Case Study: Steakhouse Takes a More-Is-More Approach to Marketing

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FSMerchant: Franklin Steakhouse
Market: Fairfield, New Jersey
Platforms: Facebook, Yelp, Harbortouch POS
Bottom Line: Restaurants can utilize platforms like Facebook and Yelp to establish themselves in new communities.

At Franklin Steakhouse, manager Frank Oliver is always on the lookout for ways to deepen ties between his one-year-old restaurant and the local community in Fairfield, N.J. In addition to tried-and-true tactics like partnering with neighboring businesses and hosting fundraisers for local charities, Oliver is taking a hyperlocal approach to digital marketing.

“This is terrible to say, but I’m trying to throw as much stuff up at the wall to see what comes back to me.” Oliver isn’t unlike many busy restaurant managers, tasked with handling the company’s online presence while also keeping an eye on both the front and back of house operations. When he’s not maintaining Franklin Steakhouse’s website and Facebook page, Oliver is sending out direct mail pieces, and developing an email newsletter. “I’m trying to hit every media right now, between paper, coupons, Facebook, and direct mail pieces, to try and bring people in.”

Tackling multiple marketing avenues at once is a time consuming, but necessary, process. Oliver says it’s impossible to capture all his potential customers through any one, single platform. “I’m 47 years old, so I’ve probably missed a lot of that computer-aged stuff … but there are people who are just pure Facebookers, meaning they live and breathe Facebook. So we’re trying to catch that market.”

In an effort to differentiate Franklin Steakhouse’s new Fairfield location from its sister property in Nutley, N.J.,Oliver has created a separate Facebook page that caters directly to his Fairfield clientele. On it, he posts information about upcoming events — like Girl Scouts Appreciation Day and trivia nights — alongside daily menu specials. “We’re trying to develop more and more relationships in the community, [because] everything is community-based.”

Although Oliver has tried using direct mail coupons for customer acquisition, he says it was a time consuming and expensive marketing project for an outcome that was “just okay.” He’s now working with an outside marketing team to come up with a digital coupon strategy for his company. “We do a lot of advertising with coupons and things of that nature. We’ve done some raffles, where people put their names [on a list] or fill out a form and raffle off different items, just to try and build a client list.”

While Oliver is currently taking a manual approach to creating his customer contact database — asking customer to write their email addresses on tabletop forms, then inputting that information into a spreadsheet by hand — he has plans to streamline the process by integrating his contact database with his point-of-sale system. Once he gets his system set up, Oliver says he’ll be able to use the customer purchasing data he collects through his POS, Harbortouch, for email newsletters and other online promotions. “You could do a lot [with Harbortouch] from a restaurant management standpoint, [but] any system is only as good as the information you put into it.”

Another marketing platform that Oliver says is critical to his restaurant’s success is Yelp. Oliver tries to keep a close eye on Franklin Steakhouse’s Yelp profile, and finds it frustrating when customers post complaints anonymously online rather than saying anything in person. “The most important thing I’m watching and seeing is word-of-mouth. We could do 300 great dinners, and all of a sudden one dinner comes out the wrong way, and that could ruin you. You’re only as good as your last meal.”

The Takeaway
As a relative newcomer in the Fairfield market, Franklin Steakhouse can’t afford to miss potential customers by limiting the platforms it uses for marketing. Although the restaurant’s plans for email newsletters and digital coupons are still in the works, Oliver expects these promotions to yield great results (in customer acquisition) when they’re launched later this year.

While Oliver understands the importance of managing his restaurant’s reputation on Facebook and Yelp, he’s still not completely sure of the best way to handle these hyperlocal channels. He is frequently on the lookout for outside sources who can provide guidance, not unlike many other small businesses.

In an effort to prevent himself from being spread too thin, Oliver is hoping to use more of the marketing features offered through his POS system, Harbortouch, in the coming year. By utilizing the platform’s customer database builder and menu setup features, he’ll be able to automate the process of collecting customer contact information and decrease the time he spends manually inputting data into various spreadsheets and online portals each day.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.