Question & Answer – Small Business

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I own an eatery in a very slow mall. We have a corner spot right by the main entrance. I post daily specials and advertisements in the commons area. What else can I do?

Restaurants, like most businesses, are driven by sales and marketing. Marketing attracts customers, and selling your products to these customers is the goal once they enter your eatery! Since the nature of your question is marketing, that will be the nature of this answer. As most restaurants have small budgets, I will limit suggestions to approaches that can be implemented for little to no investment.

When performed properly, marketing should impact humans’ emotions and senses. The strongest human sense impacting the brain is olfactory, otherwise known as sense of smell. Many restaurants have learned to permeate the air inside and outside their places of business with smells that stimulate hunger and desire. Everything from chocolate aromas to the fragrance of burgers with onions will cause potential customers to turn their heads in an effort to locate where those hunger-alluring aromas are coming from. How do patrons come to realize there is a cinnamon bakery in the mall? It’s not the signage. Turn up the smell!

Visual marketing should appeal to human emotion as well. You can proactively stimulate anything, including romantic appeal, sophistication, sports enthusiasm or a hybrid of complex mixed visual appeals. These appeals can be incorporated into your branding, advertising and the visual nature of your eatery’s theme.

The challenge of attracting individuals that don’t typically walk by your restaurant can be tackled various ways. First, you should consider entering your name into every database imaginable. Many are free! Fewer people today are using the Yellow Pages, while a growing number are using the Internet to find restaurants. You want to get your eatery into visited places such as Microsoft Streets & Trips, as well as all the other major GPS and city commerce databases.

You should have a quality interactive Web page that includes your menu and a comments blog for customers. Your customer comments blog should be administratively controlled so that you make the decision as to what can and can’t be posted. On your Web page, incorporate printable coupons. Have a professional Web designer link your Web page to all the major restaurant engines. Put the Web address on those coupons you plan to hand out to customers visiting your eatery. Coupons are effective in malls—solicitation rules may vary, but if you can pass them out to patrons and vendors, do it! Also, consider establishing a Monday and Thursday discount for mall workers and store owners.

Finally, get involved in the community by joining the Chamber of Commerce, Optimist Club, Lions, BBB or whatever organization is appropriate for your location. Without continued networking, your restaurant may struggle to survive.

Many quality restaurants don’t survive, while many subpar restaurants do. Marketing in conjunction with clever branding is what makes it work. Marketing doesn’t necessarily have to cost an arm and a leg.

I have a Web design and development company that has grown quickly in the last few years. We are at the point where we have more projects than we can handle, but we do not have the resources to interview and train new employees quickly enough. We, in turn, have to turn away new business, which stifles our much needed growth. Should we outsource to grow rapidly and sacrifice some quality or keep everything in-house and turn away new business?

Your question is all about a Risk to Benefit Analysis.

Benefit: Controlled growth is the objective of responsible business planning. A question many growth-oriented business owners should ask is: How will I support the machine I built around large revenues if revenues dwindle? What happens if I build expensive payrolls in tandem with higher general and administrative overhead expenses to support my growth but our anticipated sales disappear? Outsourcing and temporary labor are often the easiest ways to make fixed costs more variable to revenues. In this economy, there can be tremendous benefit in making fixed costs variable. Unfixing costs should be a consideration in any economy during the elementary stages of anticipated growth.

Risk: When companies have more business opportunities than they can handle, their success may be due, in part, to product quality and customer service. The cumulative produces a favorable reputation that would be difficult to reproduce through marketing expenditures. It takes some time to develop a quality reputation, and it can be lost in an instant by losing control of your product quality and services. The obvious risk is losing some control as well as familiarity. Knowing there will be weaknesses ahead of time per the unfamiliarity of idiosyncrasies of vendors, and likewise vendors’ inability to fully understand your operations, can provide a proactive honesty from which to plan. Communication, time zones and a myriad of other factors can wreak havoc. You can continue to maintain quality control by not releasing any products until they pass internal quality controls. Though, keep in mind that vendor priorities and scheduling can be at conflict with your business’ objectives and mission.

Conclusion: The answer to your question is not black or white. When subbing out any intellectual talent, business managers should have a well thought-out plan full of research. The last stage of the process should include internal quality control gatekeeping. Setting honest client expectations per outsource impact on timelines is also an important consideration. The nature of Web design and search engine optimization (SEO) commerce can make outsourcing attractive. How well you can control it will determine whether you should or should not outsource!

Do you have a question about your small business that no one can seem to answer? Send it along to American Business Magazine at 570 Lake Cook Rd., Suite 210, Deerfield, IL 60015, or e-mail your question to We’ll do our best to respond to all inquiries.

About Geoffrey Gabor 7 Articles
GEOFFREY GABOR is an executive vice president. He has been invited to speak at Harvard’s Graduate Business School and, on multiple occasions, has been asked to instruct Harvard’s MBA students during their final semester of their graduate program. His speaking engagements focus on the perils of today’s small- and medium-size businesses. Geoff has worked with hundreds of companies completing an array of application projects.

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