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Strategic Marketing Planning For Restaurants & Hotels


13th May 2009


Making sure that your promotional pound is returned by more bums on seats requires good foresight. Without thinking ‘right person, right media, right message and right time’, you could be wasting precious resources.

We’ve all been there – you flip the calendar page over to reveal that it’s already Easter and you’ve only got 10 days to pull together Seafood menus for Good Friday, table-talkers, an a-frame poster and an email to your database.

While you’ve pulled it together before, it’s this haphazard approach to running promotions that tends not only to produce poor results and waste precious budget, but it puts unnecessary strain on your team and can confuse customers – or worse, the message doesn’t reach your target at all!

Let’s be clear. It’s likely that without planning, your Marketing won’t generate a desirable return on investment.

‘Band-aid marketing’ is extremely common amongst even the most astute Restauranteurs, especially during tough times. But there is a simple remedy to help you maximise the return on your marketing dollar and mitigate the risks in a time when your business needs it most – Employ Foresight.

Knowing when and how to spend on marketing is as much of a challenge as wage forecasting (which you all do, right?). It requires you to be proactive, to review the performance of past initiatives and to use this knowledge to think strategically about your decisions. But most importantly, it’s about allowing yourself and your management team the space to draw on their years of experience and intrinsic knowledge of your customers to develop intelligent, timely promotions for the year ahead.

Here are a few helpful hints to be proactive with your promotions:

Step One:

Organise a Kick-start meeting with senior staff and introduce a yearly planner. Start by marking, on the calendar, all hallmark dates that traditionally drive customers to your business such as Mother’s Day or Valentines, along with local events that you and your customers may be interested in. Review the previous years’ performance on those key dates and rank them in terms of opportunity for potential income (a tip is to use pound symbols – £, ££, £££). You’ll start to identify which activities you should focus resources on more than others.

Step Two:

Break the year into quarters and focus on the first two quarters. Choose your big opportunities wisely (one £££ activity per quarter) and count back eight weeks on the calendar. For smaller promotions, count back six weeks and mark the day to commence planning. This is the day to write up a brief plan for the promotion. Aim to create a list of actions and a timeline of when all the elements need to be in place. Ideally your message would hit the target audience three weeks out from the ‘go live’ date.

Step Three:

Focus on activity in the next three months. Ask yourselves the following questions for each promotion and note down the answers:

  • What do you aim to achieve? (Increase sales? Brand awareness? Increase database?)
  • Who do you want to attract into your restaurant? (Previous customers? Groups?)
  • Where are these people? (Local area? Surfing the internet? At the restaurant across the road?)
  • What types of media do these people respond to? (Email newsletter? Discount Coupon? Etc)
  • What price-point or ‘hook’ would encourage them to visit?
  • What are the key messages that you want to communicate to them?
  • How much did you earn on this day last year?
  • What can you afford to spend on this promotion this year?
  • This process helps to generate ideas and ensures everyone works towards a common goal. Allocate tasks and responsibilities, but remember to write it all down with ‘due dates’ on a timeline.

The final step is to review your calendar and to schedule a Marketing meeting every 3 months that reviews past performance, and plans activity for the next quarter. A long term view is the key.

Although discounting is currently working at the moment as the year goes on it will be the big ideas that will cut-through and attract larger share of market. It may not be enough to settle for a simple discount offer or revert to the standard ‘set menu’. Intelligent, planned and targeted ideas with impacting designs that are fully representative of your brand values will afford your business the success it deserves.

To help get your planning underway, download our Annual Calendar.
Sign up to Brightbox Marketing to receive your 2010 calendar later this year.

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