Today the Marketing Twins offer another “DOUBLE TAKE” – here we offer a marketing review of a local restaurant or retail store. These are not compensated endorsements, but rather independent reviews intended to bring attention to the good efforts people are making and where we see room for opportunity and improvement. This is not a FOOD review, but rather a review of their marketing efforts (totally unsolicited by the way). We’ll take a look at various aspects of the marketing experience as it relates to this particular location. BUT, the point of these Double Takes is to inspire you to look at your own business, your restaurant, your retail store. We all learn from one another.
WARNING: Copycat marketing is the worst marketing – by copycat, this means you are only doing what you are doing because you saw someone else do it (aka, “if your friend jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”) When you see what someone else is doing and you see it working, don’t simply replicate the tactic, but rather BE INSPIRED to come up with a unique technique that works JUST FOR YOU. To have the strongest foundation in your marketing efforts, build ALL your marketing efforts around a systematic and simple plan. At 1429, we consider Duct Tape Marketing to be a strong foundation for small business.
REVIEW: 05/08 – Italian Cafe, North Fort Worth, TX
Today we visited a relatively new casual Italian restaurant called the Italian Cafe. It is located near the corner of I-35W and Western Center in North Fort Worth. More on the location later on – but WOW!, what a great location! Now let’s review some marketing categories as it relates to this quaint but very impressive (and relatively new) Italian restaurant:
One thing we noticed early on as we drove up at lunch was that this was a pretty busy place (not bad since they opened 6 months ago or so). Now, it doesn’t matter whether you are new or have been around a long time, your reception at the door can make that proverbial first impression so important! Even when you are busy, it’s important to look at each new patron as they walk in the door and if at all possible, shout (or appropriately speak) a hearty word of “Welcome!” Don’t ever get too busy to do that – no matter what your business. (see our review of Tolbert’s last month and read about the very impressionable reception we received there!) Marketing is seen at all levels of contact with the customer – especially the first one!
Our server, Darret, was very friendly and meticulous in his attention to various details at ours and neighboring tables. It’s not a given everywhere, so when we see good server etiquette, it’s worthy of recognition! We have both served tables at times in our lives, so we know you are trained to do things a certain way – but there’s always people who relax such standards because of busyness or laziness. Darret was nothing but excellent!
We wish we could have been greeted tableside by maybe the owner or head chef – that would have been cool and would have certainly made an impression! Just an idea to make you more memorable!
This is a big deal for us when we look at restaurants. It’s amazing how many people seem to take lightly the presentation of their products. Again, FIRST impression is so crucial. Don’t think only about “I want to describe each dish so people will know what they are getting”. NO. Rather, when you are designing your menu, think:
“Does my menu reflect the WORTH of the products I am presenting – because I am wanting people to fork over alot of money – do they perceive a high value based on the way my menu looks?”
Think about the customer’s perception – you can mention all the adjectives you want about your classic entrees, but if we the customers look at the menu with visual frustration, we’re not going to give you as much of our money.
If you don’t understand visual frustration – get in touch with us and we an make sure your customer’s don’t experience it. Here’s a couple of hints: (1) on punctuation – you don’t need to clutter you menu with periods after each entree description – those are not complete sentences, so you don’t have to punctuate it them (we saw alot of periods today, yet there wasn’t even consistency with that! (2) on FONTS – there are visually appealing fonts and those that are outdated and must never be used. RULE: reserve complicated scripty fonts for large type headings, not for text or even menu categories – simple is best. The Broadway font has already seen its glory days – retire it! Even when you are “casual dining” – your menus (both in-store and take-away menus) reflect alot about the VALUE and WORTH of your products! *NOTE* : a menu redesign might be in order – we can help!
For a restaurant embedded in a strip shopping center, we were pleasantly surprised by the impressive decor, warm colors, and relaxing atmosphere. Great job on taking the patrons on an escape away from the monotonous mundane of work cubicles and take-out! When they enter the Italian Cafe, you can get away from the regular routine lunch joints and enjoy a casual, affordable and pleasant restaurant experience!
Again, atmosphere is a strong impression-maker, so that’s why we put alot of emphasis on it in our marketing reviews. The lobby/reception area seemed dark and a little cluttered with one small buffet table housing the menus, the cash register, and even other loose papers. Also there was not a “Welcome to the Italian Cafe” sign, nor any prints on the walls like you’ll find throughout the restaurant. The dining area is great, though! Certainly casual elegance – the entire time, we both kept saying, “bet this place is a even better at dinnertime!” Not sure why the lights were all off at lunch – even though sunlight provides natural light (but it was a cloudy day?), we thought softer lighting would add to that “escape” feeling you want when you dine out.
As far as the eating area, again, the decor was great – you have invested well in making your dining area an escape for your customers! One of the Marketing Twins (Randy) couldn’t quite understand KVIL playing a little loud – what happened to soft Italian music? Maybe that’s the dinner music. But even if lunch is more casual, try a CD of some appealing music – we both have kids and don’t need to hear Rascal Flatts belting out “Life is a Highway” – we’ve heard that plenty of time as our sons watch “Cars”. If you’re at Taco Hut or Pete’s Burgers, hearing radio commercials is fine while you eat – but it didn’t seem appropriate nor consistent with the atmosphere of the Italian Cafe.
