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By Melvin Gitler


Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; I did not create this message. Small businesses are using unusual methods to attract customers.

Seems as though restaurants are adding liquor to beverage menus, creative promotions, such as giving away gasoline, and the chains are rolling out their arsenal against us the small business operator.

Tough economic times make us find new ways to bring traffic in without alienating our old customers. Restaurants who are not members of our organization are finding out that customers, specifically woman, want cosmopolitans and margaritas with dinner. Major restaurant chains such as Denny’s are experimenting with this concept but keeping in mind they are a family dining experience. They do not want shot drinkers coming into the restaurant.

Food discounts at slow periods especially in the summer months in Northern New Jersey create sales opportunity to discount some food items. Houlihans is discounting their hamburgers $2 off the list price for the summer. Some restaurants are looking at a Fondue for bar food because of their simplicity. There are restaurants here in the North that are offering ladies SPA treatments to go along with their drinks to enhance sales.

When the economy goes south most operator’s first instinct is to discount their regular offerings, but then when the economy rebounds people expect the discounts to continue. This can be a real alienating process. We should look at other avenues such as the bar or ladies. A better selection is free gas cards or other such promotions that are not part of the normal business of your business. By giving gas cards the customer now does not have to consider food and bar against gas.

Finally, in these hard economic times settle all customer complaints before they walk out the door. Complaints whether you hear about them or not are equivalent to 18% of your business. How would you like to add 18% to your bottom line. The biggest complaint is that when a customer walks into your establishment and they leave, they feel as though their expectations were not met. The goal must be is to provide the guest with the experience he or she expects. All complaints should be given to the manager or the owner no matter what. Do what is necessary and keep a customer. It is easier keeping a customer than trying to get a new one.

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