Lessons from a Failed Burger Joint

I love independent restaurants. And I hate to see them fail. But it’s an unfortunately common occurrence. Recently, I received news of a small burger joint near the Woodlands that had shut its doors. It’s one I’d visited, and I can’t say I was surprised to hear of them closing.

Out of BusinessHere’s my take on where they went wrong:

Outdated Concept – They positioned themselves as a 50’s diner. That concept was great… back in the 70’s. Nostalgia from further back than two decades is a tough sell – the demographic that fondly remembers the time isn’t the one that’s going to be spending money with you. Teens from the 50’s are in their 70’s today.

Bad Website – Your website is the first impression that many customers get. This one was a mess – amateur design, poor visuals, missing information, no mobile support. The impression the website made is of a cost-cutting business who did as little as possible to get by. That’s not the first impression you want to make.

Weak Social Media Presence – Local restaurants that succeed have a strong social media presence. Social media is a cost-effective way to engage your customer base, and build word-of-mouth referrals, and this restaurant was essentially invisible. ¬†There is an active Facebook discussion group in the restaurant’s area called Woodlands Area Foodies. It has approximately 4,000 members, and area restaurants are the primary topic of discussion; management was no where to be seen courting this audience.

No Engagement with Media or Opinion Leaders – In my role as editor of the food blog, I get contacted by dozens of restaurants each month. I check out the interesting ones, and so do many other writers, Twitterers, and other influencers. I never heard from this restaurant. Not surprisingly, it lacked media coverage, and never really had a chance to build mindshare.

Out of Touch with Customer Feedback – Whenever this restaurant came up in discussion groups, bad service was mentioned. The owners may not have even been aware of the problem; had they participated in groups like Woodlands Area Foodies, they’d have had lots of candid feedback, and could have taken steps to address the problems that were mentioned.

Opening a restaurant is hard. By not utilizing modern marketing techiques effectively, some restaurant owners make things even harder, robbing themselves of inexpensive advertising, tools for building and engaging a customer base, low-cost PR channels, and avenues for direct customer feedback.

Of course, not every restaurateur has time to do all of this himself. That’s why we’re here. If you want to avoid these pitfalls, give us a call.



One Comment

  1. Joseph Perkinson says:

    Good points! I never made it to this place, but it seems that if they had an outdated concept or didn’t heed criticism, then the problem was with them in the first place, and those issues were only unheeded failssafes. To succeed the plan and execution must be flawless. Food taste is core. Food presentation and value follow closely. Somewhere they blew it, no matter the tide of adjunctive Internet traffic.

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