How Are Restaurants Attracting New Business in 2022? Shuckin’ Shacks CEO Tells All!
The restaurant industry at large may have changed over the last two years, but the fundamentals of the business have not. Our extraordinary success is due to one simple philosophy; you have to treat people right to get them to come back, and when they do, hopefully they bring someone with them next time. And that next time, they might just come to the bar and order a beer. But think about it this way: people can get the same ice-cold draft beer anywhere in town, so why should they choose Shuckin’ Shack instead?
It’s a legitimate question, although there’s not an easy answer except to pay attention to your local market – cautious attention because it can make or break your first two years in business. If you ask our CEO Jonathan Weathington, it boils down to giving guests an experience they can’t enjoy anywhere else, something genuinely unique they can call their own.
Treating each customer like a VIP (but leave the suits and ties at home)
People love, absolutely love, the feeling of exclusivity in a restaurant. The doors are always open at Shuckin’ Shack; anyone can come in, kick up their feet, and relax. Still, never underestimate the emotional attachment guests build with their favorite places. You don’t have to be fancy and have sky-high prices to make people feel like a VIP every time they stop by. You’re looking for the “Cheers effect” where everyone feels at home, which has nothing to do with a luxurious, high-class atmosphere.
As Jonathan said, “I sound like a dense broken record, but the best way to attract new customers is to treat each customer you currently have exceptionally well and serve them a great product, and they’ll tell others about their experience.” That’s why the most successful restaurants are flourishing despite the uncertainty regarding rising food prices and labor shortages.
If you immediately greet every guest with a smile, serve them incredible seafood, and encourage them back after they close their tab. When your staff has done that, you’re off to a better start than 95% of restaurants. These small details focused on are the simple fundamentals that have made Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar a Franchising success. The catch is that those are only the essential dynamics, and people can get that at any successful restaurant, so what makes Shuckin’ Shack different?
When you come to our bar, we coach our front-of-the-house staff to greet you but keep things casual. If you come to the bar and stay for a while, our bartenders will learn your name, where you work, what sports team you like, where you grew up – and remember those details the next time you come in!
Notice that none of those things has anything to do with the type of napkins you serve or some fancy-pants dress code. Imagine how cool it would feel to visit a Shuckin’ Shack and have the bartender serve your favorite draft because they already know what you like. You must get to know people and make them comfortable enough to unbutton their collars for an hour or two. It does have an amplifying effect when you need to attract new business.
The following way restaurants attract new business in 2022 is through smarter marketing. Don’t get us wrong. Word-of-mouth advertising is essential, yet it should never be the only strategy. WOM has real legs in rural towns if the area has about 1,000 residents. Anything more significant requires a concerted campaign, but it doesn’t have to be ultra-sophisticated and high-tech.
According to Jonathan,
“of course, you should be doing all the baseline things: organic social media content, paid ads, mailers, radio, online videos, etc. – but these things won’t replace the customer experience within your four walls.”
So, the idea is to promote and advertise the experience: the energy and atmosphere matters just as much as serving great food. A five-star gourmet steakhouse depends on executing every dish flawlessly because that type of clientele expects to dine in style. The experience of getting excellent service in a “classy” place (candle-lit and oh-so-cliche) doesn’t necessarily make guests return the next day.
On the flip side, you have Shuckin’ Shack, which has regulars beached at the bar top four nights out of seven. It’s easy to do more innovative marketing with a Shuckin’ Shack because there’s a lot of material to work with brand-wise. People like to come back again and again because they’re comfortable.
Think about it from this angle, too: which type of clientele do you think has a higher lifetime value? Spoiler alert! It’s not a gourmet place; it’s a casual restaurant with repeat business throughout the week.
The idea is to pull off more innovative marketing by tailoring every channel to the local market. If you open up a Shuckin’ Shack in a college town, it’s best to go full throttle on social media that particular demographic uses most. If you’re opening up in a more down-to-earth, family-friendly community, you can get off the gas with social media and invest more toward traditional press and outreach.
Either way, Shuckin’ Shack does well at growing the business because we care about our guests. We tend to give them a different experience than they expect. That’s the secret to success during your first few years. If you pull it off right, your restaurant will almost seem to promote itself as long as you stick to the ideals and ethics that got you here in the first place.