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I have a dilemma and need help


Old Timer
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First some background.

I chef for an upscale cafe in a small resort community.

We currently do about 200 covers a day and are well known for our innovative menu.

Our clientele is primarily Chicagoans who own second homes here.

We also do a liitle catering and monthly tastings of gourmet products we stock in the retail section.

Here is our dilemma.

On August 1st The Four Winds Casino will be opening their doors. They are located 5 minutes away from us.

This facility will boast 6 top quality restaurants.

They plan to age their own beef and smoke their own salmon in addition to offering a Vegas style buffet, deli, cafe, and a hamburger joint all on site.

They anticipate 15000 customers a day there.

Our community depends on the summer trade to compensate for the winter slowdown when the Chicago people go home..

I am looking for ideas that will keep our customer base coming.

Recently, I introduced sweet and savory crepes to the menu, which is going strong.

However, I don't see crepes as the glue that will bind us.

A recent article in the area newspaper indicated that local eateries will have to raise salaries and offer benefits to keep key employees. Actually, the whole foodservice community is very concerned because the Casino needs 700 foodserive workers and the starting wage for entry level is $10 hr. Far more than locals can afford.

Any good marketing ideas or menu suggestions?

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There is bound to be a fall-off of patrons when the casino opens. Everyone likes to go to the new place. Hopefully, the pendulum will swing back in your favor once the novelty wears off.

Since a majority of your clientele is from Chicago, you could try featuring Chicago specialty foods - deep dish pizza, etc, but with your own spin on them. Perhaps try to create a niche that the casino won't be able to fill.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Places like that still have a tough time with food quality. After working in 3 different hotels I have noticed a trend unless the holtel has a great restaurant with a a great chef they sually are still sorta turn and burns which affects quality. If your food quality in flavors is better you can easily retain your customers. The idea of smoked and aged sounds great but it does not ensure that all the products on the plate will be great.

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We all end up competing with the chains/casinos. What I might suggest is to continue to do what it is that has been successfull for you so far. Customer loyalty is the key. Also, identify your key employees, and pay them 10/hr or even 11 if you offer no other benefits. The casinos will draw many applicants and their turnover will also be high, so you'll see people flooding the area looking for work either because they didn't get in, or they did and didn't like it, or whatever. Just continue to do what made you successful, except make it better. Good luck!

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Most restaurants would kill to have 15,000 potential new customers a day delivered just five minutes away!

Even if you lose half your customer base, you only need to attract one percent of the new ones to increase your business by 25%. Then you'll be able to raise wages.

Why not find a good advertising/marketing consultant and see if you can turn this situation to your advantage?

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Most restaurants would kill to have 15,000 potential new customers a day delivered just five minutes away!

Even if you lose half your customer base, you only need to attract one percent of the new ones to increase your business by 25%.  Then you'll be able to raise wages.

Why not find a good advertising/marketing consultant and see if you can turn this situation to your advantage?

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Most restaurants would kill to have 15,000 potential new customers a day delivered just five minutes away!

Even if you lose half your customer base, you only need to attract one percent of the new ones to increase your business by 25%.  Then you'll be able to raise wages.

Why not find a good advertising/marketing consultant and see if you can turn this situation to your advantage?

First contact the Council for Independent Restaurants of America. They might be able to help you organize your own Originals group. Check out the website.

These groups share advertising, purchasing power, sometimes staff and support.

Until then advertise. advertise, advertise.

just a little heads up

statistics tell me that when a big money casino opens up , they usually get a big name chef.

why?

they all look at the bottom line

dont worry about your neighbor keep focused with posite obtainable goals and youll be just a little better off

big money doesnt mean crap and im proof of that

we have a big money place where i live

pueto vallarta that has students working all the time

funny things are happening to me because im not worried about my neighbor

what is this you might ask?

success in smaller numbers

but it is still succesfull

keep you head high and never get confrontational

if you need help you have a member based community that will always give you some of the very best advice

THE EGULLET SOCIETY!!!!!!!!!!!!

thats why we are here not just for the money

we all know that if you get into the business for the money you might as well pack it up lol

take care my friend message me if you need to

bruce

www.brucesbackalleybistro.com

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When the Atlantic City casinos started up, Philadelphia's service labor market tightened up - especially at skilled levels. Also it was rumored that some of the best area meat, produce and seafood went to the casinos.

On the plus side, it is not a given that the casino will draw away all that many of your customers, especially the second home owners. Could be the last thing that a lot of your summer regulars would want to do is to suffer casino glitz and crowds.

One suggestion. Make good friend$ with the concierge staff, door men, bell hops, cab drivers and the like. As someone else said, some of those 15000 people are going to want to escape the casino for a meal or two.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Holly~

I think you have a good perspective on the situation and I like your advice. How many times have you been at a 'resort' and not wanted to go to the onsite restaurant (me, frequently!)

