By Diane Chiasson
Keeping your customers informed about your restaurant operation is a big part of building a successful business, and is the basis of a good, solid marketing plan. But it stretches beyond what your customers learn about your operation while they are inside your restaurant. You need to be able to reach them “where they live” as well.
A newsletter is an ideal way to stay in touch with your customers on a more personal and intimate level. It can also be a simple and cost-effective tool, and a great way to build repeat business and increase customer loyalty. A well-written and well-designed newsletter can help stimulate sales and spread news of events and specials, all while keeping your establishment top-of-mind with your clientele.
Who should receive the newsletter
Build up a database of recipients by having customers sign up for your newsletter either via mail or email. Give your customers an incentive to get on your newsletter mailing list by offering a coupon, specials only for newsletter subscribers, or running a monthly contest for a free meal for subscribers and announcing the results in each newsletter.
What your newsletter should look like
Newsletters come in all shapes and sizes – single-page, black-and-white photocopies, slick colour versions, or a simple e-mail delivered to customers’ inboxes once a week or once a month. Decide what type of newsletter suits your operation and budget, and how often you would like to send out your newsletter. Then concentrate on the content.
Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind when designing your newsletter:
1. Create a catchy name and go for graphics
Think of something clever to name your newsletter that is relevant to the type of operation you run and your brand. Ideally, choose a name that is easily identified with your restaurant. Make sure your newsletter includes graphic elements that will attract attention and makes your newsletter stand out from junk mail. And don’t forget to always include important information about your restaurant operation in every issue – that includes your address, telephone number, hours of operation and reservation policies.
2. Encourage action
The main purpose of your newsletter is to get your customers to respond. Once you have grabbed their attention with your catchy name and graphics, you need to follow through with specific offers that will entice readers to visit your establishment. Tell your readers about a new menu item that they must try, or offer a money-saving coupon or a special meal deal that is happening only for a limited time. Get your readers to sign up and attend special events you are holding, like cooking classes or wine appreciation nights.
3. Get personal
Write personal stories about yourself, your staff and your restaurant. Tell your customers about why you decided to open your restaurant. Tell them about how passionate you are about the foods you create. Talk about where you source your products, share your environmental goals, and reveal the plans you have for the future of your establishment.
You can also create a section in your newsletter profiling a different staff member in each issue. Make it light and funny, and include interesting information and anecdotes about their background. Be sure to include photos of yourself and your staff so that your customers can recognize and identify you and your staff by name.
Allowing your customers to get to know you and your staff more intimately helps to build customer loyalty. It also creates familiarity and comfort, which will keep your customers coming back.
4. Offer useful tips and recipes
In order to get your customers to continue reading your newsletter, you also need to offer information that is useful and beneficial. Have your chef create simplified recipes of your signature dishes for your readers to create at home, or share “insider” cooking tips and secrets. If you are comfortable doing so, you could write about food safety and food handling, or how to store leftovers. You can also educate your readers on local wines and cheeses they should try (with a focus on those that can be found at your establishment!).
5. Reach out to your community
If your restaurant sponsors a particular charity or local sports team, talk about what you have done for that charity, how much money you have raised, and how your readers can help you reach your next goals. Share the good deeds you have done for your community – like donating excess food to the food bank, or helping out someone in need. Show your readers that your restaurant reflects the personal values of you and your staff, and that you’re not just in the business to make money.
6. Pass on newsworthy information
Your newsletter doesn’t have to be all about you and your restaurant. You can also pass on interesting and relevant information that you read about somewhere else, whether on new food or product trends, or news stories that might affect your readers like a new tax or an impending strike.
7. Give props to your best customers
Give your most loyal customers a chance to feel special by featuring them in your newsletter. Interview them for the story so readers can find out what they like most about your restaurant and why they keep coming back for more. Be sure to include a photo. This is a great opportunity to spread good “word of mouth” via your own newsletter! If your restaurant uses comment cards, you can also create an area in your newsletter for testimonials, and highlight all the positive reviews you have received.
Good luck and happy writing!
About the author
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as the industry leader in providing innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.chiassonconsultants.com.