Location, location, location – it’s an unfair advantage in the tourism and hospitality trade. Restaurants with terrible service and mediocre food can soak up the tourist trade provided they’re in the right place, while establishments with much more to offer can go out of business for lack of feet through the door. However, just because you’re not on Vilakazi Street doesn’t mean you have to give up hope. With some savvy business acumen and flair, you can bring those tourists right into your place. Here’s how.
Make friends with the gatekeepers
Make friends with the front-of-house staff at every hotel backpacker and B&B in town. Find out who’s on AirBnB and make contact with them too. Such hospitality providers are the first people that guests ask for a dining or drinking recommendation, so their influence is great. Invite them to your place for a meal so they can recommend you with confidence. Provide samples of goods and your own branded cards for them to give their guests. If you devise a reward system for referrals – maybe a free meal for every 20 customers they send your way – it will give your contacts that added incentive to help you out.
Visitors to the township often want to take home the authentic “local experience” and here's how.
Social media magic
Find out how to use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram like a pro. Set your brand apart with hashtags and posts of your signature food, entertainment, or whatever it is that makes you great. Look for the Twitter handles that tourists follow and post there. Then, promote your venue with Facebook advertising. As soon as travelers “check-in” at their vacation destination, local ads start popping up on their Facebook page – make sure your ad is one of them. It costs a little money, to be sure, but it means you won’t have to sit up posting social media updates and searching for followers.
Offer an experience
Visitors to the township often want to take home the authentic “local experience”. Make sure you provide it – train your staff to spread the vibe of your area by acting in a particular way. Find out where customers come from and tell them all about what makes your neighbourhood so great. If you create that special connection with your customers, they’ll feel like they chose the perfect restaurant for their holiday, and they’ll tell all their friends when they get back home.
To give tourists the memory of a lifetime, do something really unique with your place. Maybe it’s a crazy theme, maybe it’s the world’s wildest menu – your imagination is always a competitive advantage if you use it right.
Spread the love
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Reach out to the owners and managers of tourist attractions in your area and suggest a cooperation scheme. Offer to promote their venues if they’ll do the same for you. Take things a step further by getting together with local theatres, museums and other attractions to piggyback on each other’s promotions. If a local music venue is having a theme night, you could join in on the theme and promote your restaurant as the ideal place to start the evening. Team up with township tour operators – give them a reason to include you on their route. Finally, work with your local tourism bureau – it’s their job to boost tourism, so they can help you promote your restaurant through their marketing.
Check your ratings
You know you’re getting somewhere when your restaurant starts getting reviews on TripAdvisor and other platforms. As soon as that starts happening, claim that space. Make sure the information about your business is accurate. Add photos of your décor, food, drinks and events. Engage with your base by responding to reviews. This is a great way to build your brand by showing a human face. Always stay positive, and use any complaints as a means to upgrade what you have to offer.