Many people make the mistaken assumption that franchises are not local businesses. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make your franchise restaurant a mainstay of your community.
Local Stakeholders Create Community
Small businesses are the backbone of communities across the country. Coffee shops serve as early morning gathering places, restaurants provide a place where families reconnect, and shops selling retail goods keep lives running smoothly. Unfortunately, many people do not equate a franchise with a locally owned business. They assume their neighborhood Dunkin’, Subway, or Chick-fil-A is part of a big corporation and don’t put them in the same coveted category as the local mom-and-pop diner or pizza joint.
Franchises make up a large portion of businesses in the U.S. At least 10 percent of all businesses are franchised, and foodservice leads the way. Three out of every 10 restaurants have more than one location, and many operators turn to franchising for expansion, the National Restaurant Association reported. Researchers forecast there will be approximately 225,245 franchised restaurants in the U.S. by the end of 2022.
Franchising allows restaurateurs to operate a concept with a proven track record and the menus in place to generate sales. People relish knowing they can enjoy familiar food, a consistent experience and, usually, affordable prices. While their brand may have nationwide recognition, franchise restaurants are typically owned by people who are active members of their local community. They live in the area and have a stake in the community’s success.
It’s up to individual restaurateurs to tackle the mistaken stereotype by involving their establishment in the local community. Our Town America has been helping local businesses introduce themselves to new residents for more than 50 years. Over the past five decades, we’ve learned some easy-to-implement tips and strategies eateries can employ to turn their restaurant into a local fixture.
1. New mover marketing. One surefire way to help your restaurant stand out is to incorporate a new mover marketing program to capture new residents before they form loyalties with the competition. In 2021, more than 27.1 million people moved, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Whether people move for a lower cost of living or to start a new job, they’ll need to establish a new routine and get to know the businesses in their area.
As part of my company’s new mover marketing program, we send a Welcome Package filled with proven offers to new residents. Unlike coupons or discount mailers, the proven offers are gift certificates to treat customers who are weary from unpacking boxes and painting rooms. Once a customer redeems their new mover offer, a second mailing saying thank you can be sent to help keep your business top-of-mind – and even pose a second offer.
2. Leverage social media. Social media is a great tool to increase engagement. At least seven out of every 10 Americans use social media regularly. Posting behind-the-scenes views of your restaurant or a day-in-the-life showcasing of one of your employees can help people identify with your eatery. Include calls to action in your posts to encourage comments.
3. Treat local influencers to a meal. Social influencers are the new celebrity endorsement. The $13.8 billioninfluencer marketing industry is gaining ground. A majority of brands rely on influencers as part of their omnichannel marketing strategy, according to a survey of 5,000 businesses by Influencer Marketing Hub, a social media resource. Every city has some social media gurus who tout local shops, restaurants, and activities. Invite some of your area’s most popular influencers to dine at your restaurant. Once they post details about your business online, they’ll spark interest and ramp up your follower list.
4. Partner with a local business. Generate buzz about your restaurant by partnering with other local businesses. If your doughnut shop is next to an oil change business, offer up a free coffee people can enjoy while their car is being serviced. Partnering with other local businesses for promotions is a win-win for both parties.
5. Create a team atmosphere. Owning a restaurant isn’t only about cooking great food. A big part of any restaurateur's job is to secure the staff required to provide stellar customer service. Do your best to create a team atmosphere amongst your employees. Satisfied employees shine when it comes to customer service, and they help build your restaurant’s reputation among residents. If people know your eatery is a great place to work, they’ll be happy to pay you a visit.
6. Network. Although you might prefer spending time in the kitchen, part of owning a restaurant is taking off the chef’s hat and networking with other businesses in your community. Join the local chamber of commerce and attend networking events. Even better, host a networking event at your restaurant where community businesses can connect and enjoy a meal.
7. Sponsor a local charity. Everyone loves a company that gives back. Get acquainted with people in your community by having your restaurant sponsor an area charity. It can be as easy as ponying up some cash to sponsor a local swim team or take it a step further and raise funds for a worthwhile cause at your restaurant.
8. Participate in community events. Host a table with some munchies at your local farmers market or serve food at a community concert. Seeing your restaurant at community events will help change its perception by residents.
9. Mix up the decor. Fast-food establishments are particularly skilled at including unique touches in their decor to help them stand out. They may provide photographs of historical spots in the community or showcase the work of area artists to incorporate local flair. Focusing on the details can make a big difference and help create a hometown atmosphere.
10, Host local events. Make your restaurant a gathering place for community events. Whether your restaurant is the hotspot for book clubs or a place diners come to play music trivia, hosting local events can help get the word out.
Becoming a fixture in your local community will set your restaurant apart from the competition and help your business thrive.