Revamping a Restaurant's Local Presence Minneapolis, MN

Recently I went back to serving at a restaurant to earn a few extra dollars a month. I worked here three years before breaking off and pursuing my career. After almost a year I have decided that I would help them with picking up shifts as well as working on their digital marketing.

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Vescio's Italian Restaurant has been around since 1956 and has since slowly died down in business. Older customers come in and talk about the "good 'ol days" and reminisce with each other about the sports celebrities that would frequent the place and about how the restaurant hasn't changed.

Here's the bad news to all those older customers; the restaurant has to change. It has to change to keep up with the different crowds coming in and out and it has to change to accomodate new ways of marketing and what the customers want. The restaurant needs to take advantage of the low costs of marketing available with social media, email and organica search. A drop in customer foot falls has been happening since the 1990?s for Vescio's. There is the influx of big business as well as the buying out of non-competitors that turn into competitors.

What worked in 1956 won't work now. There are over 30 businesses in the Dinkytown, Minneapolis area and very few original businesses are left. Recently, the House of Hanson and the Bookhouse have been bought out to make room for an apartment complex one of many that have been popping up around the Dinkytown-Marcy Holmes area. Vescio's has been hit hard by the growth of fastfood and chain restaurants. McDonalds is kiddy-corner to the old-school establishment, Qdoba is just across the street and Chipotle, Noodles & Co., Burger King and Arby's are just a few short minutes away.

What I have proposed to do to help

I have over three years of experience at Vescio's Originale. I have held every position available: server, cashier, host, cook, caterer and just about any restaurant service position you can think of. I know what the customers like and don't like. I know when it's busiest and I know what events are a big hit for the restaurant. Working closely with the Vescio family, I have managed to create a good reputation with them. I was responsible for the other servers and making sure parties ran smoothly. I'm frequently sought after for advice from upper management and peers.

This was my marketing training.

When I left Vescio's I went on to marketing a salon, a restaurant and an e-commerce business. I took what I knew from working directly with customers and applied this knowledge to my new positions and came up with five ways to help Vescio's while I was away.

1. Direct customer interaction and dialogue

2. Online reputation management

3. Free promotion and distribution

4. Creating excitement and engaging content

5. Creating community and social influence

Direct customer interaction and dialogue

Getting foot traffic in the restaurant is the main priority. It has been for over 50 years. Just because the restaurant was doing well in the 60?s and 70?s does not mean the same strategies will carry over and bring people in. Vescio's needs to create a call to action and develop direct customer interaction and quality dialogue. The Vescio family asked me what I felt would be the best way to do this and at the lowest cost.

I gave them three areas where they should focus: social, emails and get in university publications. The restaurant is far behind in online execution and will take some time before it develops a solid base to work off of. Many businesses spread too thin when it comes to social and other online efforts so when advising the Vescio's with what to do I suggested to pick three and stick with them. We decided on Twitter, Facebook and Email

Twitterbecause the students will be able to get daily deals, specials and promos. Highlights of sporting events and updates will be sent as well as parking information.

Online reputation management

Vescio's is focusing in on hyperlocal platforms such as Google+, Yelp, Urban Spoon and Zagat for a stronger online presence. With the various review apps for restaurants available on mobile devices it is easier than ever for the customer to find the ins and outs of a restaurant. Achieving a higher reputation through these sites comes with the cost of time and getting on the ground running.

Ratings don't change over night and will surmount to great amounts of effort from the management and staff teams. Reminding customers that a simple review is easy to do and that word of mouth is tremendously helpful. Was the service up to par? Was the food as good as it was the last time? What can the restaurant change? If customers are satisfied they'll tell five people. If the customer is dissatisfied they'll tell 50.

Free promotion and distribution

Utilizing the University of Minnesota campus, Vescio's has many different free resources it can use to distribute information. During welcome week on campus, thousands of new students as well as old are grabbing coupon books full of deals from local restaurants and other establishments. The Minnesota Daily is a low cost tool that reaches even more on a daily basis. Flyer boards, book racks and window displays are available all over campus. And not to forget about the thousands of students and faculty walking the Dinkytown sidewalks every couple of hours. Sandwich boards actually work here.

Diners are searching for menus when they are searching for somewhere to eat. Menus can be posted on the restaurant website, distributed on Twitter and talked about on Facebook. Providing the most up to date information will keep diners interested.

Foursquare will be utilized heavily in this area. Creating a check-in promotion and having the various menu options available right at a mobile user's fingertips.

Creating excitement and engaging content

Posting photos of dishes, asking for advice and feedback and creating a content hub are all ways to get customers talking about the restaurant. The home website can provide basic information about the restaurant and can point customers to other compelling content on Facebook, Twitter and other platform destinations. Increasing customer participation will create a ripple effect and will garner the interest of others.

Engaging content in this sense includes: photos, recipes, contests and limited time offers. Accompanying the content with a call to action will drive better results and will create more foot traffic in the end.

Creating community and social influence

Focusing on what the restaurant does best and what the restaurant wants customers to know will help create community and influence. The restaurant should be:

  • Recognizable: Currently not recognizable.
  • Reachable: Currently reachable but with minimal influence
  • Credible: Has great credibility with older demographics. Needs to capture younger crowd
  • Relevant: Needs to target younger crowds with quality, relevant content
  • Influential: Currently does not influence the Dinkytown dining scene
  • Timely: Currently behind in food, pricing and marketing trends

Like every other establishment Vescio's is trying different approaches to achieving better community and social influence based on experience. The restaurant needs to actively listen, connect with Dinkytown influencers and link online an offline activity and content. Provide customers with industry information, helpful tips and event announcements. Be relatable and approachable so that others will hop on board.

Measuring results

Over the course of the next six months I will be measuring the progress of social media influence as well as the Email success. When the Vescio family asked me if this will work, I told them we will decide to keep going with the current plan once we are driven by data. Baseline metrics have been set are currently used to check the progression of our goals and objectives. There's no more guessing. No more relying on a 56 year history.

About Vescio's and Dinkytown

Vescios Italian Restaurants are a collection of family owned and operated restaurants located in urban and suburban settings catering to social and corporate customers alike. The Vescio family is committed to authentic, high quality Italian food which coupled with their passion for family and friends results in the creation of memorable dining experiences.

You can enjoy Vescios affordable menus in downtown Minneapolis, at the University of Minnesota Campus, near Lake Calhoun in St. Louis Park or every summer at the Minnesota State Fair. Dont feel like eating out? Pick up To-Go and take us home.

Vescios caters any type of event, small or large or in between. Choose us for your next meeting, party or family wedding and make it memorable.

Dinkytown is vibrant community located on the north side of the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The heart of Dinkytown is located in just a four block area inhabited by a diverse array of businesses on University Avenue, 4th Street, and 5th Street.

Over the years people have come to shop at the boutiques, eat at the local restaurants such as Als Breakfast, or be entertained by the great music at the Varsity Theater. Mostly however, people come to Dinkytown to live. The students and non-students residing in the residential community surrounding the Dinkytown business district have created and shaped what Dinkytown is today.

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Footnotes - Thank you so much for your late-night efforts Annabella.

Posted in Marketing and Advertising Post Date 12/10/2016