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The Equation of a Successful Restaurant.

January 20, 2014
Photo: Breakfast with Nick

Photo: Breakfast with Nick

Before getting into marketing, I was all about mathematics. Not only did I make it my major when I first went off to college, but I’m actually helping a girl with her Algebra in Starbucks while I type this article. Although I can’t say enough about how glad I am that I got into marketing, I still tend to think about solving problems as equations.  The success of your restaurant can even be seen as an equation if you measure success by acquiring customers, gaining their loyalty, then repeating the process.

More times than not, we marketing professionals leave out the importance of gaining the loyalty of our customers because it’s simply hard to do. Instead, our attention is focused on the more gaugeable components of marketing: click-through rates, coupon redemptions, Facebook likes, etc. I know that all of those things are significant, but they are only part of the equation. Solving this equation seems so difficult because its success exists outside of the marketing department alone. When my wife and I got married, my brother-in-law and family got us a plaque with the inscription, It Takes Three — the three being my wife, myself, and God. Now we definitely believe that statement, but we could have done without the plaque. It was ugly to say the least. That same statement can be said about the success of your restaurant. In this case, the three would be Marketing, the customer, and Operations.

When acquiring customers and gaining their loyalty, Marketing and Operations have to work in an integrated fashion to be successful.  A previous boss of mine once said, “Great marketing will ruin a poorly ran restaurant.” He was oh so right. Marketing may get you new customers, which is great, but it won’t come close to gaining the loyalty of your customers if restaurant is dirty and the employees aren’t pleasant. In fact, it will work against you and make sure the customers that do come in never return. Rather, Operations has to do what is called “four-walls marketing” to finish the equation. Four-walls marketing, as it relates to restaurants, is its own equation comprised of happy and well-informed employees who consistently serve quality and appealing food and who know that the day-to-day successes rely on how well they keep up the appearance of the restaurant and how well they treat the customers.

I first heard of four-walls marketing when I sat down with Brandon Horrocks, owner of Square Burger in McKinney, Texas. Square Burger doesn’t have a website, they don’t perform any type of advertising, and they don’t even have their name on their building. What they do have is a consistent flow of customers. Brandon says this is all because of four-walls marketing. Another restaurant that executes this well is Rowster Coffee in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When we returned to Michigan, I visited Rowster Coffee on multiple occasions not only to continue my job search, but to try this amazing coffee that I heard so much about. The Rowster employees take pride in what they do and they treat the customers with the utmost respect and importance. I’ve seen employees run outside to pick up trash during slow times, socialize with customers to make sure their experience was enjoyable, and even educate customers on the coffee bean roasting process.

If you’re thinking about ways to implement four-walls marketing in your restaurant, my recommendation is to first answer the questions below found on

  1. Is my business environment one that I would feel comfortable in as a customer? Is my business clean? Does it look sharp? Does it sparkle? An outstanding environment can become the home of outstanding customer experiences.
  2. Are my products made with the highest quality and consistency? Believe enough in your products to inspire others to believe in them too. Because your reputation is at stake, you should tolerate nothing less than perfection.
  3. Does my staff project a positive, enthusiastic, customer-minded attitude? This is the most critical element. The people within a business determine the ultimate success of the business. What kind of company do you keep? Instill in your staff that building relationships with customers is the business of doing business.

Good luck!

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 20, 2014 3:30 PM

    Marketing might get a customer in the door but it’s the experience that will determine if they come back or not. Everything from the taste of the food, the speed of service, the comfort level, and cleanliness all play a role.

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