Choosing a target audience: for many restaurant owners from our network it is a thorn in the flesh. Everyone is welcome in the business, right? Why would you exclude a group of potential guests in advance? We know all too well the uncertainties and thoughts that arise at this step in a marketing strategy. Nevertheless, we're going to play the annoying consultant role here, because choosing the right target group is extremely important for the marketing success of your restaurant. To make it easy for you, we take you through our thoughts and strategies. After reading this article, you will have your target group in focus!
Let's start with the basics. There are hundreds of studies worldwide that show the essence of successful marketing lies in a combination of studying the market, consumer behaviour and the competition. In addition, in the hospitality industry, the success of a business always depends on customer satisfaction. You want to give guests an experience they can't wait to have, so that they come back more often and tell their friends, family and colleagues about your restaurant.
Ideally, you should make sure that the location, the concept and the target group of your restaurant all fit together. Only then can you choose an elaboration that fits them. Think, for example, of the composition of the menu, the selection and training of staff and the texts and images you are going to use on social media.
The most common "target group mistake": everyone is welcome!
One of the most common mistakes restaurant owners make is to appeal to a wide audience (after all, everyone has to eat) and hope for an endless stream of customers. But the reality is that if you target everyone, your restaurant is of no real interest to anyone. We think, for example, of restaurants and cafés that are in prime locations, such as museums or in a popular park, but are terribly dull in their appearance. Because of the location, you might go there for a cup of coffee, but that's about it. What a shame!
A second mistake that is often made is to appeal to the wrong audience. For example, if you open a café near a university and target the business community in your marketing, you are probably targeting the wrong audience.
As a rule, we ask our clients to focus on a group of people with whom they can identify, where they belong. Because even though you may want to attract a super young and hip audience, if you are in your 50s and have no idea what young people are up to, it's going to be difficult. So choose an audience that fits you and your business. That will make marketing a lot easier!
What is the basis of a successful restaurant brand?
Once you have chosen your target group, marketing really becomes fun! Now you can start experimenting and optimising. Shave off the rough edges of your concept and turn it into a well-oiled marketing machine. This is quite an exciting phase, which, if you do it right, can create a successful restaurant brand for years to come.
But marketing is just an extension of what you are doing in the business. It can help scale a successful concept, but it can also work against you if you choose the wrong path. That's why we always recommend that you follow four checks when marketing your restaurant:
- Integrity. Make sure everything about your brand is right. From concept to execution. From the interior to the menu and your content and advertising. The story of your business is the basis.
- Dare to take risks. If you don't dare, you don't win. That's how it usually is in life and also in marketing. It is simply difficult, if not impossible, to get things right without taking risks. Without trying things out. So just go for it and polish your marketing in the meantime where necessary.
- Make a plan and stick to it. Not everything has to be done now. Marketing usually works best when you make a plan, follow the steps of the plan and monitor the results in between. You can make great cocktails, but if you reach a target group that doesn't like cocktails, it's of little use. For example, if guests respond well to new special morning offerings, it's worth experimenting with ideas within this theme. Our motto: we maximise what is going well and stop what is not going well. Simple, but effective!
- Do what suits you. Occasionally, restaurant owners, in their enthusiasm or out of fear of missing the boat, rush in and create an atmosphere that does not suit them. Always stick to your DNA, because recognisability is your most important marketing value.
Why is it important to know your target group?
There are several reasons for this. If you know your target group well:
- It is easier to build a successful advertising campaign.
- You can choose the right offer for the right audience.
- You can easily communicate with the people in that target group. You know what tone of voice they like and what their interests are.
- In time, you can spend less time on marketing, because you can learn from previous marketing campaigns.
Especially if your advertising budget is limited, it is wise to concentrate on finding the people who find your business attractive. It may sound contradictory, but focusing on a smaller target group gives you more value for money with online advertising. By choosing a small target group, the advertisements are more targeted, there is more chance that the recipient reacts positively and clicks through to your restaurant's website.
For example, you can choose a target group that lives in the same area as your restaurant, or a target group with a love for gourmet food. On Facebook and Instagram, you can even show specific ads to people who have a birthday in a month. After all, Facebook and Instagram know a lot more about us than we would like.
How do you define your target group?
Ok, it is time to go into depth. How do you choose the right target group? A target group is a group of people with specific needs that your business can satisfy. In other words, your restaurant should offer a certain service that meets the specific needs of a certain group of people.
The target group can be broad (everyone who drinks beer) or narrow (craft beer connoisseurs in the high price range). The broader the target group, the vaguer the description, making it difficult to emphasise the specific characteristics of the potential guest. So make sure you are clear. The clearer your target group, the better. For example, when creating a profile of your ideal guest, consider:
- Social characteristics, such as gender, age, marital status, income, occupation, level of education, nationality and even ownership of pets.
- How do your ideal guests spend their free time (forums, websites, online shopping, social media, etc.)?
