Often Groove Magazine and I are asked to go to restaurants that desperately want media attention. Often they contact us 2 or 3 months after they've been opened. I am often reluctant to go to these places for I can sense the desperation from the owners and the restaurants. They have the field of dreams philosophy for marketing, “If you build it, they will come.”
It’s not enough to build it. Marketing is just as important as the décor, the food, and the service. If you don’t have people in your restaurants and stores, everything is pointless. So today, I would like to give you tips for potential restaurateurs and those that already have restaurants.
• New restaurants, before you open, you should have a plan of action. You should have a marketing plan. You could have the most amazing food in the world, but if no one knows about it, then it'll all end up in the trash. Jumping on a trend is not the best way to succeed because everyone else will jump on the same bandwagon.
• Location, location, location. Don't follow the field of dream’s idea of "If you build it, they will come." Remember, in the movie, the family almost lost their home, their farm, and their sanity.
• Plan for the long term. Have enough money saved for 1 year of operation, because there is a good chance it will take 1 year for your restaurant to take off.
• You must differentiate yourself from the crowd, so make a signature dish that will grab people's attention. For example, Tartine's in Itaewon's signature tart is the Rhubarb tart. Primo Baci Baci has a pasta served in a bread bowl, Outback has brown bread…etc. This signature dish should have an attractive price to get people excited about it. Now even if you don't make as much money off it, don't worry, for it will bring you more business.
• Find your target demographic. Think about the people you want to attract to your restaurant. Many restaurants that I've talked to say, “everybody.” Sure, that sounds like a great idea, but it doesn't work. For example, the restaurant Agra in Itaewon specifically targets young Korean couples. The atmosphere is romantic and a tad dark. The interior furniture is modern Indian. This restaurant doesn't have the best food (honestly, I think it's the worst Indian in Itaewon) but they are constantly busy and they recently opened up a branch in Myeongdong. Think of your specific target audience, and how to market to them.
• ADVERTISE! Have a budget for marketing. Most restaurants think they can do it themselves; but honestly, they can't. Build partnerships with people in the media. Advertise. Groove Magazine is a great resource as well as online websites (www.seouleats.com hint, hint). Also get consulting from people in the field. Take notes of how these people market your business and next time, you will be able to do it yourself. Restaurants are hard businesses to manage, so it's important to have someone dedicated to marketing your business.