By Diane Chiasson
With the success of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada is becoming more of an international hotspot for travellers. Tourists are increasingly realizing the draw of this beautiful country, from the scenery and mountains of the West Coast to the European flair of Quebec, the multicultural diversity of Ontario and the waterside shores of Atlantic Canada.
Research shows restaurants rank high in a traveller’s overall satisfaction with a destination choice. For foodservice operators, this is an opportunity to help boost tourism and increase business.
Here are seven tips to help you grow your summer business by attracting tourists:
1. Sell a unique menu item
Tourists want to try something they cannot get at home. What dish or drink does your operation offer that is unique and interesting to your hometown? Try to think of a dish on your menu that you can make a ‘must try’ item. Work with your local bakers, butchers, cheese makers and farmers to create an offering available only in your city.
2. Make it ‘Canadian’
Many Canadians already struggle with the definition of local cuisine, so imagine what tourists think! You can definitely play up the maple syrup and beer clichés to offer tourists an ‘authentic’ experience, but give them a taste of what you personally consider Canadian. Hopefully, travellers will take home the idea that Canadian cuisine is a lot more than just maple syrup and beer.
3. Liaise with hotels and motels
Tourists often rely on their hotel concierges for dining advice. To capitalize on this market, motivate hotels and motels to recommend your restaurant. Invite concierges and hotel managers to your restaurant for a meal, and send them back with stacks of paper menus, business cards or other marketing paraphernalia. Offer coupons or a ‘kids- eat-free’ program. Give tourists an incentive to come to your restaurant.
4. Contact the media
Due to the Internet, savvy travellers already have an idea of where they want to eat before they’ve even departed. Research your city online to find out who is writing about what. Contact local food bloggers and travel writers and tell them about your restaurant. Invite them for a meal and ‘wow’ them. Ask them to write rave reviews about your establishment.
5. Work with local attractions
If your restaurant is in the vicinity of a tourist attraction like a museum or art gallery, make a special offer for ticket holders, such as meal discounts or free appetizers. Ask the attraction if they can hand out your menu and coupon when guests purchase tickets. In return, you can offer to give restaurant patrons coupons for the attraction.
6. Offer special prix-fixe menus
As travellers are usually on a budget, they’d like to try as much as possible without breaking the bank. Offer a special prix-fixe menu that allows customers to taste your signature dishes within a reasonable set price.
7. Market your restaurant as family-friendly
A major concern for tourists with children is finding a place to eat that is kid-friendly, interesting and unique. Parents don’t relish the idea of travelling thousands of miles from home to eat at McDonald’s every night. Offer a children’s menu with some of the usual favourites, but – especially if you serve ethnic cuisine – also provide more adventurous eaters with a smaller version of your signature dishes.
Also keep in mind that tourists usually spend the entire day walking around, and are tired by dinnertime. Offer kids drinks and a snack right away, and keep them entertained with books (preferably about Canada!), toys or TV.
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She provides innovative food and retail merchandising programs, interior design, 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.