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Buy one, get one

Question:

I started a "buy-one, get one" back in 2007 and if I don't run it, I don't do any business. I am very concerned as profits have dwindled and business is slow. How can I get my customers back spending regular prices and entice new customers?

– George Stathakis, Owner, Stax Grill, Greenville, S.C.

Answer:

It’s important to remember that any promotion is defined as a short-term incentive for customers to buy.

In other words, part of what makes the offer effective is urgency. The customer sees it as something they must act on right now, because they may not have the chance again for a long while.

Your “buy-one, get one” offer was initially successful because it offered extraordinary value to your customers. But by repeating it over and over again for four years running, you may have unintentionally re-set your pricing, and trained customers to dine at your restaurant only when they have a “buy-one, get one” coupon.

You didn’t tell me how often you’re mailing to your customers, but most advertisers tend to mail too frequently, with self-serving messages and offers that aren’t compelling, and that only compounds the problem. Instead of a “wow” it’s more of “ho-hum”.

So where do we go from here?

Well, price isn’t the only component of value, as I’m sure you know. How long has it been since you updated your menu with new recipes, or even new categories of food? Your guests are always looking for new dishes to try, and new dining experiences. Otherwise, they’d eat at home every night. They go out for fun… to break the monotony, and it’s human nature to want to try new things. That’s probably why they’re visiting some of the national chains in your area… to see what’s new and try different dishes. But you can lure them back with your own brand of newness… special recipes, perhaps tied to a seasonal theme, a certain region of Greece, or perhaps a Greek holiday.

It sounds like you have a great dining experience and a terrific reputation. Don’t be afraid to re-invent yourself, and do it on a regular basis. Constantly give your customers new reasons to visit your restaurant. Do it with food, do it with fun, do it with themed events… you’re limited only by your imagination.

Consider bundling menu items to offer significant value over a limited time… possibly a special dinner for two or four, from appetizer and salad through dessert, with a matching wine selection, all at a great price?  Now you’re offering a special experience, perhaps a new dish or two, and great value, but it’s not the same “Buy one, get one” offer they’ve grown accustomed to. Be sure to change up the selections with new themes and menu items to keep it fresh for the customer.

And when you do price-promote, look for other ways of offering compelling value. Explore “bounce-back” offers for your guests to bring them back to you sooner.

“Buy One, Get One” is a terrific offer for almost any restaurant. But like any good tool, if you use it every day and never sharpen it, it tends to get dull.

Best of luck!

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