Using your restaurant as a networking venue makes good business sense. If you do it well, not only can networking bring in extra money to your restaurant, but also large amounts of potential new customers.
Unfortunately, networking has gained a rather unfortunate reputation as a cheesy, desperate, rather yuppie-ish thing to do, but in reality, we are all networking all the time. In order to build our business, we all need to meet new people and tell them what we do, or ideally, show them what we do. Using your restaurant as a networking venue does just that – helps to build your business. Here are some ideas of how to maximise the opportunity of networking in your restaurant.
Appeal to Business Customers
In order to appeal to business customers, you need to know what they want and expect from a restaurant. Business customers tend to spend more money than leisure customers as they have a heady mix of trying to impress customers and an expense account. This means than any old menu and wine list just wont cut it – remember that they are trying to impress potential clients, so your restaurant is essentially an extension of their business. If your restaurant is tatty and the dining experience is close to non-existent, you will not win them over.
The way to appeal to business customers is to look like a desirable place – be clean and bright, with a quality menu that uses local and seasonable ingredients. Have a few ‘wow’ dishes like fillet steak and lobster, perhaps; as they’re the type of things people buy when they’re not paying! A few special wines will help, too.
Set Up a Networking Club
Networking clubs are very popular across the country, with business owners fast becoming aware of the benefits of building their client base through referrals. Networking clubs usually meet once a week at the same time and place, so why not make that your place? The members tend to meet in the morning before going to work, so having breakfast is a popular way to kill two birds with one stone. Members take it in turns to lead the meeting, usually with a presentation about their business.
Your restaurant could provide the breakfast for a set fee per person per month. A cooked English breakfast is popular, although you should offer fresh fruit and perhaps croissants, too. You would need to be open early on that day and set up the restaurant in an appropriate manner for business networking.
What is especially appealing about this is that if you offer a good experience to these networking club members, they are likely to tell their friends about your restaurant and perhaps return themselves for dinner on another night.
Offer a Monthly Draw
A monthly draw is a popular way to appeal to business customers. Have a glass bowl near the entrance and suggest customers leave their business card to be in with a chance to win a free dinner for two, or a bottle of champagne. You will then have a list of the details of customers who you can then add to your mailing list.
You could set up a page on one of the social networking sites such as Facebook to advertise your offer, where you can also contact your list of business customers to help build your list of ‘friends’.