As a restaurant owner, building strategic partnerships with other restaurants or organizations can be one of many ways to effectively promote your brand.
Here are 4 tips to help you get started.
1. Collaborate with a brand that has a similar target audience.
“You should know your target market and the other company’s customer base,” Pave states,” says Leslie Pave, BusinessBlocks coach and and consumer marketing expert with more than 20 years of experience helping restaurant, food & beverage and lifestyle brands. “It has to align. Otherwise it’s not worth the effort.”
Knowing your customers helps you prioritize when to approach potential partners that have access to your specific target market.
For many restaurateurs, wine dinners are great relationships to go after. You can approach a local winery you already buy from and ask them to come in and pair 3 to5 of their wines with a Prix Fixe menu the chef creates. They can also go to the dinner, talk about the various wines and even sell bottles at the event.
The target market overlap is perfect here if you serve local wines at your restaurant and your diners are wine enthusiasts. Wine enthusiasts love to taste new wines and learn about different estates.
The fans of the local winery would probably love to have a perfectly paired meal with their favorite wines, and the winery would likely love the opportunity to stand out amongst all of their competitors and gain some brand recognition.
2. Different partnerships can prompt unique opportunities.
You can also look into a completely different business, such as a theatre, and offer their attendees a special prix fixe menu at a reduced price and guaranteed out in time for the show. The only thing customers would have to do is show their tickets to get access to the special menu. Both parties would promote the offer to each individual’s networks in emails, in-person or on their social media.
There are also so many charities, nonprofits and schools in the local areas that will give a restaurant all kinds of publicity for donating gift certificates or a percentage of proceeds from dinners associated with the charity.
By participating in an activity like this, the restaurant can show how they’re part of the fabric of the community as well stay top-of-mind to the parents at local schools, all of whom live in the immediate area, and to philanthropists who are active the community.
You can also source from local suppliers by partnering with farmers markets or food and sustainable agriculture groups to directly integrate it into your restaurant supply chain.
In a recent survey, the National Restaurant Association found the latest top five trends at restaurants is to be 1) hyper-local sourcing (e.g., restaurant gardens, onsite beer brewing, house-made items), 2) chef-driven fast-casual concepts, 3) natural ingredients/clean menus, 4) environmental sustainability and 5) locally sourced produce.
Striking a deal that allows you to incorporate local, high quality ingredients in your menu can help you build stronger community relationships and boost goodwill with your customers.
3. Put the details in writing.
Once you better understand what you want to achieve through the partnership, consider drafting a written partnership agreement.
No one wants to be sued. No one wants to be on the hook for something they couldn’t or didn’t deliver nor does anyone want to put in a lot of time and money into a deal where the other party doesn’t deliver, and then feigns ignorance.
4. Start out small and build from a place of experience.
There are a few elements that need to be present for a partnership to be successful: 1) a feeling of trust between both parties, 2) great promotion and exposure from both parties and 3) evidence that customers from the other company have shown an interest in the offering.
The most effective partnerships are the ones that complement each other and bring value to both groups because at the end of the day, it’s really about creating long-term brand awareness.
There may not be an instant flood of people to your business, but at a certain point, it will pay off.
When possible, ask new customers how they heard about you or what made them come in today. Or you may have system in place to keep track of customers who first came in during a partnered event, and if they returned.
New followers or increased engagement on social media accounts during partnered events also indicate interest in your business.
So why start small? A small commitment for both parties will be a good test to see if a longer term relationship is a good idea.
If all goes well, repeat, improve, repeat, improve. Keep the momentum going with successful partnerships so customers can anticipate and plan to take advance of your offering, and buzz can grow.