were busy, well, actually lined up almost constantly for the following two years and even to this day, just by utilizing OVER and OVER this very simple secret weapon they took the time and care to set up.
It likely cost them less than $250 to set up. It likely costs them under $100 a month to maintain.
They have now opened another location in Vancouver, and they implemented the same secret weapon they started building in location 1 for location 2. Now the 2nd location has been packed since opening day.
Ok, enough of the suspense. What is the Secret Weapon this restaurant has so successfully employed?
DATA! Yep, simple data.
Well, I guess it’s not just data, it is data that they collected, and now utilize almost once a week.
So let’s take a look at how they implemented and utilized this secret weapon called “data”.
They collected their data in an old school fashion, and we suggest this is always at least one of your data collection components to all of our clients.
Yes we know there are iPads, and Surfaces, and tablets, and iPhones and Android devices and all this smart technology, but sometimes OLD SCHOOL is better for many of your restaurant guests.
YES you should have a QR code that sits on a tent card on the table and offers people to join your mailing list by filling in a simple survey from their smart phone, and some will. You could also do Coasters! Coasters are just like business cards that can be pondered at the table and even taken home.
YES you should have a very short url to redirect to your same survey/data collection landing page for those who prefer this way.
YES you could suggest they just give their twitter name, name and email address by twitter.
YES you should ask them to follow you on Facebook.
This company didn’t do ANY of those things for the first 3 months.
They simply gave out a small 1/8 of a page mini survey/feedback paper to each person at the table with the bill.
They offered that all who joined the newsletter would be in a monthly draw for a $100 gift certificate.
They started with just a random pen left at the table to fill in this overly photocopied UGLY piece of paper, that wasn’t even cut straight (darn hard to get good help in a restaurant!).
Then they ‘upped their game’ and gave out a golf pencil that was branded with the restaurant name. Customers were even encouraged to take it home if they liked.
Then the magic happened.
They actually did something with the information!
Someone was responsible to actually entered a into a CRM type sales automation system like Small Business Dream
They likely used the simplest one around, or who knows, maybe they simply used Outlook.
All that matters is, they took action. They made it someone’s job to enter this data nightly, or who knows, maybe the paid a subcontractor to do it. And yep, I’m sure many of the surveys had hard to read email addresses, and I’d bet the bounce rate was out of this world. By the third month, I bet ½ or more were duplicates so they were wasting time. But they kept entering.
Right from the first week of collecting this data, they sent out the first email. Showing off specials during certain times of day, or that Monday was all day Happy Hour with $9.99 pitchers of beer at the time, ALL day Monday. Within weeks Mondays were packed and pretty soon, every day was full to capacity.
They didn’t sweat that many of the emails couldn’t be used because they were illegible. They didn’t worry that their survey paper looked awful. They didn’t worry that their staff didn’t feel comfortable handing out the survey. They didn’t worry that their pencils were taken home more often than not. They just continued to TWEAK their secret weapon! They continued to u s e their secret weapon and they continued to be full to capacity, night after night.
They opened another location, rinse and repeat. Imagine if they had an even more robust secret weapon. One that would have taken away some of the cost and time by giving patrons options like mentioned above:
- An iPad at the bar or front desk to have people join the mailing list while they waited for a table.
- Taking the survey by QR code
- Taking the survey by simple URL
- Taking the survey by submitting a direct message on Twitter, or a mention on twitter.
They continue to be a booming success, month after month, year after year, while restaurants in better locations, with better themes and menus with better parking, continued to fail. Not one of the failures employed the ‘secret weapon’.
Now the story gets better! This great Korean Barbecue Japanese restaurant went a step further.
They started a loyalty program with an actual member card. Customers got points for eating there, and they could then redeem the points to get $25 OFF their meals once they had enough points.
Again, back in the day, the waiter/waitress had to take your card, disappear into the back, likely login to some system that allowed them to track your purchase, and how many points you had, and notify you manually when you had enough.
They continued to evolve, they continued to add power to their secret weapon.
The loyalty program became connected up to their POS (point of sale terminal). The customer receipt now told you where you were at for your point balance each visit. The customer could email in a picture of their receipt if they forgot their card, and it was someone’s job to match it up and credit the customer. Goodness me, what a terrible thing to make a staff member do when they are so busy!
By now I think you are starting to see that this company had a bigger secret weapon than just their data, they had the determination to make it happen instead of making excuses for why it may be too hard, or that the staff may not like it.
Then they upgraded their secret weapon again!
They invested in a simple mobile app.
This now allowed people to join them for the purpose of getting updates as an app, and of course we all know a mobile app sends out push notifications instantly vs. the email mailing list that can take some time to send once it gets large. This allowed their message to be received in real time, and not end up in a spam folder, or ignored by a millennial who only looks at their email once a week, if that.
Then they upgraded the weapon again. The entire loyalty program was now contained in the mobile application! You could literally redeem your points for something free in front of the waitress and it was brought to you. Now instead of waiting till you had $25 built up, you could redeem for even a $5 item. The patrons responded, and continue to respond, packed full night after night, and even have a very healthy lunch crowd.
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