How to turn a beat-up resort restaurant around?

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Joined Jan 7, 2001
I am part of the management team at a 200+ casual dining restaurant in a beach resort area. We've been here for 24 years. 10 years ago before the latest big boom for the area we were THE place to dine, packed house every night, long waits, lot's of return business. Seven years ago we were sold and the operators of the last seven years have not done a very good job and the business has suffered. We've made the quick fixes on the back office side, the product quality side so here we are making a profit with falling customer counts. How do we get the business back and make the transition from more of a year around restaurant and less of a tourist trap? Do any of you experts out there live a in resort area? I've learned so much from reading these posts over the last year.....help!
 
1,640
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Joined Mar 6, 2001
I can't help-you on this one...it's beyond my personal experience business wise.

I can only respond as a customer/consumer. I would need to see some sort of face lift on the outside of the building to make me think something new is happening inside. My spouse and I always ask locals (when out of town) where we should dine. Could you advertise to the locals your change and maybe offer them a free something or a coctail party to get them reinterested? Frequent dining incentives? Off peak tourist times discount dining? Invite the hotel employees (front desk workers, managers etc...)so they'll recommend you when asked by guests for dining ideas????

I also look thru the hotel guest guides and read the menus at all the local places. If you looked good and offered me a free anything with my purchase I would figure "what do I have to loose" and at the least drive by and check things out.
 
1,640
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Joined Mar 6, 2001
I just re-read your post...my favorite local restaurant is freindly. The owner Tony makes us feel really welcome. If he didn't seat us and see's us later he always stops by and shakes our hands...asks us how we are and makes some small talk. He really cares and it shows!


He also has a couple of really great waitresses. They know what we order before we say it. We always chat or tease each other alittle...they insist we call them by their names. They don't pull up a chair or over stay their welcome....either.

The freindliness never feels fake or put on. The food isn't great only good but I think we go there (every weekend) because we are part of Tonys' family.
 
11
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Joined Jan 7, 2001
Thanks for the help. Your first post is right on the mark of what we have in mind. We are planning a entrance renovation and we do have programs in place to get the golf professionals and hotel employees to recomment us. I have a hard time convincing the owners to spend advertising $$ on guides but I also read these things when I'm out of town. Question for everyone: How do you pick where you will dine when on vacation? The local connection is definitely something we need to work on in the fall. We're thinking of a local's discount card, a mug club for our bar customer's, a kid's eat cheap night and doing some free buffet receptions during happy hours for golf course employees, hotel employees and maybe some of the office employees who are close by...what do ya think? Also what do you think about comment cards customers?
 
579
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Joined May 6, 2001
I agree with the other posts, you have to let them know you've changed. Advertise the changes, use word of mouth. Emphasize the quality of the food. Let them know how eager you are to please and then follow thru with all the customers. Good Luck. I hope everything works out for you.
 
1,640
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Joined Mar 6, 2001
Choosing where we eat when out of town....most of the time we drive around the local area at dinner time checking to see who has the most customers. We will look for the places that interested us from the hotel guide. But ulimately the places with the most cars are who we check-out, if we have no word of mouth recommendations.

We then know to arrive early at those busy places to get in. Following the crowd has really worked well over the years for us.
 

kuan

Moderator
Staff member
7,107
542
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Wow... what a question! It's rather difficult doing this without hard data or facts. The first and most obvious observation is that you're losing market share. The second might be a problem in operations. Your job is to analyze why you're losing market share and making sure that the operations side is running efficiently. I assume from your post that you've already taken steps to fix the operations and quality issues

You say that you're a resort restaurant with 200 seats. The first thing you need to do is to analyze your market. Is the market large enough to support your restaurant? What is the general trend for restaurants in your area? Are they seeing a decrease in sales as well? If the trend in the area is going down, don't feel bad. Everybody is experiencing the same woes. Your job is then to reposition yourself so you can grab a larger share of the market. Also, a change in resort marketing might affect your restaurant for better or worse. If, for example, you are a family style restaurant, and the resort decides to go upscale. You will find that the market for your restaurant dwindling.

Responding to changes in the marketplace is something many independent restaurants fail to do well. The e-world is changing the way people eat. If you don't respond immediately, you might never recover. This adds to the headaches of the restaurant owner.

To recap:

Who is your customer?
Who are the resort's customers?
Is the overall market for the resort trending up or down and are you simply riding the resort's coattails?

Lastly and perhaps most important. Talk to the marketing departments of these resorts. They are the ones who steer the image and hence the type of guest they attract, and the more guests come to play, the more potential customers your restaurant will have. Have you found out if there was a change in marketing strategy 7 years ago when the restaurant was sold? Perhaps your guests are younger/older, more/less affluent, have/havenot kids? Talk to other business owners. Perhaps they might be able to help.

Good luck, don't hesitate to email me if you have any questions!

Kuan

[ June 11, 2001: Message edited by: kuan ]
 
11
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Joined Jan 9, 2005
Just some ideas that I have see used in various businesses:

1. Be the food sponsor at a local charity golf outing or some other kind of charity event.
2. Most local chambers of commerce have some sort of monthly traveling event (usually has "business" and "After hours" in the name. Host one at your restaurant.
3. Participate in some sort of local annual business expo - usually these have some sort of "Black Tie" night were the local movers and shakers show up in their tuxes.
4. Host a local chaity dinner at your restaurant - and makes sure you press release the local paper.
5. Have a REAL conspicuous billboard on the way into town (lots of $$).
6. Sponsor a give-away contest on the local radio station (talk to the sales folks at the station they do this stuff all the time).
7. Give hotels in the area discount coupons to give to their guests.
8. Have some sort of affinity program - eat here 10 times and the next meal is free or something like that.
9. Look at what non-restaurant businesses (not necessarily local) are doing to attact customers and see if their programs can be adapted to your restaurant.
10. Come up with some "gimick" that people talk about - flaming deserts - all you can eat - wonderful desert bar - anything to separate your place from the competition.


Good luck.
 
958
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Joined Aug 15, 2004
Stacland,
It's been 3 1/2 years since your original post. How about an update? How are things going? What worked? What didn't?

Should prove to be extremely valuable info for everyone!

Thanks,
doc
 
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