Saving your reputation

I’ve written before about the necessity of good promotion and marketing to make a restaurant successful. When most people think of marketing they think of advertising but that’s only an element of a wider marketing plan and, for many independent small businesses such as a single restaurant, advertising can be beyond their budget; at least to make a significant effect on their business.

It’s different for large corporates, particularly those with multiple outlets. When an organisation such as McDonald’s commissions an advertising campaign, the cost is shared amongst their many restaurants making things very cost effective. Whereas even a small single advert in a magazine is a major commitment in effort, time and money for a single site owner manager. That’s why you don’t see that many TV adverts for single-site businesses.

Large corporates, of course, also have large marketing departments with loads of clever young things coming up with ideas. But while that can give them considerable power, it doesn’t shield them from getting things wrong. Pepsi, for instance, launched a campaign in China with the slogan “Pespi brings you back to life”. Fine, until the people who’d spent all the money on design and media were told that in China that translated as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”. And when our once proud Electrolux, admittedly a Swedish company, marketed its vacuum cleaners in the USA, they couldn’t at first understand why their slogan “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux” didn’t work.

But advertising is just one aspect of the marketing mix which also includes things such as PR, staff culture and any other way that can be used to get your company’s message out to prospective customers.

Of course, these days that includes social media and there are some real champions out there. Knowing how to use the likes of Twitter and Facebook can add considerably to your business’s success but isn’t enough on its own. It tends to be those who are passionate and knowledgeable about their business subject that have the most interesting things to say and, as a result, get people to follow them – and, hopefully, buy from them.

While we use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to varying degrees of success, I follow a number of restaurants around the country who make me laugh or make me want me to learn more about them. One such restaurant is the Sticky Walnut in Chester, twittering under the handle @stickywalnut, which has a prolific output. Funny, irreverent, irrelevant and informative all at the same time, it’s really worth following, at least for a while. But be warned: as with all things on the internet, if you’re not broad of mind, you may be a little shocked by the fruitiness of the content. But, in their defence, these guys are under pressure and doing a great job. A little shocking goes a long way and it’s doing their fabulous restaurant a great service.

At Oldfields we like to shock a little but I’m not sure if our recent mailer to our Real Food Club members shocked in a way that was helpful when we gave out the message that we may not be around for much longer! Because of the fact that our building, along with half the street, has been acquired for a few million by a company called Student Castle with the intention of building 400 plus student flats, we sent out one of our regular newsletters with the headline: Contrary to the rumours, we’re still here! Unfortunately, we omitted to mention, for the benefit of those who didn’t know about the proposed development, that we have a lease until 2022 and that, unless our new landlords can help us move to new premises, we’re staying put and all life is rosy. In fact, we’ll soon be announcing a scheduled spring redecoration and, of course, we’re looking forward to 400 students as our neighbours – unless there’s some other solution.

It takes minutes to put together a brief newsletter, or seconds to type a tweet on your phone. But I guarantee that it’s worth typing it, saving it, reading it, saving it and reading it again before sending it. As a chippy friend once said to me: get your piece of wood, measure it, measure it again, measure it again, then cut. The difference is, it’s not that easy to glue your reputation back together.

First published as Bill’s Bites in The Northern Echo

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