The hard truth is that not everyone will like your food. Sure, you can sweat over your recipes for months, wondering whether this dish needs a little more spice, or that one a little less – but in the end, you will still encounter hungry people who barely spare your hopeful new restaurant a passing glance. For those restaurateurs battling through their first few years losing even a handful of patrons can be nerve-wracking; after all, according to a study conducted by researchers at Cornell, as many as 59% of restaurants shutter their storefronts within their first three years of business.
For hopeful entrepreneurs who invested months – if not years – of their lives in building what they hoped would be a successful restaurant, this defeat can be crushing. However, this dismissal is easily avoidable if a savvy restaurateur markets their food effectively to their defined target audience.
Think of it this way. Odds are, you won’t find an high-end French restaurant offering meals starting at $100 a plate on a block dominated by working-class, fixed-income retirees. The reason seems obvious; the demographic that would realistically buy the food doesn’t match up with demographic near the food. Any aspiring entrepreneur worth their wooden spoon needs to consider the age, economic bracket, culture, and location of their customer base.
Before opening – or even purchasing – a location, aspiring restaurants need to ask themselves the following questions:
What is the demographic of my target audience?
Are your prospective customers teenagers? Families? Upper-middle-class businessmen and women out for a fancy dinner? You will need to narrow your target customer base to determine your menu, pricing, and marketing strategy.
Does my location suit my target customer base?
It’s worth noting that the client base that the entrepreneur wants isn’t always the same as the one the entrepreneur gets. For example, if a cafe targeting business professionals is geographically closer to the local high school than to any corporate buildings, its owners may find themselves needing to shift their menu offerings from paninis and lattes to milkshakes and burgers to stay in business. Save yourself the scramble by setting up shop in an area with a dense population of your target consumers.
Will my prices and promotions appeal to my target customer base?
If you intend to sell burgers to teenagers, you shouldn’t charge $30 a plate. Think about the financials of your target demographic; what can they afford? A buy-5-get-1-free punch card is appropriate for a coffee house, but a steakhouse might be better rewarded offering a free appetizer to customers who spend over $50. Consider what your consumer base will be able to pay within the context of your establishment, and work within what you would expect their budgets to be!
Even the best restaurants can’t please everyone. For many, success is dependent on a restaurateur’s ability to define and market to a specific customer base. If you plan to open a restaurant, make sure that the food and services you intend to offer will appeal to those in the area!