By Kaitlynn Ford

Marketing is the best way a restaurateur can distinguish their eatery from its competitors. At the very least, they should know their target demographic, the image they want to project and the avenues and types of media they plan to use for their advertising.

“There are a lot of people using online right now to search for restaurants and we educate them on the importance of being online, because there are so many other websites out there and if their brand is not portrayed in the right way,” Pantelly Damoulianos, the Vice President of Dine.TO, said. “It could harm their business.”

There are two types of branding; concept-based and commodity-based. Concept branding is associated with an abstract concept, rather than a specific product, service, or business. Commodity branding is associated with a product or service.

There are also a number of marketing techniques that can be used to appeal to the demographic; functional, symbolic, and experiential positions. Functional strategies provide benefits to customers. Symbolic positions draw on the consumers desire to enhance their self-image or boost their ego. They also suggest that the product offered will increase a person’s belongingness and social meaningfulness. The third and final concept, experiential positioning, provides sensory and cognitive stimulation.

Restaurateurs can differentiate themselves from the competition by appealing to a number of sources; quality and price, functionality or design, sales promotion and advertising, and availability; timing and location.

In addition to the importance of an online presence in todays technology-based world, restaurateurs should consider Facebook, Twitter, email blasts, restaurant directories or marketing online as part of their advertising strategies.

“An independent will set up a Facebook page or a Twitter page and then they kind of forget about it and it does more harm than anything else,” Stratos Papachristopoulos, Pesident of Dine.TO, said.

If restaurateurs choose to include themselves in online restaurant-specific directories, they need to make sure they work together with the site hosts to portray their brand the way they want. If they leave their profile for the host or the consumer to update the information presented may be outdated, their page may not have the links, photos, or information they have available to show their clientele.

“Many times with these websites you can have a disgruntled employee putting up a negative review, or you can have a competitor putting up a negative review,” Papachristopoulos said.

But it is also important to consider what the reviewer is saying and if more than one person is taking to the time to write a post regarding the issue.

“If they keep on seeing the same review over and over again – then they should look into that and do something about it,” Papachristopoulos. “A smart restaurant owner would look at that and look at it as constructive criticism from the users.”

The owners of the Crepe Kitchen in Oakville make sure to never miss an opportunity for customer-suggested growth when the situation arises. Within they’re first two years of business they have already altered their hours of operation, added items to the menu, and started bottling and selling their own homemade dressing. All based upon customers suggestions.

“You have to take the opportunities when they come,” Ms. Siles said. “Probably opportunity will knock on your door only once and you have to be very open to see the changes.”

“As a marketing company we can only fill up so many seats at the restaurant, but whether or not the customer is going to come back depends on the restaurant,” Damoulianos said. “How well they service the customer, how well the food is.”

That said marketing is only one way to attract customers. At the end of the day, the food will speak for itself.

“Branding is always great … but always stick to the basics – which is service and great food,” Papachristopoulos said. “As I believe it is the most important thing.”


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