Three Strategies to Keep Your Restaurant From Failing in 2020

Economic experts have warned of a coming recession for some time—and the restaurant industry is likely to be one of the hardest hit. The industry has been experiencing record growth since 2007. However, a number of factors will likely contribute to the conclusion of that growth:

  • An oversaturated market. U.S. consumers enjoy nearly endless choices when it comes to popular concepts like pizza and burgers. Fast casual has also experienced a massive surge, jumping from 100 brands in 2007 to 850 emerging brands in 2019.

  • Rising labor costs. Labor cost is likely to increase, with predictions for the federal minimum wage to rise to $15.

  • Rising food costs. Products, suppliers, and vendors are likely to cost more, especially with recent pushes toward sustainability and accountability.

  • Weak sales. Based on average unit volume and growth, only a fraction of operators and brands are currently making a profit.

Consumer tastes and preferences are also changing. Mall traffic has largely declined, and more and more customers are gravitating toward on-demand delivery. Kevin Alexander, food journalist and winner of a James Beard award, has written at length about the topic in his 2019 Burn the Ice: An American Culinary Revolution at its End—you can check out his interview with Paul Barron here.

In this episode of Breakthrough, Barron explores how operators can go on the defense and put their brand on the fast-track to success—despite these challenges—through what he has coined the three-step “Market Share Kung Fu.”

1. Cross competitive analysis.

Barron advises operators to use your competitors as a guide. Identify who their customers are and find the best way to access them.

“Go after social lists in conquest,” says Barron. He suggests building a digital CRM platform to help in building these lists. Email acquisition is also useful, but should not be your primary resource.

Bounce back cards are also ideal. Drop a bounce back card into the delivery bag to encourage your customer to visit your webpage and enter their information—that way, you can gather data on where they are eating when they are not at your restaurant.

2. Geo-targeting.

This step is all about targeting: target by lookalike, by influence, by location, and by competitors.

“Serve ads based on behavior,” says Barron. “You want to know about their lifestyle… don’t just think about food.” Identify the places your customers—and where your competitors’ customers—visit. That way, you can determine what intrinsic qualities in an establishment attract and interest them.

3. Win the game of story.

More than anything else, your brand needs to have a story—and it needs to be better than your competitors.

“Your story has got to be something that connects to the local community—something that people can gravitate to,” says Barron. “Anything that can get you in behind a movement that connects you to a story.”

And you need to have a highly trained staff that can share and support that story every day. Ideal employees are able to quickly recognize and rectify a problem in an engaging, helpful way that keeps customers coming back to your restaurant.

Check out the episode above to learn more about data acquisition, geo-targeting, and training a SEAL team!

Breakthrough: Three Ways To Keep Your Best Customers

Cultivating a successful business is no easy task in an oversaturated market that is likely headed toward a recession. However, even in a perfect market and economy, companies within the hospitality industry often struggle to keep newly acquired customers.

In this episode of Breakthrough, Paul Barron explains how operators can better engage and retain customers through his three-step “Triple Power Punch.”

1. Establish points of super service.

Poorly trained staff and lack of consumer engagement are the primary reasons why customers disappear. Employees need to be able to effectively communicate your restaurant’s story to your customers, and their interactions with your customers need to feel genuine.

“The first engagement [with a customer] has to be able to establish the tone of your business,” says Barron. And when engaging with influencers, you need to be at your best. “Every influencer comes to your restaurant for one reason: to be noticed,” adds Barron.

Employees should follow a four-step process: meet, check back, educate, and ask for a comeback. Education could include sharing your specials or describing the unique programs your restaurant offers.

“A lot of servers are embarrassed to [ask for a comeback],” says Barron. “But they have to start being trained to get the ask.” Asking for a comeback could include prompting a customer to schedule a reservation for the next week or inviting them to a wine tasting.

2. Cultivate influencer loyalty.

Barron cites Sweetgreen as one of the most successful companies when it comes to consumer loyalty. Sweetgreen maintains one of the highest customer retention rates of any restaurant, and over 82 percent of its guests use the company’s mobile app.

“The top 20 percent of your guests or customers matter much more than you realize,” says Barron. “You have to create goodwill with your best customers.”

Some successful restaurants add a fee for premium tables, or require a credit card or some exchange to place a reservation. This can severely damage your relationship with current or potential customers—you want to be constantly offering upgrades or perceived upgrades to customers. “Double down on creating value,” adds Barron. “Do something you normally wouldn’t do to get those great guests to keep coming back.”

3. Create the perfect club.

Accomplishing “perfect” is no easy task, especially when it comes to a club. Clubs are a great idea, but they need to be implemented effectively and targeted to the right type of customer.

“Your influencers are the best opportunity you have for new customer acquisition,” says Barron. “The most expensive thing you can do is try and go acquire a new customer.”

Creating opportunities for special influencer engagements and parties is the better route for emerging businesses. Power guests want to connect with other influencers—and if they make great connections at your club, they will remember where they were and share the story of your business elsewhere.

Check out the episode above to learn more about connecting with influencers and crafting the perfect club!

EveryPig Offers First-of-Its-Kind Pig Health App

In this episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron sits down with Chris Bomgaars, the founder of pig health and management tool EveryPig. Barron and Bomgaars discuss the agtech industry at large, the unique struggles that swine producers, veterinarians, and caregivers currently face, and how EveryPig is using complex artificial intelligence algorithms to revolutionize the swine industry.

