Restaurant Success Means Keeping Up with Your Target Customer


There was an interesting report released recently in Motley Fool which seems to show that the popularity of  fast food is on a downward spiral , especially among thirty-somethings and up. It discussed how people were eating at fast food restaurants less than they were ten years ago and then suggested that companies like McDonalds identify and pay close attention to their target market to enjoy continued prosperity. Their target market consists of (no surprise) 18 to 29 year old people. This group eats fast food the most often and so it’s imperative for the various companies to target them in ways that draw them in:

  • Social Media
  • Mobile advertising
  • Free WiFi

There are many other ways to be inviting to younger adults as well. Design, decor, and menu items all come to mind.

Any Restaurant Can Find Their Target Customer

The advice in the article is excellent but it is applicable in many more environments than the drive through window at the hamburger joint. It’s imperative that any eating establishment periodically review their audience and see who their main customers are. Once that information is gathered then you can make more educated choices about updating your decor, your menu, or your advertising.

Gather the Information

There are numerous ways to gather the information that you need about your customers. For example, you could have a poll printed up so that you could place it in the menu and offer a free drink or coupon with each completed poll that is turned it. This will not only get you the details about who is eating in your dining room, it will also encourage return business. Other ways to collect the statistics on your guests are:

  • Personally. You, as the owner, could make it a habit to scan the room and make mental notes about who you see and what they are doing. Follow that observation up with a short visit to each table and a quick chat with your customers. Make notes so that you will remember the details
  • On social media. People love to answer questions and share who they are on social media. Use it to your advantage by asking about lifestyle, food preferences, etc. When you get a comment always read it carefully, get all of the information out of it that you can, and answer in a casual, friendly, yet professional way.
  • Hire a company. There are numerous companies that specialize in figuring out who your target market is. It will cost you some money — these companies aren’t cheap — but you will get a very detailed report that can give you insights that double your business.

Create an Average Customer

This may sound a bit juvenile but it is really helpful. Once you have assessed the information write a description of your average guest. Give them a name, a lifestyle, hobbies, and anything else that seems to go along with the information you have gathered. Here’s a completely made up example:

My average customer is Heidi. She is a college student, 22 years old, works at a bookstore, and enjoys hiking and reading. She lives in an apartment with her dog, a mixed breed that she picked up at the animal shelter. 

Some assumptions you probably made about Heidi are:

  • She drinks artisan coffees.
  • She uses WiFi at coffee shops and restaurants.
  • She eats out a lot and prefers granola parfaits, cafe style sandwiches made with organic ingredients, and eating establishments that have a patio that is dog friendly.

You might have more than one average customer. It’s a good idea to identify three distinct personas with their character traits if you can.

Make a Plan

If you notice that most of your guests are Heidis and most of your menu items are things like steak, cheeseburgers, and frozen pies you might want to add a few fresh, organic items and lighter desserts to the menu. You could experiment with providing free Wifi and maybe even adding a coffee bar.

If you are going to do a big remodel or redecorating project it is worth it to take your information to a professional decorator and get their ideas on what decor will work best. It might cost you a chunk up front but you’re likely to get a high return on that investment if you choose your decorator carefully and get on that has commercial experience.

Social Media Is Here to Stay

Whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay. People look for businesses to have a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter page, and a Pinterest page at the least. It can be a bit time consuming to keep up with social media but, especially if your target customers are under 40, you can brand yourself pretty quickly. People like to share images of what they are eating, where it is, and the cute server that handled their table.

Social media gives you the opportunity to interact with your patrons one on one, making their experience more personal and giving you even more information about who they are and what they want.

It’s also a great idea to have some sort of “private” email club that customers can sign up for to get special deals, discounts, and information.

Revamp Your Advertising

Finally, bring your advertising up to date. Maybe you need lighter, more natural colors on your menu or business cards. Perhaps those coupons you send out need to be changed. Take a look at your advertising plan and make some decisions based on what “Heidi” might like.

Following these suggestions can not only make you more appealing to your target group — it can result in a constant, generous flow of both guests and income.
photo credit: The James Kendall via photopin cc

- Marye Audet

Marye Audet is an author, freelance writer, and editor. Cooking, baking, and recipe development have been a major part of her life since she baked her first loaf of bread at age 13. Luckily, with a husband, eight children, a son in law, and three grandchildren she has enough test-tasters to handle the steady stream of experiments that come from her kitchen.

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