The restrooms – again, think IMPRESSION – always should be a strong marketing consideration because just about every customer will go there – we were pleased they were spotless at the Italian Cafe! Some places miss that detail However, you might consider changing your restroom trash container to a step-on/hands-free opening container (or get a hand blow dryer on the wall) – call us picky, but when it comes to public restroom trashcans, TOUCHLESS is the only way to go!
The Italian Cafe is in a great location! Located right off I-35W and Western Center (just a mile north of 820), this is a restaurant that offers easy access on and off the freeway. This is a great location to do some co-marketing with Starbucks (if they’ll do any joint efforts with locals) or with the nearby Fossil Creek movie theaters (date night packages). Most people in this area are probably accustomed to entertainment options on the East side of I-35W, but the West side of the Western Center intersection is growing and construction is booming. Probably in a year, this whole area’s going to look a whole lot different! Capitalize now and enjoy the opportunity to feed the boom and draw people to your restaurant!! The Italian Cafe is literally across the street from one of North Fort Worth’s key corporate headquarters: BNSF. Marketing to them, especially for lunches, seems like an natural choice – but the Italian Cafe is also just minutes away (5 to be exact – we timed it) from Meacham Blvd south of 820 (where alot of major industrial/business parks are). We saw catering is offered on the website but didn’t see it mentioned in the store – but catering to these facilities could attract additional future clientele. The Italian Cafe is also located near numerous apartment complexes and several major residential neighborhoods, like D.R. Horton’s Alexandra Meadows, probably 2 blocks away. There are also numerous hotels in the area – these are prime target markets because they are likely looking to eat out and often times, travelers look for LOCAL restaurants because they can eat at chain restaurants at home.
We’re very curious about a phenomenon that seems to be sweeping this area – magnetsigns.com! They are admittedly attention grabbing – with their multi-color information on black background. They must be cheap or at least cost-effective because everyone is doing it! (or is it a bad case of copycat marketing!!?!!) But while they are hard to miss and thus attract attention to them (like advertising the lunch specials at the Italian Cafe), consider that at least another business or two in the same strip center also used them. So if there are 2-3 signs literally next to each other, the question begs to be answered, how are you different? Do you stand out?
We did recognize a fairly consistent use of the Italian Cafe logo (typeface). It wasn’t consistent on the take-away menu, but most other places (including the outside of the building) carried a consistent look. That’s good (again, we took Tolbert’s to task on this one).
The lunch specials, starting at $4.95 seem to offer a great value for all those professionals in the area looking for a good meal at a good price (and portions were good, too). We were not impressed with the price of the cheese sticks – they tasted amazing, but they cost more than our regularly-priced entree – and there were only 4! Oh well, we devoured them anyway! And the quality was superb even when the service was fast – this is a key marketing consideration for weekday lunch crowds.
Let’s talk some bread-n-butter. Maybe we know too much out there about restaurants and their bread. But most memorable restaurants offer some amazing bread experience (you hadn’t heard that term before, had you?!) There are some restaurants, that when someone mentions their name, everyone says, “ooohhh – the bread!!!” That didn’t happen for us at the Italian Cafe – pretty much homemade pre-sliced bread (we even missed getting to cut it ourselves like you do at other places) – and then one of the Marketing Twins (again, Randy) thought the butter packets seemed more like Mama’s Home Cookin’ than an Italian restaurant. Maybe a dish with nicely curled butter – ooh, here’s what we mean! 🙂
Congratulations on having a website! With websites so essential to marketing and relatively inexpensive, we applaud you for having one – actually there are two (one for the restaurant and another for the menu – not sure why the need for 2?). The color scheme on the site corresponds with the dining area decor which is nice. But there are alot of inconsistent fonts and probably way too many font variations. And the way the 2 sites are linked may also have a negative impact on your SEO ranking. To help this, why not also start a blog!! You could share interesting food news, Italian-related information, or even tips for choosing a great Italian restaurant (why Italian Cafe is better than Little Joey’s Pizza Joint). A business blog is a way to show WHO is behind the Italian Cafe – the personality of the owner, the head chef, the wait staff and maybe even offer a guest blogging spot to some regular customers! There are so many uses of a business blog – and blogs positively enhance your search engage ranking!!
Also, on a related subject, you might strongly consider incorporating email marketing into your marketing strategy – we were never offered an opportunity to give our email addresses in exchange for a regular newsletter from the Italian Cafe telling me about special prices, coupons, reward club programs, etc….If you need to understand email marketing – join our HUDDLE starting next week (click above)! As more and more people make purchasing decisions based on the information they receive in their inbox (and if done through a nationally recognized email marketing program like we use, your messages will avoid the SPAM folders of your customers!) – every small business NEEDS to be using email marketing. Again, if you want to understand WHY and HOW to set up an affordable email marketing program yourself, enroll in our upcoming HUDDLE talking about EMAIL MARKETING!
So finally . . .
In terms of marketing, we give Italian Cafe a 4 out of 5 DOUBLE TAKE rating!
NOW CLICK PLAY LISTEN TO THE REVIEW BY THE MARKETING TWINS!
NOW WHAT? If you are with the Italian Cafe (or if you’re just reading this review and curious), go here to learn your next steps to marketing success!