It’s now common for most people to look beyond pricing alone when considering their purchase options, and this is clearly a growing trend. The emotions that a customer has towards a business will play a large role in the decision of where to spend their money.
This presents a range of opportunities for enterprising restaurant owners. But what kind of community-focused initiatives could you introduce? And what are the possible longer-term benefits for your restaurant business?
A community hub
Any restaurant could take steps to publicise all community events and make useful community service information available to their customers. Clearly, this would also involve highlighting products and services provided by other local businesses. Such a move would make it much easier to initiate and develop a system of informal reciprocal cross-trade recommendations, some of which may then progress to become more formal local partnership arrangements which benefit all participants.
This could help you to make your restaurant a highly visible contributor to the well-being of your neighbourhood. At the same time, you could build a stronger nucleus of regular customers and promote sustainable employment prospects, not only within your own business but also far beyond.
Food-related activities are popular, high-profile opportunities offering entertainment, education, health and cultural insights and more, which should be well received by local people. For example, a restaurant is supremely well placed to offer out-of-hours cookery classes for both children and adults.
And that brief might, for instance, be extended to include parent-and-child ‘cooking with toddlers’ sessions – an opportunity for messy fun with delicious outcomes (and no clearing up afterwards) which could become a local highlight.
Though special evenings featuring international cuisine are not a new idea, you could incorporate appropriate music or live musicians and transform an Italian-themed food event.
In addition, you could offer further commercial opportunities to others in the community by including other local businesses in what you offer on the night.
Do you have a dull or neglected public space your business could adopt and brighten up? For a very modest outlay, your restaurant could keep it tidy, adding flowers and other appropriate attractions. If you choose your project wisely, such community-oriented sponsorship could boost your reputation, while the continuous free advertising it provides could also boost your profits.
Sponsoring local events which bring the community together are a time-honoured way for businesses to enhance the lives of local people. There is a broad range of choice, which might, for example, include providing catering facilities for the annual fete, or providing food and drink stations to support charity walks, swims or marathon events.
With some careful forethought, a business owner can become involved in such events in a way which does not overly tax business capital or resources.
Committing to sponsorship of ongoing entities, such as sports teams, clearly requires more effort than a one-off event. However, a popular activity such as a children’s football team, where your restaurant provides light, energy giving finger-food snacks and drinks at half time, will usually generate a great deal of feel-good publicity.
In local communities, practical assistance and involvement with local events usually creates more impact than a cash donation, which can seem a more distanced response. And in most instances, it’s also a cheaper option, while simultaneously avoiding adverse comparisons with larger cash commitments received from bigger business outfits.
Don’t underestimate the powerful influence of community involvement. Not only does it raise the profile of your local restaurant, it also creates a network of inter-community relationships. At a stroke, a restaurant owner will find there is a small army of brand ambassadors prepared to spread word-of-mouth recommendations.
Furthermore, while a strong community presence is in essence genuinely ‘free’ advertising, it is nevertheless far more valuable than even the best of advertising. After all, advertising alone can only promise that a business will serve its customers and community well, whereas community initiatives demonstrate that the business involved has already delivered. That is an outcome of a far higher order.