One of the biggest mistakes a new restaurant makes is trying to appeal to everyone. With this in mind, their location is often determined by foot-traffic and optimum visibility. When you consider that some of the most successful venues are out-of-the-way and out-of-the-ordinary, it may give one pause. McMenamins, in the Pacific Northwest, has experienced extraordinary success from restoring unique historic buildings and adding their own eclectic touch of art and atmosphere, and they are often miles away from the nearest populated center. There 60 plus restaurants and pubs are designed from old schools, chapels, farmsteads, and even an insane asylum. Their calling card? Handcrafted ails, wines and spirits in unique venues. Their target audience? Families and the 20 to 30 something crowd out for a good time, depending on the location. Oh, and those that like a pint of good ale.
Your Target Audience
A fear of many restaurateurs is that by defining their target they will essentially limit their number of patrons. The truth is, without a target, you don’t know what you’re aiming at. You can’t market for both the hip and single crowd and the 40 something polished professionals and the family of four. Well, you can, but it won’t work. If you already have a design and menu in mind than you probably have the clientele you’re marketing to as well. Now you need the demographics. Where is your target audience dwelling?
Do Your Homework
Answer the following questions regarding your demographics:
- What type of persona do you see entering your establishment?
- What is your targeted audience’s age and income?
- Is your restaurant going to appeal more to families, singles or retirees?
- Are they business professionals, IT-obsessed geniuses or sports enthusiasts?
- Are you calling to large groups or do you offer a more intimate and quiet affair?
Gender, age, race, religion and background all fall under the demographics model. That may not sound very politically correct, until you consider the following: How many restaurants cater to a group with a sexual preference or ethnic or religious background? A lot.
Find out Where your Target Market Lives
Now that you know who you are marketing to, find out where they live. The local Chamber of Commerce often has access to a wealth of data or can direct you to the appropriate source. You will need census data for various neighborhoods. There are numerous demographic search sites online including the U.S. Census Bureau. A good goal is to make sure there is a large population, 50,000 or more, of your particular demographic working or living within a five-mile radius—making it easy to stop by your establishment after work or on the weekends.
If your concept is a sports bar, your location and target audience is fairly easy to define. Consider the iconic Cubby Bear right across the street from Wrigley Field. Your menu and décor screams business people? Consider downtown in an area that has those particular businesses with the demographics that define your target clientele. The power lunch spot in Century City—Hinoki & The Bird— knew the power players that worked nearby and clearly defined their business with them in mind.
Placing your concept in an area where your target market lives gives you more than a fighting chance during that first critical year. Make sure that you are marketing to the target audience you have in mind and that you are on the right platforms. If you’re focused on the generation that has never known life without a cell phone, high-speed internet, posts and tweets, be sure to market where they live—on the social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your voice and brand must be designed with your target audience in mind, or vice versa. Whichever comes first, make sure the other follows.
If you are unique enough to market yourself as a destination, such as the previous example of McMenamins, than throw everything that came before right off the table. There are always those exceptions to every rule and a destination restaurant or pub is one of those. Just remember to be very clear on your concept. If you know you’re a local eatery that is going to rely in large part on the surrounding community, determine your target customer, find the place where they reside or work, and market on the platforms where they live—and then open the doors and welcome in the crowds.