Here are a few simple tips to get you started on attracting tourists to your restaurant this summer.
The summer holidays can bring a lot of tourists and new customers to your town or city. These people are ready to spend money. This year especially, should be a busy one for Canadians. The Pan American and Parapan American Games will begin in Toronto this year on July 10. This will be the largest multi-sport event ever held in Canada, spanning 5,300 square kilometers and 15 host municipalities. Even if your restaurant is not located in Toronto or one of the other Greater Golden Horseshoe host municipalities, some of those tourists visiting Canada from abroad will be taking in the great sights and scenery in other parts of Canada. For all these reasons, this summer should be a booming time for restaurants and foodservice establishments across Canada. So how do you ride the crest of this wave of business?
Here are a few simple tips to get you started on attracting tourists to your restaurant this summer:
Develop a short plan
The earlier you start planning, the better. Don’t leave your marketing plans until the last minute. These days, tourists search online for where to eat before they travel or will turn to their smartphones for what is available nearby. Make sure your website is optimized for search with location-specific pages to increase your search engine ranking. Maybe there is still time to advertise in visitor guides, on local travel websites or provincial tourism publications and websites. Probably your biggest challenge will be to make sure you have enough ingredients for your signature dishes and enough employees on hand to take care of your extra customers, so plan these things out ahead of time.
How is your first impression?
As tourists, these potential customers are newcomers to your area and your restaurant. Is your restaurant inviting? How does your restaurant look as they approach it? Is it clean and tidy? Are your windows, doorframes and other outside areas clean? Do your planters and sunshades have interesting features to attract the eye? Try to look at everything as if you have never been there before. What are the obvious things you see and what message do they send to you as someone who has never set eyes on your restaurant? Make sure you tour your facility, starting with approaching it from every direction and seeing how you look from the front of your street. Be honest with yourself and spend the money to correct the things that need it, or strengthen your positive features.
Attract tourists by offering things they need or want
Tourists are far from home, so offer them something that they might need, like Wi-Fi. Most people travel with their smartphones and need to keep up to date with their emails, but many do not want to pay the exorbitant roaming charges that telecommunications companies like to charge.
Have some cards or banners that say, “We welcome Americans”, “Try a real Quebec poutine”. Think about what you have to offer that has some Canadian flare to it and jazz that up. Almost anything you do well can be touted as Canadian or given a twist to make it so. And even if the Pan Am Games aren’t happening in your back yard, you could put on your chalkboard, “In support of all the athletes and fans of the Pan American Games, start the day with some of our famous Canadian crepes and real homegrown maple syrup”. Something as simple as “The Games are on!” will align you with the purposes of those potential patrons.
Use local flavours
At the top of most tourists’ lists when they come to a location is the local cuisine. Who would go to New Orleans without trying Cajun food? Tourists are looking to try new flavours and experience local and regional cuisine. You can take what you can in your menu, theme and décor to accentuate the local or ‘Canadian’ feel. This will help attract out-of-towners. Many Canadians already struggle with the definition of local cuisine, so imagine what tourists think! You can definitely play up the maple syrup, poutine and beer clichés to offer tourists an ‘authentic’ experience, but also give them a taste of what you personally consider Canadian.
Partnering with other kinds of businesses
When tourists come to town, they also ask other people for suggestions of a good place to eat. If you are in a smaller community, make sure all the innkeepers and local merchants know you and recommend your restaurant. What about inviting them to sample your appetizers, favorite entrees and desserts? They are the ones who will recommend your restaurant. In larger cities make sure that you invite the hotel and resort concierges to your restaurant to try it out. If you notice you’ve been receiving lots of reservations from a particular source, send them a thank-you note, email or gift certificate.
Be prepared to deliver your best
Though you cannot control the weather or keep the tourists staying forever, you do know the hotels and resorts nearby, and when tour buses begin arriving and disappearing. You may know about events in your area that will draw large crowds. Use these things to signal increasing staff and supplies to meet the demand. Check you have adequate parking available at these times. And most of all, don’t forget to have fun and make it fun for all your clientele.