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.


Local Store Marketing Ideas – One At a Time!

Watch for the first LSM idea coming your way next week…..

Of all the blog posts I have written, those that seem to generate the most interest are about Local Store Marketing (LSM).

The need to get your food establishment known to the local community is paramount for most business people. If you mapped the addresses of all of your customers I guarantee that the majority would come from just a few miles from your establishment. LSM allows you to target those potential customers in a way that is low cost but community minded.  It can make you and your business a part of that community and as a by-product, top of mind when it comes to finding a place to eat.

Last year I wrote a book/guide on LSM that gives you some great simple ideas on how to LSM your restaurant, QSR, (or any food establishment). It has been suggested that I tackle one LSM idea from the book each week on the blog. Each week you will get a tasty morsel direct from the book. I hope that it may engender the spark of creativity in someone to change or adapt an idea into something that will help them grow their business.

The only thing that I ask is if this does happen and you have a success story, then let me know and we can share your success and maybe give someone else an idea.

If you don’t want to wait 50 weeks to get all the ideas I suggest you check out the book, it’s available on Kindle for less than $10, click here to check it out. Then buy it!! No, I am serious, Buy the damn thing!! (you can also click on the picture on the right side of this page for a preview).

The first LSM idea I will discuss is Loyalty Programs and you can expect it to be up on the blog early next week! See you then…..

Bad Customer Service – It Only Takes Once!

Today I had a customer service experience that made me so angry I had to blog about it! Although it was not in a QSR or other food service establishment it happens every day in businesses like yours.

The company that services our heating and A/C at home has always been a very efficient, helpful and fine company to deal with. The woman who handles the scheduling and customers is always kind and makes the customer experience a pleasant one. Last night our A/C stopped cooling and I called and left a message after hours for a callback. This morning I got a call from a lady who started the conversation like this; “This is Dawn from XYZ company, I have your message and we will have to wait to hear from the owner of the house before we send someone out.”  “Ahh?????” I said (or something like that, being so taken aback!).  When I informed her that the owner of the house lives in Germany and has a service contract and that we had NEVER had to wait for approval in the  past she replied “well that is our company policy.” Ok, I then asked to speak with Alison who is always very pleasant. To which she replied “ She’s off today and I am Alison’s boss!” WOW!! The boss….I hope they keep her locked in a dark room in the back away from any customers!

The experience further deteriorated when she proceeded to argue with me about the most recent repairs and when they were performed, she was wrong but didn’t apologize when she realized such.  So we have a customer service person who is a) aggressive  b) argumentative,  and c) unapologetic. Any one of these is grounds for termination or a strong warning.

In the end I went from being a champion of this company to an angry customer who will most definitely express my feelings to the owner. How many people just say, no way, never again?  And you never hear about it. Most.  And they will likely not be kind to your business in the local community. It only takes one. One person. One attitude. One moment of rudeness and you lose a customer and their goodwill.