Product Sampling in Your Restaurant

Product Sampling

The next subject on my list of Local Store Marketing ideas is product sampling.

What is product sampling? Giving away small portions of your menu items as a taste test to new or existing customers in the hope of either promoting trial of your restaurant or enticing existing customers to use you more often.

Sampling to existing customers, dependant on your concept usually means:

1. Adding a small plate of samples either at point of purchase or point of payment for coffee shops and other establishments that require the customer to order or pay at the counter
2. Delivering a trial sized plate to the customer at the table while they are deciding their order
3. Giving the samples after the meal at the table.
4. Sampling outside of your establishment. Normally at the edge of your lease line or close enough to control usage and your team.
5. Any other means to bring your product to people as a trial.

What should you sample? Anything that will retain its quality when not served in the usual manner and will still have eye appeal when served in small portions.

Here are a few sampling ideas that I have seen work in the past:

• New menus or significant changes to a current menu can be stressful, so prior to releasing it try a sample plate on your regular customers and get their feedback. It not only helps you to test your ideas and weed out some of those mistakes we all make, it makes your customers feel special.

• Bakeries or any business that sells pastries, cakes etc., can easily cut a pastry into small pieces, arrange on a doily and plate, stick a toothpick in the piece and have a team member go for a walk. Make sure that the team member is well trained on the product, pricing and ingredients.

• Coffee shops can buy sample sized paper cups and give out these to existing customers with new products or specials or as in the bakery scenario have a team member go for a walk.

• In one very large coffee concept who uses the sampling method on a regular basis, they were dumbfounded to find out that when sampling two new cold beverages prior to summer that the number one comment coming back from customers was “we didn’t know you sold cold beverages.” Sampling works!!

• If you have products that are almost at the end of their shelf life use them to sample. They have to be discarded anyway so why not use them to build sales.

Assuming you have decided to try sampling, remember to:

Spend the time training your team on the correct way to sample. Use team members with personality rather than product knowledge, you can always teach that prior to the sampling process. It is almost impossible to teach personality.

Spend time on packaging. A well presented sample will induce more trial than a tired piece of cake on a plastic plate, for higher priced items you may even want to look at individual sample packaging.

Run sampling on a regular basis, especially during slow periods, and add a discount for coming into your establishment on the day of sampling. A 10% discount card for the specific product can be given to people who have sampled your product and in the case of the large coffee chain I mentioned, they wrote the date and $1.00 off on every sample cup for a full sized beverage.

Good luck adding sampling to your LSM and if you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

RStevens

Local Store Marketing to Students

The next installment from my guide…

LSM for Students

The summer break is just ending and the kids and their families are thinking about the start of a new year of school. This means that local malls will be full of kids after school and food establishments around schools and colleges will be busy again.

LSM will usually involve some sort of give away, discount or other incentive to bring people into your store and this incentive will be even more important when talking about college kids or younger. You will have to be smarter about how you cost these incentives and how and who you aim the message to. Kids are more likely to go for bulk than quality which can even itself out in cost but you do not want to be a food provider that is known for giving kids cheap, unhealthy foods. Always have a healthy option, the moms will love it and if you are creative, can be cost effective and tasty.

Marketing to these students can take several forms; here are a few that have proved successful for many small restaurants, café’s, franchise businesses and independents.

  • Advertise in the school newspaper and be specific. Have a call to action for the kids so they know exactly what you are offering. 10% off when presenting your school ID, free beverage with any purchase over $x. Buy one get one free between three and five pm. It doesn’t matter what the offer is, as long as it is there and you can track it.
  • For smaller kids have coloring sheets / place mats with cheap crayons or pencils. You will be amazed at the number of moms that will visit just to have a bit of quiet while the kids spend a few minutes coloring. Pizza Hut used this successfully for years.
  • Bundle meal sets designed for kids or families. Feed a family of four for $x. Snack, beverage and cookie for $x after school.
  • In malls put up signage in your store to advertise to the younger crowd. Make it colorful and relevant.
  • Start a kids club with discounts , birthday specials and fun give aways. A discount for the kids club member when they bring the family with them can still be very profitable.
  • Use social media to advertise your kids specials.
  • Set up a Facebook page and remind your customers to “like“ you. Use Facebook to promote deals to all ages, it’s not just kids who use social media.

