In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How to fill your restaurant at odd hours and slow periods at will (hint: a crowd attracts a crowd)
- How to make your guests feel safe and instill more trust in your restaurant
- How to ensure that all local police, fire and/or military personnel frequent your establishment
- How to give back to your community in a meaningful way that will warrant media attention
My guess is that you probably take care of all police, fire and/or military personnel at your restaurant. If you’re not currently at least offering a complimentary dish, a discount or some type of appreciation program then I recommend starting this today. The fact is, a lot of restaurants offer some sort of program for our civil servants but very few go above and beyond the call of duty (pardon the pun) to properly service these fine men and women.
Here are my top five tips as to how you can rock our civil servants’ socks off and let them know how much you care.
1. Genuinely thank them- That sounds silly, right? Trust me: a genuine gesture does not go unnoticed and it makes the civil servant, their police/fire/military pals, their families and their friends want to frequent your establishment.
Here’s what I do with every single civil servant that comes into a restaurant of mine: I shake their hand, look them in the eye and I say, “Thank you so much for all that you do, we genuinely appreciate your service and you and your family are always welcome here.”
That’s it. No more, no less. Let them know that they’re appreciated, make them feel welcome and relay that your restaurant is a place where they can feel comfortable to bring their friends, colleagues and family.
2. Ensure consistent appreciation- At restaurants that I’ve run, police and fire in uniform or with any sort of identification (which I was really lenient about) received 50% off at all times. However, after talking to hundreds of police officers, state troopers and firefighters, I found that many restaurants will give one civil service agent a percentage off and then negate the other though they both went to the establishment together.
Therefore, the training component for your staff to consistently appreciate all civil service people is crucial. Ensure that you periodically go over your rules, policies and procedures with your appreciation program. To remind myself, I have set a monthly Google Calendar reminder to reiterate that training is needed.
Give your staff hints on what to look for (discreet badges, military boots and so forth) and better yet, introduce your staff to civil service members and have the police, fire and military members explain what they wear and what they value when going out to eat. It might not hurt to empower your staff to execute the first tip that I gave you as your job is to get others to replicate your actions, right?
3. Odd hour discount- This is killer if you promote and execute this properly. If you ever go by a Chick-fil-A late night, you will almost always see numerous police vehicles in their parking lot. Why? Simply because police eat for free after 9:00 PM. Now why would CFA do that? Another simple answer: 1. It’s the right thing to do, 2. Crowds attract crowds and 3. Police make moms/families feel safe.
Why can’t you apply this during other time periods though? If you open at 10:00 and don’t really see a lunch crowd until 11:30, why not utilize the same strategy and consider allowing civil servants to eat for free during this time? How about from 3-5 PM during the ‘dead zone’ when no one will be in your restaurant?
Better yet, why not call the police/fire stations during a slow period (like a holiday when they have to work or when it’s raining) and tell them that they eat for free for the next two hours? You might even consider building relationships directly with police/fire/military and ask them for their email addresses or cell phone numbers and give them a shout during one of your slow periods.
4. Give back- If you’ve never done a fundraiser with a police, fire or military group then you’re really missing out. Not only are you contributing to awesome causes but they’ll often bring police cars, fire trucks or military vehicles for the public to look at. This often becomes a huge show and drives a ton of traffic during these time periods (don’t forget to extend an invitation for the next visit, a bounceback offer and/or food samples to drive people inside).
What I’m proposing is to give back to these protection groups randomly without being asked to and without asking for anything in return. Do a fundraiser, set out a fish bowl for loose change, put out a canned food collection box for a food drive that the local police department is doing and then give the funds back to the police, fire or military group with a nice hand-written thank you note. I assure you that your return for doing the right thing is going to be greater than you imagine and civil servants will be eager to work with you in the future.
5. Recognize and appreciate- If police, fire and military personnel are in your building then show them how much you appreciate them. I used to do this on a daily basis by recognizing our civil servants on the microphone and having the entire restaurant give the police officers, firefighters a round of applause. They are going to feel like absolute rock stars! It makes police, fire and military professionals feel appreciated, welcome and grateful so take advantage of any opportunity to recognize them. You may want to consider putting out a blurb via your email marketing, social engines or any other promotional materials as well. It means a lot and will go a long way!
Ultimately, there are three primary reasons as to why taking care of public servants is advantageous:
- People feel safe.
- It instills trust in the community.
- It commands respect.
Above all else, these individuals help protect our liberties, laws and rights so they deserve to be taken care of.
Now I’ll turn it to you. Do you offer any sort of military, fire and/or police discount? Will you in the future? If so, what tip will you utilize first and why?