This past winter I did a consult with a 40 seat restaurant in a rural New England community who was looking for some additional marketing ideas. They had tapped out on as much online and offline marketing as they could do. They had also gone ahead and been progressive, and had gone to local business around them, met the owners and employees and offered incentives to come in to dine.
While the restaurant was keeping its head well above water, the owner wanted to be busier during midweek and in the “between” season or “mud season”, March through April of the mostly tourist driven area he was located in.
I asked him whether he had done a search for home based businesses in his area, and he said, he hadn’t thought about, it but he would. The end result of about a weeks worth of Googling on his end, of area home based businesses within 25 miles netted him over 400 active home based businesses, in comparison to the 23 brick and mortar businesses he had already approached. Note the active part, he found over 200 additional ones that were “part timers”.
We worked up some emailable coupons for his restaurant that he could send out to the businesses, (Bring a friend, get a two for one appetizer and a two for one dessert). The incentive being an appetizer and a dessert had to be ordered and an expiration date for the coupon was specified.
The following week he sent out email coupons to all the businesses he could find email addresses for, and spent several hours sending a short customized email with the attachment to each.
Of the businesses emailed, he got responses from over 250 of them. In the next month, the majority of them came to the restaurant at least once.
Over 70% of them apparently were aware of his restaurant previously, but because his food was “Mom and Pop” home style cooking, the incentive to come and eat there had not been high on their priority list.
The owner made a point of going out and talking to as many of the business invitees as he could, and found most had brought a spouse or significant other with them. To every couple he talked to he gave an additional incentive to come back
In two months time he saw more than 40% of his “new” customers become regulars. His food and good service were a huge part of his repeat business, but the original time he spent, only about 6 hours in total, netted him more then enough business to exceed what he originally wanted.
In 2000 the SBA did a study, the results were that more than 52% of businesses in the US, were home based and provided 10% of the total receipts That didn’t take into account the additional income that the partners of the home based businesses generated, many working in the corporate world. http://archive.sba.gov/advo/research/rs194.pdf The trends now in 2012 remain slighly higher then that original study and are continuing to slowly grow in number.
Even if your restaurant has gone the extra mile, approaching area businesses to network and inform them about your restaurant, whether it be rural or metro, have you given any thought to all the home based businesses out there? It’s a largely untapped target market.