Learn from those who are expert at it. The big burger guys are the experts in marketing to kids. They have been doing it so long that the kids of the kids of the kids that they first started marketing to are now the ones bringing their kids into the store!

Of course you do not have the budget that these guys have but you can use some of their ideas Such as:

  • Colorful kids containers for carryout.
  • Package specific products together to appeal to kids while keeping mom reasonably happy. ( One healthy option)
  • Check out some of the websites that sell overstocked or surplus items for give aways. You will be amazed at how cheap some of this stuff is.

Talk to kids of all ages, ask them what they want and what the price point should be, after all it is them that you are trying to attract. An imagine how happy they will be when you as a business owner/manager asks them for advice!

Best of luck with your restaurant local store marketing and remember to keep trying new things and keep it fresh!

RStevens

P.S. and another shameless reminder that you can buy the guide this tip has come from by clicking the Amazon link on the right side of this page!

 

Restaurant Marketing 101 – Loyalty Marketing

Loyalty Marketing For Your Food Business

As promised the first and one of the most important items in my Local Store Marketing guide is customer loyalty programs.

Loyalty programs are any means a business uses to grow sales and customer base through repeat business from existing customers. This can also be used to gain new customers but once they step into your establishment hopefully they become repeat or existing customers.

Start by offering the customer an incentive to use your services rather than your competitor. This incentive must be strong enough to outweigh the convenience of a nearer competitor or even a competitor with a superior or better priced product.

This normally takes the shape of a deal that allows a customer to gain a reduced price, an addition product, or other long term incentive. The trick to any loyalty program is to make that incentive available after several visits to your establishment.

The most successful loyalty program for the restaurant and QSR business in my opinion is the “Buy 10 get one free” or “Buy 5 get one free”, it doesn’t matter what the amount is but it does matter that your profit margins on the program should still be healthy and that any loss for the give-away is more than matched by the increase in sales on a daily basis. This is particularly suitable for coffee shops, bakeries, fast food or any business where the price of the main item is between $1 and $10.

Take a coffee shop for example. Average price for a coffee is about $4 depending upon where you are. Most working people in reasonable sized cities have a coffee at least once a week, some have several a day. The customer walks or drives by many coffee shops on their way to work every morning and many large office buildings have their own coffee shops. So how to you compete with all this choice?

A Loyalty Card.

The best way to handle the mechanics of this program is to get cards printed with your logo and a place for the customer’s name and email address as well as room around the outside to punch 10 holes. You should have a unique hole punch made that is only found at your business. I have had a custom hole punch made for less than $40. Make the design of the hole something to do with your logo or something unusual. Many coffee shops are using a hole punch in the shape of a coffee cup so try to stay away from that design. Be sure to have the place for the customer’s contact details.

The collected information can be used in many ways, emails with new offers or products, contacting them if you haven’t seen them for a while, (you or a team member may have upset them) additional loyalty programs for your best customers; for example a draw of used cards for “Free Coffee For a Week”.

When the customer places an order the server asks if they have a loyalty card. If they don’t they ask if they would like one and explain the offer. The customer orders a coffee and the server punches a hole in the card.

When the customer has all 10 holes punched the server can tell them that their next one is free when they bring back the fully punched card. How you handle it is up to you – it may be that you wish to give them their 10th coffee free. Fully punched cards are then collected and a new one given to the customer.

Note: The cards should be small enough to be carried in a wallet or purse ( business card sized) and if a customer has more than one card with, lets say, 4 holes on one card and 6 on the other, then you must honor the 10 holes. Also if you see a customer with two or three cards, offer to consolidate the number of punches onto a new card and discard the old ones.

The coffee shop idea can be adapted to many different types of businesses and is not exclusively for low ticket average products. I know of higher end restaurants that use it too. Office workers will offer to get coffee for their co workers so they get a free one for their trouble. And I know of more than one boss that buys his/her entire team coffee on a Friday and enjoys his free one with his spouse on the weekend.

Be creative in your local store marketing, look at what your competitors are doing and how they are making their customers more loyal to their business. Adapt ideas that you see, not only from the food industry but from any type of business and get started.

With Back -to-School around the corner, next week I’ll talk about some ways to get your product out in front of the students and kids…