Direct Mail for Restaurants

Direct mail marketing for restaurants will help you get your share of the $440.1 billion dollars Americans will spend in restaurants in 2012. Creative advertising, specialty restaurant direct mail marketing and customer management can take a bite out of your competition and boost your bottom line.

Direct mail is a critical part of an overall advertising/marketing strategy for restaurateurs and one of the most important rationales for direct mail advertising is the ability it gives you to control every aspect of the process, providing you follow the nine essential steps to a successful direct mail campaign.

Do You Know Your Customers?

For restaurants, offering quality food, providing outstanding service and greeting regulars warmly is standard operating procedure. But do you encourage frequent business by compiling customer lists for staying in touch? Satisfied customers are most likely to become your regulars, whether it’s for special occasions or every Tuesday night.

Compiling a list of previous customers is the ideal way to offer specials, announce new dishes, share recipes or invite them to a special wine dinner or other event. Start compiling your customer database by using information from a guest book, reservation lists, drawing sign-ups or comment cards.

Once you’ve started, it’s vital to keep it going. Regularly adding names will build your list; keeping addresses current and eliminating duplications is just as important. At least once a year your list should be compared with The National Change of Address (NCOA) records; this process will save an enormous amount of time and money on your promotions – while keeping your mailing list current.

Restaurant Marketing – Cater To A New Crowd

There are several approaches to direct mailing to the households most likely to dine with you. The most affordable is mailing to selected neighborhoods with a Resident list that saturates your area. Once you select the neighborhoods, ValCards will compile a mailing list that’s walk-sequenced within carrier routes in specified zip codes. This offers the lowest postage rate; however, the piece will be addressed ‘Resident’ rather than including the recipient’s name. If your restaurant caters to specific demographic groups, there is a list that will serve your purposes, whether it’s income-based, households with families, etc.

Trying to fill tables at lunch time? Develop multi-person offers and mail to businesses within a predetermined geographic area – an office park, for example or businesses within a five-mile radius of your location. If your restaurant is equipped to handle a large crowd, business-to-business advertising is ideal for promoting catering and/or special event gatherings.

ValCards has the resources to help you put your name at the top of the list at meal time.

What's it going to cost you and what are you going to get for your investment? If you spend more than you make to sell a product or service,  including the cost of marketing, production and mailing, your investment can fail.   That's why ValCards mission is keeping mailing cost as low as possible while targeting your best prospects.

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  1. Is there a particular aspect of your restaurant's business that you wish to market.
    Of course, you want to bring in new customers, but perhaps you're trying to attract more lunch trade, or carry-out business, or more business on week nights. Other aspects of your business you may wish to use direct mail to improve are catering and use of your private party rooms.
  2. Decide what a successful campaign means.
    Usually the desired response is to elicit a decision to purchase, but an interim step could be to make customers aware of a new location.
  3.   Target your market.
    Direct mail is a proven advertising medium that allows you to precisely target, but to do so, you must know your market. Your insight into your market's habits and lifestyles will help you make decisions on lists. Accurate targeting is considered 40% of the equation for successful direct mail and finding the right list is an art.

    If your business is in a fairly affluent neighborhood, this may just mean saturating the area around your business. If, however, your restaurant is a fine dining establishment, you might need to buy a mailing list selected on the basis of income. If it's a family restaurant, you might want to target families with children. If you're interested in business lunch, catering or party trade, you may wish to target only businesses in your area.

  4. Research the competition and your own costs, then decide on an offer.
    Constantly research your competition's offers, but also industries with similar demographics. Ask your family, friends and neighbors, but also check with people who have different backgrounds and values.   

    You also need data on your own customers. How long, on average, do you retain customers? How much business, on average, will a new customer bring to you? How much does it make sense to invest in your offer to attract a new customer? The offer is another 40% of the equation for successful direct mail. Our experience has confirmed that discount offers can increase your restaurant business by 20 to 30 percent. 

    You may want to make a different offer to your existing customers than to prospective customers. It's often said that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. That's why maintaining your own client list is absolutely essential. These are people who already know you and your restaurant.

  5.   Choose an easy way for people to respond.
    If you're going after more "take-out" business, for instance, having a fax number to which customers can fax an order will make it easier for your employees to process more orders quickly.
  6.   Think backwards on the timing of the entire direct mail process and add the costs of the campaign per recipient into calculations of your offer.
    Know the costs of and the deadlines you need to meet to:
    • develop your customer mailing list and purchase a list of targeted prospects,
    • finalize copy,
    •   finalize graphic design,
    •   test offer,
    •   print all components,
    •   purchase postage and mail
    •   allow for response.

    If you're working against a hard deadline, such as the holiday party season, or other holidays such as Valentine's or Mother's Day, build in extra time to accommodate delays. The direct mail process should be about making your business more profitable, not more stressful, so be realistic about deadlines.

  7. Select the Best Direct Mail house You Can Find.
    You need a partner in direct mail that has the expertise to advise you on mailing regulations and costs of printing and mailing. This partner can also advise on the most reputable sources for lists that have been verified and updated.

    You also need a direct mail partner that can get your job done smoothly and on-time. Check with the Better Business Bureau, though your best prospect need not necessarily be in the same city you are located in. Check with the Mailing & Fulfillment Service Association website (www.mfsanet.org), a leading trade association to the direct mail business, to locate direct mail houses.

  8. Work with a Graphic Designer who can both advise and accept guidance. Clear and attractive presentation is considered the final 20% of the successful direct mail equation. Graphic design, however, needs to serve the tastes of your market, postal regulations and your budget. Don't let the designer drive the process with design that fails to sell or doesn't meet your other parameters.
  9. Test your offer and your mail piece on a small portion of your list first. If the extrapolated response from a small mailing does not cost-effectively meet your goals, reconsider all the steps in the process.

In addition to its ability to target, another beauty of direct mail is that you can easily chart the response. Once you've found a successful approach, it can be duplicated and expanded.  The rewards are great. Persevere!