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Developing VIP Clubs that Increase Business

"Before you begin marketing through a VIP Club, you need to take a step back and look at your restaurant. Make sure that you are ready for increased business. Don't attempt to market your restaurant unless you have above average food and service. Good marketing can actually put a restaurant that provides poor food and service out of business faster because more people will have a poor dining experience, and the negative word-of-mouth will cause them to fail faster than if they do not market at all," says Brent Davis, Director of Coaching Services for RestaurantMarketingGroup.org (RMG) a company that specializes in helping restaurants to build sound, trackable marketing systems through its easy-to-use software, "How-To" marketing manuals and personalized coaching. Gathering the Data: Once you have taken an internal inventory and feel good about the food and service that you provide, it's time to start using and building your database of existing customers.

Remember that in most restaurants 30 percent of the customers are bringing in 70 percent of the business. For the sake of our discussion, let's say that Joe's Family Diner has 10,000 customers a month. That's 322 customers each day. Seventy percent of the diner's monthly customers would be 7,000. If the restaurant's VIP Club marketing creates only one more visit per year per customer at an average check of $25, the volume will increase by $175,000 per year or $14,538 a month and that's with only one extra visit per existing customer per year.

You can see why it's important to go after additional customer visits. "Don't forget that your existing customers are your neighbors. A VIP Club nables you to market within your neighborhood to existing customers. It's permission based and therefore considerably more effective than if you did a blanket coupon offer to all of your neighbors. These are folks who know and frequent your restaurant; they took the time to fill out a VIP card and have shared personal information with you," says Davis. "VIP Clubs are a great way to build customer loyalty. Always give a thank you reward bonus for joining the club. We recommend that the offers go out by email or regular mail within 72 hours after signing up. The offer should be without any strings attached. I like to suggest that the offer be for a dollar amount.

A flat $15.00 or $10.00 amount could be enough depending on your guest check average. You could give a FREE, dinner with a $10 or $15 limit. Give them an offer they can use on anything they want. The offer is now valuable and they feel compelled to use it," says Teresa Horn, RMG Marketing Program Development Specialist. To enjoy the greatest return on your VIP Club enrollment campaign, you should train your employees so that they understand everything about the VIP Club. Have a contest and give prizes to the employees who sign up the most customers. Place VIP Club displays and sign-up cards in very high-traffic, highly visible areas. Use pre-printed "Post-It" pad messages and put them on your menus so that your customers and employees will be reminded to fill them out.

Always emphasize the benefits of VIP Club membership. Enter the names and additional information into the computer software program on a daily basis, using a part time employee. Horn suggests that your VIP Club sign-up cards include the following information: Name: Address: Birthdates of each family member, so that they can receive a birthday surprise. Anniversary: Email:: Phone: (Optional) "Carefully select your expiration date. I usually suggest using a three-week expiration date. If it's not used by then, it is usually lost. You want to create a sense of urgency," says Horn. Processing the data: Don't wait until you have built a large database. Start marketing to each VIP Club member the minute you get their data. You will find that this information is your most valuable marketing asset.

Creating a database of your customers and immediately communicating to them on a regular basis will increase the frequency of visits to your restaurant. For almost any reason, or sometimes for no reason at all you should send the customer a postcard or an email with an incentive to bring them into the restaurant again. Remember, the goal is to bring the customers in at least one EXTRA time per year. By sending them a reminder postcard or email around a holiday or during a local community event will remind them to visit your restaurant. And if they make several EXTRA visits you have exceeded your goal and dramatically increased the sales and profit of your restaurant. Create a Birthday Club: What is the most popular holiday for eating out? According to the National Restaurant Association, it's on your birthday. In fact, 55 percent of all Americans eat out on their birthdays. The best news of all is that people have birthdays 365 days a year, spread out over 12 months. Birthdays are the perfect time to encourage additional business.


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