There are hundreds of definitions of marketing that make clear its essence lies in studying the dynamics of the market, consumer behavior, and competitive environments. In the foodservice industry, success always depends on the level of customer satisfaction and, of course, competently conducted market research. Ideally, when creating a restaurant concept, you should already know your target direction. This knowledge affects your menu, design, and overall restaurant atmosphere.
One of the most common mistakes restaurateurs make is to appeal to everyone (after all, everyone has to eat), and hope for an endless stream of customers as a result. But in reality you can’t focus on such a broad category, otherwise what is the point of marketing? Another mistake is to target the wrong audience. For example, if you open a cafe near a campus and target the business sector, you are probably looking in the wrong direction.
Focus on making your place as comfortable as possible. Some restaurant owners just chase trends and create cafes or bars focusing on the interests of groups of people they themselves don’t belong to. Probably it isn’t the best idea to open a coffee shop for hipsters if you are a biker, or the other way around. It is necessary to accept this thinking and stick to it, then you will succeed.
What is a successful restaurant brand based on?
- Integrity. Your general idea should apply to everything you do, and not only the restaurant interior design or the advertising.
- Risk-taking. It is hard to get things right without taking risks. If you decide to exclude alcoholic beverages or meat from the menu, don’t try to please those who won’t accept this. It just means they are not your target audience.
- Sequencing. Don’t try to do everything at once. Analyze and apply new ideas step-by-step in order to attract your audience. For example, if guests react well to new morning special deals, then it’s worth continuing to experiment with ideas.
- Appropriateness. It ought to be very clear, but still, some restaurateurs go too far with their ideas, creating an atmosphere that fits only their own interests instead of focusing on what potential guests would like.
- To create a successful concept, you shouldn’t pretend or fake interest in an idea that has worked for your competitors. People always notice these things, so try to stick to your own beliefs and share them with your audience.
Why do you need to know your target audience?
There are several reasons:
- To build a successful advertising campaign (SMM, contextual, newsletters).
- To form the best possible assortment for a particular audience.
- To communicate with people, run promotions and other campaigns aimed at attracting new customers.
- To reduce the time needed for the development and promotion of the restaurant.
- To select new and unique products and offers that will suit a particular audience.
If the advertising budget is limited, then it is especially important to focus on finding exactly those people who will eat and order your type of food and dishes. Social networks accumulate data based on people’s interests that could be used to select the target audience.
For example, you can target an audience that lives in the same area as your delivery restaurant. By distributing flyers to mailboxes or handing them out on the street, you distribute information about your delivery restaurant to everyone, as you have no idea who even uses food delivery, or what people’s interests, and income levels are. On social media, you can set up advertising for people who live in the same area and order food delivery (it might be only 10% of all residents). So you save your money and time. That is why it is very important to promote your restaurant on social media.
How do you define your target audience?
Let’s start at the very beginning. A target audience is a group of people with specific needs that can be met by your business. In other words, your business should sell a certain product or offer a service that will tackle the specific need.
The target audience may be broad (everyone who drinks beer) or narrow (craft beer connoisseurs in the high price range). The wider a target audience, the more blurred its description, making it difficult to highlight the specifics of the potential customer. Demographic criteria help to draw the right picture, while erasing anything superfluous. To write a target customer profile, consider the following points:
- Social characteristics, such as gender, age, marital status, income, occupation, educational level, nationality and even pet ownership.
- How do people spend their free time (forums, websites, online shopping, social media, etc.)?
- What problems might a potential buyer solve by using your product or service?
- What feelings does your customer have for your product or service?
- Why should a customer buy your product, rather than a competitor’s?
How detailed should the target audience be?
When you create a target customer profile, try to highlight and describe the most typical representative. Use all the demographic criteria that we mentioned above. Only in this way will the description of the target audience really be a portrait. After seeing a written profile, everyone should be able to imagine a specific person. This will be perfect if you add a photo collage that complements the description and helps to visualize the person.