Episode Highlights:

  • Bomgaars shares his contract farming background and family swine business.

  • How do you build a system to work with pig owners and veterinarians in the global market?

  • Explain the concept of artificial intelligence and farming, and how it is already being implemented.

  • Some of the largest food companies in the world are afraid to use the technology because of a lack of education.

  • How many pigs are currently monitored within the app?

  • Are you interested in expanding to other species?

  • The app could become the industry standard, but other countries may take the lead before the United States.

  • What is the process for recruiting caregivers?

  • Animal protein vs. plant-based are starting to jockey for position—how do you see that panning out in the future?

  • What federal regulatory changes might be in the pipeline?

  • What does the future of EveryPig look like?

Three Key Points:

  • The swine industry needs to develop a quicker response time to medical concerns and lower pig mortality rates.

  • Telemedicine is ready for the industry—people simply need to be educated about its usage and benefits.

  • EveryPig aims to lower consumer costs, increase profits for producers with healthier pigs, and reduce overall antibiotic usage in animals.

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “The goal of EveryPig is to help every pig on the planet.” – Chris Bomgaars

  • “It’s not super sexy, but we’ve probably got the world’s largest database of swine post-mortem high resolution images. It’s incredibly important to make diagnoses and treat those animals.” – Chris Bomgaars

  • “We’re looking to get to a point where we’re going to be able to leapfrog the dependency we currently have on human caregiving in terms of their observations.” – Chris Bomgaars

To keep listening, check out The Barron Report podcast on iTunes Now!

Produced by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


Badass Women in Business: Kathleen Wood

On this episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron chats with restaurant industry leader Kathleen Wood, the founder of growth strategy firm Kathleen Wood Partners and the co-founder of frozen yogurt company Suzy’s Swirl. Wood’s firm collaborates with a number of Fortune 500 leaders, INC 1000 founders, and other emerging businesses throughout the hospitality, service, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare industry. Founded in 2012, Suzy’s Swirl is first and foremost a passion project and family dream.

“Seven years ago, my sister Sue, my niece Jen, and I started out on a journey to really prove the model that you could sell frozen delicious desserts to the frozen people in northern Illinois seven out of twelve months of the year,” says Wood. Suzy’s Swirl has been certified women-owned and women-directed by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). For Wood, her company is proof that “we’re at this tipping point for women really being in the business arena.”

Despite these opportunities, many women continue to struggle to rise in the restaurant business. According to Foodable Labs, less than five percent of women in foodservice are C-level executives—and of the top 150 emerging brands, only three percent were founded by women.

“If we’re going to shift this equation to increase visibility and increase women being vocal, I think women need to start doing more too,” notes Wood, citing recent studies that suggest women often do not feel comfortable asking for a mentor or sponsorship within their companies due to lack of confidence. “We have to be active participants in the solution.”

Wood adds that if you are in a company that does not offer such connections for women, you should leave. Businesses that do not respect or advance women will not last long in the ever-evolving restaurant industry. “Go to a place where you’re celebrated and not tolerated,” says Wood. “Be less concerned about the title and be more concerned about your passionate purpose… go to a place where you can bring your whole self.”

Check out the podcast above to hear Wood’s advice for handling the predicted downturn coming to the industry, how Suzy’s Swirl won this year’s WBENCPitch, and Wood’s plans for the company’s expansion in the next few years. And if you would like to keep listening, check out The Barron Report podcast on iTunes Now!

Produced by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


Breakthrough: How to Deliver Value Through Content Marketing

Understanding the difference between content marketing and advertising can be challenging for many emerging businesses. While advertising is simply promotion of your product or service (i.e. via banners, billboards, emails), real content marketing constitutes a complex, ever-evolving process for guiding potential customers to your content.

In this episode of Breakthrough, host Paul Barron explains why businesses are increasingly investing in content marketing instead of advertising, and explores a number of successful content marketing strategies used by leading brands and restaurants today.

“At the end of the day, you’re spending your dollars and your budgets on your content marketing,” says Barron. “Advertising is starting to disappear from the landscape.”

When compared to content marketing, advertising does little to build the relationship between a business and a customer. According to a 2019 report from the Content Marketing Institute, 90 percent of successful B2B content marketers have found that audiences “view their company as a trusted resource when they do content marketing.”

Businesses hoping to implement content marketing into their company need to accomplish three tasks: craft a personal, transparent voice for your brand, offer consistent content and omni media, and guide the experience of your audience.

“If you don’t have pieces of content that are actually delivering real benefit, then you’re not doing content marketing. You’re just advertising,” notes Barron. “People see through those advertising ploys. Get as much out there as you can before you start asking what it is that you want from your audience. Do the good deed first.”

Keeping customers is also much more difficult than getting them to make an initial purchase. To cultivate loyal patrons—the best kind of brand advocate—your customers need to feel like every interaction with your company adds value to their lives.

“If you’re not delivering value to your audience, you are not content marketing,” says Barron. “Consistency drives engagement.”

Check out the video above to learn about personalized retargeting and to catch a deep dive into Barron’s all-new, step-by-step content marketing funnel for successful content marketing!

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