10 tips to make your franchise feel local | modern restaurant management

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Many people mistakenly assume that franchises are not local businesses. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make your restaurant franchise a pillar of your community.

Local stakeholders create community

Small businesses are the backbone of communities across the country. Cafes serve as early morning gathering spots, restaurants provide a place for families to reconnect, and stores selling retail goods keep life running smoothly. Unfortunately, many people don’t equate a franchise with a local business. They assume their neighborhood Dunkin’, Subway, or Chick-fil-A is part of a big corporation and doesn’t put them in the same coveted category as the local family restaurant or pizzeria.

Franchises make up a large portion of business in the United States. At least 10% of all businesses are franchised, and catering is in the lead. Three in 10 restaurants have more than one location, and many operators are turning to franchising to grow, the National Restaurant Association reported. Researchers predict there will be approximately 225,245 franchised restaurants in the United States by the end of 2022.

Franchising allows restaurateurs to leverage a proven concept and existing menus to generate sales. People appreciate knowing they can enjoy familiar food, a consistent experience, and generally affordable prices. Although their brand may be nationally recognized, franchise restaurants are usually owned by people who are active members of their local community. They live in the area and have a stake in the success of the community.

Eat local!

It is up to individual restaurateurs to tackle the misguided stereotype by involving their establishment in the local community. Our Town America has been helping local businesses introduce themselves to new residents for over 50 years. Over the past five decades, we’ve learned easy-to-implement tips and strategies that restaurants can use to turn their restaurant into a local staple.

1. Marketing new movers. A surefire way to help your restaurant stand out is to incorporate a new marketing program for new movers to attract new residents before they become loyal to the competition. In 2021, more than 27.1 million people moved, according to the US Census Bureau. Whether people are moving for a lower cost of living or to start a new job, they will 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 out a welcome package filled with proven offers to new residents. Unlike coupons or discount shippers, Proven Deals are gift certificates to treat customers tired of unpacking boxes and painting rooms. Once a customer redeems their new mover offer, a second thank you mailing can be sent to help keep your business top of mind – and even ask for a second offer.

2. Take advantage of social media. Social media is a great tool for increasing engagement. At least seven out of 10 Americans use social media regularly. Posting behind-the-scenes views of your restaurant or a daily presentation from one of your employees can help people identify with your restaurant. Include calls to action in your posts to encourage comments.

3. Offer a meal to local influencers. Social influencers are the new celebrity endorsement. The $13.8 billion influencer marketing industry is gaining momentum. The 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 social media gurus who tout local shops, restaurants, and things to do. Invite some of the most popular influencers in your area to dinner at your restaurant. Once they post details about your business online, they will generate interest and grow your subscriber list.

4. Partner with a local business. Generate buzz around your restaurant by partnering with other local businesses. If your donut shop is next to an oil change business, offer a free coffee for people to 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 just about cooking great food. A big part of any restaurateur’s job is to secure the staff needed to provide exceptional customer service. Do your best to create a team atmosphere among your employees. Satisfied employees shine when it comes to customer service and help build your restaurant’s reputation with residents. If people know your restaurant is a great place to work, they’ll be happy to visit.

6. Network. While you might prefer to spend 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. Better yet, 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 to know people in your community by asking your restaurant to sponsor a local charity. It can be as simple as shelling out money to sponsor a local swim team or going a step further and raising money for a worthy cause at your restaurant.

8. Participate in community events. Host a table with some snack foods at your local farmer’s market or serve food at a community concert. Seeing your restaurant at community events will help change its perception among residents.

9. Mix the decor. Fast food outlets are particularly adept at including unique touches in their décor to help them stand out. They can provide photographs of historic places in the community or feature 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, Organize local events. Make your restaurant a gathering place for community events. Whether your restaurant is a book club hotspot or a place where diners come to play music trivia, hosting local events can help spread the word.

Becoming a fixture in your local community will set your restaurant apart from the competition and help your business thrive.

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