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A star is born

Many people are born to inhabit the spotlight. For others, being in the presence of celebrity is enough to satisfy illusions of grandeur. You have the power create a star in your very own restaurant, and at the same time develop a fun and successful guest frequency program.

You have a celebrity right in your kitchen... your chef. Whether they're famous and trained at the Cordon Bleu, or a "yet-to-be-discovered" newcomer who happens to have the best darn BBQ sauce this side of the Atlantic, your celebrity chef can draw in the crowds and give them a show. The degree of stardom isn't important. It's the personal connection...the ability to put your superstar in the spotlight of your restaurant.

One option is to have a special table in the kitchen itself, and hold periodic chef's dinners. Guests who wouldn't dream of eating in their own kitchen will pay premiums to eat behind the scenes in yours. People are in awe of what happens behind the line, how the kitchen team works together to prepare dozens of meals in rapid-fire fashion. Your chef can serve up a pre-selected menu of signatures, and explain cooking techniques as the meal progresses. If an in-kitchen "Chef's Table" isn't an option, select the best table in the dining room and prepare a special menu that your celebrity chef presents in person.

Choose a comfortable format that suits the celebrity status of your chef, the nature of your clientele, and your restaurant's style. Dining with the chef can be an exclusive and pricey "reservation only" event, or a dinner-for-four can be won in a drawing by a lucky customer, with everything taken care of by the chef, including the bill.

Regardless of the direction you take, an attractive marketing piece should explain the details of your program and collect data that will allow you to communicate with your customers for special events. For example, entry forms for a drawing should collect database information on your guests that can be used later to send personalized mail pieces, such as birthday or anniversary cards. You can download a sample entry form and sample tabletop "ad" to give you some inspiration for creating your own.

Finally, nothing beats word-of-mouth advertising. You can be sure that winning a dinner with the chef will create come buzz. So give your chef and your guests their time in the spotlight. It's a win-win.

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