Winning Over Locals After A Change In Ownership

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QUESTION From: Harvey in MASS

“I purchased a restaurant in a very small community that has a larger population in two outside towns, about a 15 minute drive away. I’m having a problem where the locals at the pub aren’t happy with the changes I am making but the last owners had to sell because their food and beverage was so cheap there is no way they were making profit. Any ideas on how to attract new clientele to the business at our current price point?”


HH ANSWER:

Focus on quality and genuine hospitality. Not everyone expects the latter but everyone appreciates it.

...And do yourself a favor by lot letting the “older” patrons NOT get too “boozed up”.

If pricing your menu appropriately and delivering a solid consistent product results in your prices going up, your existing guests may not initially appreciate your putting an end to them milking the cow but; if your prices are in line / competitive with other restaurants in local market, you’ll be ok.

I know you can’t be all things to all people but have you considered letting the regulars take part in the repositioning? [i.e., asking them to submit ideas for specials - drawing one winner each Monday (or some other slow weekday) and then chalking up a sign that acknowledges the winner who gets one special on the house} Let guests know that each purchase of that drink or food special counts as a vote for it to be added to the new menu (for at least 1 season).

Consider keeping a separate chalkboard up, in racetrack tote board-style, showing whose specials have the most “votes” and run a big “fight night”-style event at the end of each month where the top two drinks/sands/whatever... are discounted (and half portions served side by side (like a flight) to encourage head-to-head sampling / voting.

Hang in there,

Josh Sapienza