Training vs. Marketing: Which Will Help More in Your Restaurant Business?

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The real question here is… where should you spend your time and money? Should it be on retention efforts (training) or on acquisition (marketing)?

Jim Sullivan, in Nation’s Restaurant News, explains why training your restaurant employees is the most important thing you cam do for your business. He said, “A well-trained staff delivers on the brand promise and creates brand affinity with customers, two critical drivers of repeat business.”

As he explains, paying boatloads of money to get customers in the door is only worth it if you can get them to come back again. But, that doesn’t mean customer acquisition is not important. To help understand, he lays out the four stages of the buyer’s journey and which area you should focus on most in those stages. Ready to dive in?

Awareness: Here is where the marketing comes in because, without it, how will potential diners even know your restaurant exists? Spend the money here – do some advertising and promotions for your restaurant. You can’t retain customers if you don’t first get them in the door.

Consideration: But, before any diners walk through that door or make plans for an evening out, they have to decide if your restaurant is worthwhile. “They’re now aware of you and trying to determine if you’re worth their time and money,” Sullivan writes. Did your marketing spark an interest in them? If not, everything you did in the awareness stage wasn’t enough.  It might be time, then, to reconsider the money you are allocating to the different marketing channels. However, if your marketing/acquisition efforts do get them in the door, it’s time for training to take over.

Visitation: This is the part when customers are in your restaurant, sitting down, dining. This is where they decide if your restaurant met the expectations they set in the ‘Consideration’ stage. As Sullivan says, the moment they walk in the restaurant is when the brand meets the customer and the customer meets the brand. It’s this stage when training and customer service matters the most. These customers chose to eat at your restaurant instead of the competitions. That means something.

Preference (Affinity): The last stage is when they choose you. Not once, but over and over again. This means they enjoyed their experience and have made the choice to come back. Sullivan says, “Preference drives repeat business and lifelong patronage. Only by excelling at the Visitation stage every time do you convert customers to prefer your brand over others.”  This is what every restaurant and business owner hopes for and should strive for.

Sullivan explains that the function of a business is not to make money (though it is a nice goal). It is to attain and retain customers. Hopefully after reading this post you have some good ideas on the best ways to make that happen for your business.

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