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Set a better mousetrap for your customers.

Set a better mousetrap for your customers.

I was listening to an interesting discussion about the “casual dining” groups of restaurants the other day, i.e. Red Lobster and Olive Garden just to refresh your memory.  Is it surprising to learn they’re losing business?  When was the last time you couldn’t wait to go to Olive Garden?

Things have changed but it doesn’t seem like they noticed.

 It  appears that people are dining out less; they’re also dining in different places. 

The millenniums aren’t really interested in going to their “grandmother’s restaurant,” think about it. They also are eating less and are looking for what they consider “healthier food.”

Red Lobster has changed the outside of the building, added  a canopy and moved the bar closer to the entrance. Still business continues to spiral down. Of course, I hear the lines to Red Lobster in certain parts of the country, Florida, for instance, are still unbelievable. It’s still not enough business. Personally, I am appalled by the lobsters in the tank by the cash register.

Casual dining in general has been hit by the economy. It’s no longer fast and the food hasn’t changed for years.  

Where is everyone going? They’re going to “fast casual restaurants ” lead by Panera’s. The perception of Panera’s is healthy, faster and customizable food. If you don’t want potato chips, you can have an apple with your ½ sandwiches and soup or salad. You can use their WIF; we know their left-over bread, and pastries go to the food Pantry.  MyPaneras’  club lets you know when they’re holding events, having tastings and offer baking tips.  

What does this mean to your business?

If your business has been around for a long time, like our “casual restaurants” have, you should know the latest trends that might affect your business.  It’s not hard to pay attention to  your customers and the trends; you just have to ask them.  

The casual diners are jumping ship and going to places like Chipotle where the look and the place is different.  How did they miss it?  You can’t sit around and do nothing while the world is changing and expect to thrive.     

You need to check out the trends. Your next customer is the Millenniums; they think differently and want distinct things. They also want everything done fast.   You can only live on your old customers so long before they disappear. Once this happens, it may be too late to change.  

Survey your customers, the new ones.  Ask them where they’re hanging out and why, what do they think about retail and what changes would they like? I’ve mentioned before that my grocery store recently put in a “wellness center.” This is definitely something “out of the box.”

Survey the customers whom you’ve lost. The average business loses 10% of its customers yearly. If our “casual dining restaurants” had done some interviewing they would have learned interesting things for their business.

Get to know your customers.Apparently Target has built a mathematical model to predict when its female customers are going to give birth!. Maybe you don’t know your customers that well but by doing surveys and holding events for your customers you will get to know them better. Hold events in your store that will make your customer feel like they belong.

The best thing a business can do is find ways to get emotionally involved with their customers. This doesn’t mean marrying them, but almost.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been providing business coaching for businesses for the past twenty years.  Her new book, “50 Events to Drive Traffic to Your Store” will be available on Amazon in June 2014. To have Lisbeth to provide training in your store, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com or 518-495-5380.

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