weakest link

Most restaurant menus are bad. Really bad. If you’re a restaurateur, here are some tips to help you create your restaurant menu.

An eager entrepreneur is passionate about food. He scrimps and saves with the dream of opening his own restaurant.

Why invest in other restaurant startup costs if you're going to butcher your restaurant menu in Microsoft WordOne day, the opportunity presents itself. He sinks all of his financial resources into the building, fit-up, and other start-up costs. His success hinges on the success of that restaurant. He has spared no expense to make it the best it can be.

Opening day approaches.

He cranks up Microsoft Word and makes the menu complete with typos and freakish justification.

The end.

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While I’m on a rant about restaurant menus…

  • If I’m eating something in a restaurant, then logically it CANNOT be “homemade” (unless you’re in trouble with the health dept). The word you’re looking for is “homestyle”.
  • Do you sell salads? Most people eat salad dressing on those. How about a listing of your salad dressing choices?
  • Own a restaurant? Have a website for it? Do you know why people come to a restaurant website? The menu. Why have you hidden it, strung it out on 8 different pages, and made it a 25MB PDF?
  • Dear Fast Food Behemoth: How about listing what you have and the prices on the menu boards instead of blinky-flashy tv screens that change about the time I start reading them?
  • And to the original point of this post – If you own a restaurant, please hire a graphic designer to design a menu that works. Proofread it. Pass it around to people who are not your friends to see if it makes sense to them. It’s amazing that the single most important marketing piece for a restaurant is so badly butchered by so many restaurateurs.

social media marketing perfection

Small businesses and large corporations are all atwitter about how to do social media. (pun intended)

They hire snake oil social media gurus or they rely on advice from an agency (who only has 13 facebook fans and 81 twitter followers — mostly their employees and spammers) to sell them things that are common sense.

A few weekends ago, I enjoyed the perfect social media incident. Nashville’s Noshville Deli placed these Facebook updates in their followers’ streams on a lazy rainy Sunday morning.

And that’s all there is to it. You’ve placed your brand in the online lifestream of your customers. Just interact with them (and sell) based on what’s happening with their lives.

The secret to all marketing (not just social media) is pretty simple: It’s not about what you have to sell. It’s about what people want to buy.

It’s not rocket science. (unless you’re selling rockets)

rebranding the hut

hutIn one of the worst “re-branding” moves that I’ve ever seen, Pizza Hut is dropping pizza from its name and will now be known in some locations as just ‘The Hut‘.

What a great move. Trash over 50 years of brand equity for something that makes me think of a dark dank dwelling in the Third World. Of course, it’s been coming for awhile. They’ve brand-extended themselves to oblivion instead of doing the core product (pizza!) well.

What makes it even more sad/funny is the delusion they’ve sold themselves and are now sending out in media relations…

…characterized the name change as an attempt to transform its stores into hip hangouts…..The new “hut” stores will be more than a place to simply pick up some take-out…they will include televisions that broadcast CBS programs such as “Wheel of Fortune” and “Entertainment Tonight.”

Because we all know the kids think that nothing can be more “hip” than Wheel of Fortune. Maybe they could reach back into the CBS archives and air old episodes of ‘Murder She Wrote’ to be even more hip.

They just may have a bad case of self-loathing with their name. They’ve tried to “rebrand” the Pizza Hut name on several previous occasions like “Pizza Hut Pizza & Pasta Cafe”, “Pizza Hut Italian Bistro”, “Pizza Hut WingStreet”, and the half-joking April Fools’ prank, “Pasta Hut”. A smart guy once said “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity”

Hey Yum!, listen up. The problem is not the Pizza Hut name. The problem is the customer experience. Even though your spokesperson, Christopher Fuller, gave a cheesy non-answer to real issues, the facts are clear in the public’s mind: Your employees don’t care. Your stores are dirty. Your service is horrible. (In one of my local Pizza Huts, there’s a sign above the lunch buffet that says not to even bother requesting any type of pizza because they aren’t going to do it.) And as I previously said in this post, you have forgotten your core product.

In kneejerk fashion, other chains may follow the move:

  • Dominos will become “Backgammon”
  • Papa Johns will become “Papa Smurfs”
  • McDonalds will become “Mick”
  • Taco Bell will become “The Bell”
  • KFC will become “Sammy Nellas”
  • Burger King will become “CP+B”

Shoney’s gives you gas

Some marketing campaigns just don’t think things through.

Shoney’s has a new campaign for their “2 can dine” dinners. The spot is OK. It features a Confederate and Union soldier sitting down to eat…and obviously they don’t get along. The spot is interesting and funny if you pay attention, but you really have to pay attention to it (and repeat after me…consumers don’t pay attention). I saw it 3 or 4 times before I fully understood it. And I’m in the small minority of people who actually TRY to pay attention to advertising.

What kept me from biting on the spot was what seemed to be an afterthought in the spot. The viewers’ attention is fragmented by a “weather crawl” across the top of the frame that tells you to go to a website for a chance to win free gas for a year.

Free Gas…and the Civil War. They go together like peas and carrots. Grant went through Shiloh in a SUV.

I’m seeing alot of “free gas” promotions lately. These were cooked up in marketing meetings a few months ago in the post-Katrina/Rita days. However, here in late 2005, gas is relatively “cheap” compared to the summer…down almost a dollar. These gas promotions that were dreamed up a few months ago now don’t have the power they should. Never base promotions on what the current hot thing is…unless you have the speed to implement it quickly.

And here’s another marketing rule. Shoney’s, are you listening? Repeat after me…

Restaurants should NEVER give away gas.

Insert your own gastrointestinal joke here.

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