Cultivate Customers Through Your Chamber
It’s plain and simple. You want more customers through your restaurant doors.
It’s time to take a look at the endless possibilities your chamber of commerce can provide including Facebook blurbs, face-to-face networking, menu distribution and much more.
A study by The Schapiro Group showed that 63 percent of respondents said they would buy goods from a small business if they were a chamber member. Just by being a chamber member and exhibiting that membership on your website, menu or front window can boost your sales. Chambers throughout the country also promote “Buy Local” campaigns, which help restaurant sales.
For just a few hundred dollars for chamber membership fees, restaurants can garner so much more in return. The San Marcos Brewery & Grill in California brings in around 25 percent more customers on Tuesdays because of its involvement with the campaign, “Don’t Cook Tuesdays,” created by the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce.
“Tuesday night is now one of our busiest. For us, the promotion has worked great,” says Dean Jacobsen, general manager of the restaurant. The brewery offers patrons a special deal that night—which the chamber advertises on its website—a two for $22 special including two entrées and a choice or dessert or appetizer to share.
“We are a business that doesn’t coupon, discount or advertise. So belonging to the chamber is our one and only media source and outlet. It is an important thing,” Jacobsen adds.
San Marcos boasts 176 restaurants throughout the city.
“Restaurant owners are married to their business,” says Joan Priest, the chamber’s director of operations and membership development, and a former restaurant owner. “They can’t come to all of our chamber events. So, we wanted to do something that helped them out.”
The Don’t Cook Tuesdays campaign peaked owners’ and residents’ curiosity and has become a hit in the past year. The chamber began running the restaurants’ specials and coupons on its website and promoting the campaign through brochures and flyers during chamber events.
“We really want to support them and show them that the strength of the community is the chamber of commerce. We are there to hear their voices,” Priest explains.
Giovanni Coratolo agrees. He serves as vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. He also spent 25 years owning and operating multiple restaurants from sports bars to Italian eateries.
“It’s a very demanding business, and many managers and owners overlook involvement in other groups such as chambers,” he points out. “But it is a great way to be ahead of the curve. It can pay huge dividends.”
He emphasizes that new restaurants should join their local chamber prior to opening.
“You are now part of the buzz within the community,” he says. “Your opening will be anticipated. The fact that you made a commitment to the community by joining the chamber is a huge statement to make at a nominal cost.”
Ways To Use Your Chamber to Build Business:
- Display your menu or a link to your website on the chamber’s website. Some chambers offer a diner’s guide.
- Watch for inexpensive advertising possibilities on your chamber’s membership guides, website and email blasts.
- Show off your specialty dishes to visitors and residents at a Taste of the Town event.
- Get expert help to write press releases from the chamber’s communications people and ask for a list of local media.
- Highlight your new restaurant, grand opening or new location with a ribbon cutting. Photos of the ceremony often end up in local newspapers or on the chamber’s website.
- Enhance your credibility by placing the chamber’s logo on your own website, menus or other collateral.
- Sponsor a chamber event at your restaurant or cater one of the events.
- Hand out your menus at chamber events or display them at the chamber office.
- Be a fan of your chamber’s Facebook page and write a blurb about one of your great dishes.
by Lee Nelson