- What problems can you solve for your ideal guest? (Dietary requirements, location, budget, special offer, etc.)
- What association should your ideal guest have with your restaurant? (other brands, businesses, places, etc)
When you have drawn up the above characteristics, someone is bound to pop into your head. Someone from your own network or a celebrity, someone who would really be the ideal guest in your business. Try to describe this person in a guest profile. Use all the demographic criteria we mentioned above. Slowly but surely, a clear portrait of your ideal guest will emerge. Are you completely satisfied? Then complete the description with a photo of someone who fits the target group and show the profile to your colleagues. If they see the same ideal guest as you, you are probably right!
Tip: Create two profiles: a short one (based on the 3-4 most important criteria) and a full profile (describing the guest in as much detail as possible: from habits to interests).
How do I collect useful information from my target group?
When you are just starting a restaurant, you cannot help but visualise the customer profile. After all, you haven't had any guests in your business yet. If you already have a restaurant, there is another method to create the ideal guest profile. You can use the data of your current guests.
Is it mainly men or women who make reservations? What age group are they? Do they come in large groups or are there usually only two of them? What types are they? What do they show interest in in your establishment? What do they like to order? These are all important data that you can use in your marketing.
You can even go a step further by adding a poll or questionnaire in a newsletter or on social media. This way you can easily get information about important data of your ideal guests. Checkout and reservation systems sometimes also have built-in functions for restaurant loyalty programmes, which allow you to collect data from guests. So take a moment to investigate what data you may have already collected digitally, subconsciously!
Tip: Your most important task as an entrepreneur and marketer is to find new guests and to maintain the relations with existing relations, because without guests there is no activity, no turnover and therefore no hospitality. Make sure you spend at least 50% of your time on marketing. Don't have the expertise or time for that? Then it is a good idea to call in external help.
Defining your target group with the 5W method.
One of the tools that restaurant owners regularly use to define a target group is the 5W method. Let us show you exactly how it works and how to apply it.
The 5W principle consists of five questions about your potential audience:
- Why (why should people come to your restaurant?)
- What will you offer them?
- Who (who are your guests?)
- When will they come to your restaurant?
- Where (where can you receive guests?)
They may seem simple questions, but in practice we find that restaurant owners and marketers often have to think about them or don't know the answer. That is not a problem at all. It is actually very good to come to that discovery and then try to answer the 5 questions anyway.
Example of an Italian restaurant.
We take you through an example of a fictitious Italian restaurant. We have based the answers on answers we often hear in conversations.
Question 1: Why should people come to your Italian restaurant?
"People who come to us want to eat well, enjoy an Italian atmosphere, perhaps to celebrate a birthday or just to chill out with friends or family. Our guests like the fact that they can eat out in an affordable way. They also like to come in when we have special offers, such as popular seasonal dishes or discounts on the menu."
Question 2: What will you offer them?
"We consider our restaurant to fall within the category of budget restaurants. That means we focus on a simple menu with popular classics. We serve a wide range of pizzas and pastas - with our secret sauces, of course - beer, soft drinks and snacks.
The interior of our restaurant is typically Italian. We have an open kitchen where guests can watch the pizza chefs at work. You can also see which popular Italian products we work with. With us, you get a truly Italian experience from start to finish."
Question 3: Who are your guests?
"Our guests like to come together with their roommates (students) or family (with children). Let's put it that they are mostly men and women in the age group of 18-22 years and 30-45 years. They live in the neighbourhood of the restaurant. Although their budget is limited, they like to go out for a meal once or twice a week. They find it cosy and practical because they don't have to cook themselves."
Question 4: When will they come to your restaurant?
"We see our guests mainly at the weekend, on Friday and Saturday evenings, for an extensive dinner. But during the week they also like to come for a quick bite. The holidays are also popular with us, and on the weekends we also see that our delivery service is running at maximum capacity."
Question 5: Where can you receive guests?
"We like to welcome our guests to our restaurant. In winter we have 80 seats inside, but in summer we expand to the terrace and increase our capacity by another 60 seats. Guests can also enjoy our menu at home. All dishes are delivered to addresses in our neighbourhood. The menu for at home can be ordered (preferably) on our own website and on the major delivery platforms. "
The advantage of the 5W method is its simplicity. There is no need to involve professional marketers in answering all these questions, so you can put the knowledge into practice yourself."
At what stage is it best to define the target customer?
If you are just starting a restaurant, defining your target group is a good thing to include in your roadmap. For example, when researching your main competitors, it is useful to immediately look at what they offer (menu, location, working hours, service level, etc.), what their unique selling points are, and which guests frequent their establishment. This will tell you a lot about who is likely to enter your business.
Once you have made this analysis, you can translate it to the situation of your restaurant. Who are your ideal guests? Where do they live? Where do they like to go? Etc.
If you already have a restaurant but have never done a target group analysis, any time is the best time to start.
We hope this article has given you the first tools to get started in finding your target group. Do you need help? The Fully Bookers We are happy to think along with you!