2002 wasn't a good year for many restaurants. The September 11th attack on the Twin Towers really hurt sales.
But rather than make excuses, Jeff Mohler of the Marblehead Grille and Chowder House in Easton, PA decided to take the offensive. He began focusing on Neighborhood Marketing part way through the first quarter of the year. 2nd quarter results showed a 24.4% increase over the previous year (after all discounts), and Third Quarter results showed continued growth with 36.2%. But Jeff was finding it very difficult to find time to manage his marketing as his volume increased. In the 3rd quarter, Jeff installed and began using an automated marketing software program.
In Q4 Jeff showed a 59.3% increase over October of the previous year. The final result: Business was up 32% for the year, thanks to Neighborhood marketing and software that allowed Jeff to manage his new marketing.
RESTAURANT MARKETING RESULTS JOURNAL - Since January 1, 2002
Prior to the tragedy on September 11, things were coasting along nicely in 2001 on target for a 5%+ increase. Because of the impact of 9/11,the year ended with only a 1.4% sales increase.
I decided to take the plunge into Direct Response. I found a bucket of three year old Entry Blanks from our 3rd Anniversary Contest in March 1999, called out about 150 January birthdays, designed and sent a card offering a "FREE One-pound Lobster Dinner" to those 150 people. We also began handing out guest Information Forms (GIFs) to gather data from our guests. By the end of the month we had redeemed 28 cards bringing in 90 guests, created $ 2,335.25 in sales, gathered info totaling 1800 new people for our database and posted a sales decrease of 4.5%, for January.
FEBRUARY & MARCH 2002:
Things began to improve slowly and by the end of the 1st Quarter we had worked our way back to a 4.4% sales increase with the database surpassing 5,000 people's birthdays and anniversaries.
APRIL - JUNE 2002:
The 2nd Quarter really became the convincing time for me as we sent out 600, 900 and 1,000 Birthday cards, redeemed nearly 1,000 (close to 40%) and generated $48,000 in sales after discounts, a 24.4% increase. We also added Anniversary Cards to our mailing beginning in June with about 500 cards being mailed for the month, 182 redeemed and created over $7,500 in added sales. The guest-per- card number was lower than birthdays. I guess people invite friends to help celebrate birthdays but do the anniversary thing mainly as couples.
JULY- SEPTEMBER 2002:
Data management became more complicated as we passed 12,000 entries. Excel and Mail Merge were handling the work and spitting out labels. The cards, now numbering about 300 a week had to be labeled, stamped with the expiration date and a stamp - a lot of work, but worth it. I had read about various software programs and ordered a (software) package..... It arrived in mid-July as we were in the throes of Little League Championship baseball, spending almost three weeks on the road.
The neat things about the restaurant marketing software are: 1) printing the address, birth date and expiration date all on the cards at once (you can actually do the postage at the same time also, but I haven't gone that far), plus 2) the ability to log redemptions and track customer usage. I felt this to be extremely helpful as we move forward and want to do more sophisticated tracking and developing of specific Guest Lists.
The 3rd Quarter boomed and mainly in my absence¡which felt good. A 56.8% sales increase moved us to 27.3% after three quarters. I was ecstatic and slowly being convinced this Direct Response was good stuff - controllable, measurable and profitable.
OCTOBER - DECEMBER 2002:
The 4th Quarter caused some marketing creativity in the sense that we did not want too many people redeeming cards in December, typically our biggest sales month of the year. We stopped mailing cards from December 8 - 26, but still ended the month up 24.4%, a nice number but a big drop from October and November. We ended the year up 31%.