A recent study by Dinova found that 76 percent of restaurant owners and operators are not actively promoting their restaurants to business diners, even though a majority of those responding said they believed that business dining accounts for more than a quarter of their sales.
Attracting business diners as a growing and diverse source of potential new and repeat business could be key to boosting your bottom line. Here are five tasty ways to profitably engage more business diners.
Know Your Target Customers
Find a solid resource to research the business diner demographic and what is important to them. Never assume. Millennials, for instance, may prefer dining experiences that cater to their flex work schedules, but they also pay above average attention to their diets: 40 percent report health-related or cause-based restrictions, such as being gluten-free or vegetarian. On the other hand, Boomer business diners unsurprisingly tend to take a more traditional approach to dining.
Dinova Tip: Both are great customers, so understanding your appeal to each group (and other business diners as well) can help you dip your toe into the business dining waters by focusing first on the diners already aligned with your particular niche.
Become a Preferred Partner
Dining is increasingly being viewed as a business travel expense to be managed – just like hotel spend, rental car rates and airline fares. With big businesses consolidating their travel budgets across a relatively small number of vendors, hotel, car and air providers are negotiating and offering preferred programs not just to individual travelers but to corporate travel departments as well.
Dinova Tip: Positioning your restaurant with companies and corporate influencers as a preferred option for employees will lead new diners to your door. This means you have to cultivate your reputation as a business-grade option – online via social media, your main website, customer and press reviews, etc.
Promote Your Experience in Addition to Your Menu
How do you get your brand on the radar? How do you cut through noise? Sixty-three percent of business travelers report researching their dining options prior to arriving at their destination, with 77 percent saying they prefer to “eat like a local,” and 49 percent saying they research foods that are unique to their destinations. All of this pre-trip research tells us that today’s business travelers care deeply about the quality and content of their dining experiences – even when they’re on the clock.
Dinova Tip: Promoting a memorable dining experience along with your tasty menu choices is critical to elevating your restaurant above the many choices presented to these diners who are interested in optimizing the times when their business and leisure opportunities overlap. Photographs of popular menu items and the ambiance of the restaurant connect more effectively with diverse dining preferences.
Referrals Win Business
Whether it is word of mouth or via the web, an enthusiastic referral will always be more authentic and credible to business diners than any amount of slick marketing. Making the request for a dining referral a consistent part of your diner engagement can pay dividends. Diners have a knack for highlighting that special something about a dish they enjoyed or capturing ambiance attributes that connect with potential new diners.
Dinova Tip: Keeping up with your referrals online is key, as is the manner in which you engage reviewers. A warm “thank you” or even addressing a diner’s critique with an attentive reply give an online review reader a real sense for how you do business. Finally, loyal diners won’t hesitate to refer their friends and co-workers if you’ve truly earned their business. Referral rewards programs are a fantastic way to thank them for taking the time to pass along a good word about your establishment.
Traveling is difficult these days and business travel can be a grind. While having a new diner choose your establishment for the first time is exciting and helps the bottom line, business travelers often return to the same cities many times in a year. Because they spend so much time on the road away from home, building relationships with business diners is critical to inviting and preserving repeat business.
Dinova Tip: One effective technique for fostering relationships with new diners is for your owner or general manager to visit tables during the meal, offering a brief introduction and a face-to-face invitation to join you again on a future trip. Keep in mind, however, that these diners may be in the middle of entertaining clients or discussing matters with an industry partner – so be sure to keep the interaction brief and professional and time your visit to make sense in the cadence of where it will fall in the context of the meal, as opposed to when it’s just convenient for making the rounds. Business diners won’t thank you for disrupting their “meeting,” even if they are in a public space. Tap into your online resources to discover other ways to keep building relationships with your business travelers.
Including travel meals, private dining events, and catering, business dining represents $100 billion in annual U.S. restaurant sales. These business diners bring in a higher than average check. Putting these five tips to work will help you increase your share of this pie.
Dinova Tip: Prioritize promoting yourself. Schedule a promotional activity for establishment every week. Starting small and taking even five minutes to create a post for your business social accounts or website will set you apart from the competition. Having your chef share his or her expertise by highlighting a new menu addition, favorite wine parings or intriguing insights from the kitchen is a winning recipe to attract new and repeat business diners.