Make at least two profiles: a short one (based on 3–4 criteria that allow separating your consumers from the rest of the market), and a full one (describing the buyer in as much detail as possible, his habits and consumption characteristics, and key values).
To collect the information and form your target audience, use these methods:
- A questionnaire on the restaurant website, social media or in person at the restaurant. This allows you to acquire information about target transitions, age, preferences and other important data about customers. Many POS systems for restaurants have built-in customer loyalty programs so you can motivate existing customers with discount- and bonus-based programs, offering them a special guest card if they answer the questions.
- Polls on third-party websites, groups, and forums.
- Other research conducted by marketing agencies.
The number of new restaurants usually grows faster than customer demand, so there is always a need to extend the existing audience and reach a couple of new sectors. In addition, the target audience of the restaurant business is gradually changing. That is why the task of finding new customers always takes first place, especially during periods of economic crisis and unstable situations on the market. One of the tools that restaurant owners use for defining a target customer is the 5W method. Let see what this is and how it is applied.
The 5W method
The 5W method of customer segmentation is one of the most popular approaches. According to this principle, you need to answer five questions about your potential audience:
- Why? (Why should people come to your restaurant?)
- What? (What will you offer them?)
- Who? (Who will they be?)
- When? (When will they come to your restaurant?)
- Where? (Where can you serve your guests?)
Let’s figure out how this works using the example of a pizza restaurant.
Why should people come to your pizza restaurant?
Let’s say, people want to have a nice dinner, soak up some Italian atmosphere, maybe to celebrate a birthday or just chill with friends or family. The pizza house belongs to the more budget category of restaurants, so you don’t need a sophisticated menu. Stick to the most obvious dish selection: a wide range of pizzas (maybe you have a secret recipe), beer and non-alcoholic beverages, and snacks, sometimes adding special offers and seasonal dishes to the menu.
What will you offer them?
You must understand exactly how you will attract customers. You can offer unique snacks, specialties and cozy sofas, or make a bet on affordable prices and a large number of seats. The combination of these two options won’t work. Thus, you will have a choice of at least two target audiences, which may still be limited to the average check, or rather income.
Who will they be?
Let’s say, they are teenagers and family people with an average income in the 25–45 age range. They live uptown and visiting restaurants is the most popular form of their leisure. Usually, they go out once or twice a week.
They may have different value types:
- Those who don’t want to leave their part of the city and who are looking for a good place to eat right nearby.
- Those who don’t like extremely busy places and who prefer a cozy atmosphere rather than a food court in the shopping center.
- Those who are bored with home food and want to try something new but not too sophisticated.
When will people come to your restaurant?
According to revealed values, people usually visit a pizza restaurant on weekends, weeknights, and holidays. Therefore, you need to figure out how to use your place effectively during working hours on weekdays. The simplest option is to offer business lunches and takeaway food.
Where can you serve your guests?
The answer covers the service and the organization of food delivery in a certain area or possibly throughout the city. Much depends on the concept of the restaurant and how well-established the workflow is. Food delivery is a good solution for increasing profits and sales, but you will need to set up the logistics (dispatcher and couriers), hire more staff, and focus on this service in your advertising.
The advantage of the 5W method is its simplicity. It is not necessary to involve professional marketers to answer all these questions, so you can start putting the knowledge into practice yourself.
At what stage is it best to define the target audience?
The best option is to start after the analysis and segmentation of the local foodservice market:
- identify your main competitors;
- compare the competitor offers (menu, location, working hours, service level, etc.);
- highlight the main competitive advantages of other restaurants;
- identify their regulars.
After the research is done you can conduct an analysis of the restaurant target audience and make a customer profile.
Don’t be afraid to be unique! This is the chief quality of an entrepreneur. Not everyone finds it easy to open a restaurant. The longer you postpone the task of defining your target market customer profile, the more time and money you will spend tailoring to the expectations of your potential customers. The response of your customers will depend on how deeply you have studied the behavior, preferences, and characteristics of your potential customers.