You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours
Nurturing long-term partnerships is one of the best things you can do for your restaurant business. Local partners, in particular, can improve the ROI of everyone involved, including yours, your partners and your investors. Working together and cross-promoting each other, both you and your partner can build a more sustainable and profitable business. This is why connecting with your local community, colleagues, suppliers, food cooperatives and even competitors should be a key element of your growth and marketing strategy.
Below are the 4 partnerships you should start pursuing today.
A growing trend in the restaurant industry is local restaurants partnering up with local farms to join in on the ‘buy fresh, buy local’ motto. Consumers today are highly conscious of the source of their foods, and are more and more likely to be drawn to businesses that serve locally-sourced food, like grass-fed beef or locally raised chicken from farmers in their area, for example. As a restaurant owner, promoting local farmers and suppliers and having them promote your restaurant in return by increasing your visibility on their website and media, is a win-win.
One way to pursue these partnerships is by attending farmers markets, or connecting with your local community-supported agriculture (CSA). Another way you can integrate local, specialty foods into your menu is by partnering with local food suppliers who work with local farms, bakeries, fisheries and so on. Rather than synchronising and managing a dozen local partnerships, find a supplier who can serve as a reliable middleman.
The benefits of a supplier who is as passionate about your brand as you are is that they can provide you with more than just the product, while saving you a lot of time and hassle. A good supplier knows all about the farm-to-table movement, and can share their expertise, insights and ideas. With their accumulated data and a clear understanding of your menu and promotional strategies, they will also advise you on when to invest in higher quality products and when to go for the more cost-effective alternatives without affecting your brand identity or bottom line.
Craft Beer Brewers
Partnering with local craft beer brewers is a great way to boost your visibility and to surprise your customers with a unique beer lineup. The demand for local, craft beer is growing by the year and if you’re not offering a delicious selection of locally-sourced product then you are already falling behind on one of the most powerful trends of the decade.
Partnering with local breweries will do more for your business than just open the door to the latest trend. Craft beer drinkers tend to spend more because they feel like there’s a story behind every sip and that they’re getting a unique experience. They are also more likely to turn into loyal customers, if they can relate to the story and message of your brand and if you ensure they get something new every time they walk through the door. With the beer scene exploding in cities across the US, you can easily find partners from small-batch breweries to well-established microbreweries.
Colleagues and Food Cooperatives
Believe it or not, sometimes your competition is also your best friend. Partnering with neighbouring bakeries, cafés, bars and even other restaurants allows you to offer diners something they can’t necessarily get at your establishment. It also shows your customers that this is a supportive community, where one business promotes the other.
Other than directly contacting other restaurants in your area, you can also contact local agricultural cooperatives, who can offer valuable relationships in terms of both marketing and cost benefits. Being a member gives you access to the organization’s network and events.
Amongst their other activities, these organizations host educational events, hold group farm tours, and organize annual get togethers, all great opportunities to make new connections. The San Francisco Restaurant Week, for example, organized by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, is a great opportunity to celebrate SF’s dining community, as well as to showcase your own restaurant in front of thousands of hungry diners, influencers and investors. Considering their size, some cooperatives can also give you a statewide reach beyond your restaurant’s local patrons.
Chamber of Commerce
If you haven’t already, join your local Chamber of Commerce today. It is a sure way to increase your community standing, provided you take the initiative and really get involved with what’s going on in your area.
Chamber of Commerce is like an endless source of networking, events and marketing opportunities. You can, for example, ask to host business lunches or become a sponsor for Chamber events as a way to announce your support and get your community’s support of your business in exchange. They can also help you host fundraising events or simply connect you to local charity organizations.
The Chamber can notify you of things happening in your area, and put you in contact with the organizers. For example, they can get you involved with K-12 schools or youth community groups, or sign you up for internship programs. This is an effective way to reach out to a younger audience, and their parents. Art exhibitions, recycling initiatives and local sports events are other great ways in which you can show you know and care about the community you operate in.
Know What You Need before You Ask for It
As a final note, it is always important to have your business goals well-defined before you launch on a partner-quest, and certainly before you sign any contract. If you don’t know what it is that you want to get out of the partnership, you will not be able to offer anything clear in return and you will not know the value you’re getting out of it.
The goal is to find a partner who can help you meet your needs. If you’re looking to spread brand awareness, look for a partner who will display your logo. If you’re launching a new menu item, look for a partnership that will let you showcase your latest dish.
Finally, be in it for the long haul. Long-term partnerships tend to be more profitable, sustainable and meaningful.