I'd LOVE a concierge/taxi driver/bellman who could steer me to a gem of a local place.

K

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Do something that Four Winds is not doing. Ethnic menu perhaps or know your regular customers by their names. Learn the names of your new customers so they will eventually become your regulars. Afterall, good customer service and great experience are ingredients for success.

Edited by AzianBrewer (log)

Leave the gun, take the canoli

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If the place you are working at is currently doing well, keep doing what you are doing well. If most of your client base is people who own second homes in the area, then to me, they don't sound like a typical tourist. They are already coming to the area on a regular basis, so the casino will be less of a draw for them. Yes, many will probably go check out the casino. I mean, I would too if I knew there were to be some good quality restaurants there. (i've had fantastic meals in casinos in Las Vegas).

So, how do you make sure those customers come back? I say focus on the location of your place. I bet it's more convenient for them to go to your place instead of to some place inside a massive, sprawling hotel/casino resort. Focus on the more intimate envrionment of a smaller place. I bet the staff at your places knows a lot of your regular customers. The casino won't. You have that going for you.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Most restaurants would kill to have 15,000 potential new customers a day delivered just five minutes away!

Even if you lose half your customer base, you only need to attract one percent of the new ones to increase your business by 25%.  Then you'll be able to raise wages.

Why not find a good advertising/marketing consultant and see if you can turn this situation to your advantage?

This post is spot on. You are going to expand once the casino is established. Get ready. I would definitely cultivate the concierges/FOH at the casinos. I would also place larger ads in the local telephone books- the majority of the out of towners in the casino hotels will be using the telephoone books to see what's available in your area. I would also advertise in the sports section of the local paper, during busy casino times. Casino-goers are known generally to read the financial and sports sections... sports in #1. Putting coupons for anything into your asvertisements will help you to gauge who you are reaching, but with that large an influx of potential clientele, well, even the slightest effort should pay off satisfactorily for you.

Now is the time to redo your advertising- you want a theme that shows your focus, so that any clientele you get are looking for what you particularly offer, and you want your unique attributes played up, to distinguish yourself from the pack.

This does not mean you have to be fancy, heck, if I was making an advertisement theme for a scrambled egg specialist, I would tout that and the customers would flock and be happy, and the chef would be doing what she likes best, everyone wins! Don't change the focus of your food- that is the kiss of insincerity, and you hould stick with your own passion. That passion will translate to the fod and the customers will return, over and over, as they do now. What I mean is, STAY TRUE TO YOUR OWN PASSION, ADD A FEW SMALL COMPONENTS TO GET THE WORD OUT, AND GET READY TO USE A LOT MORE FOOD AND LINENS DURING SERVICE TIME!

Oh, and you might want to buy new door mats. I think you're going to wear the old ones out, quickly. Best wishes!

PS: If you do not have a knack for advertising copy yourself, find someone to do it for you, the copy in your advertisement sets the tone for your identity. I can not stress enough how important this can be in your future.

edited by me teme/theme... now I want some thyme roasted salmon for diner!

Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

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  • 3 weeks later...

From my experience the affect is going to be minimal. I live in Galena, IL and we have much the same dynamic as your community likely does. Chicagoans with second homes that are here primarily during the summer months.

There was great concern here when a casino boat and restaurant venue opened 14 miles away. There was a great effort on the part of the hospitality industry in Galena to either lure customers that went to gamble or partner with the casino to provide their customers with lodging accommodations and dining alternatives.

Neither happened. The profile of gamblers specifically in the Midwest is quite different than that of Las Vegas or Atlantic City. They want to gamble first and foremost and eat cheaply if they happen to be hungry. Inversely, people who do not gamble are not likely to seek out fine dining at a casino venue in the more rural areas of the Midwest.

The casino boat in the Galena area went out of business in just a couple of years. Another has operated for quite a few years on the Iowa side of the Mississippi that has two restaurants. One is a high end steak house and the other is cheap appetizers served buffet style. The buffet is fairly busy. You can walk into the steak house on a saturday night at 7pm and be seated immediately. So rest assured, your worst fears will probably not materialize.

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From my experience the affect is going to be minimal.  I live in Galena, IL and we have much the same dynamic as your community likely does.  Chicagoans with second homes that are here primarily during the summer months. 

There was great concern here when a casino boat and restaurant venue opened 14 miles away.  There was a great effort on the part of the hospitality industry in Galena to either lure customers that went to gamble or partner with the casino to provide their customers with lodging accommodations and dining alternatives.

Neither happened.  The profile of gamblers specifically in the Midwest is quite different than that of Las Vegas or Atlantic City.  They want to gamble first and foremost and eat cheaply if they happen to be hungry.  Inversely, people who do not gamble are not likely to seek out fine dining at a casino venue in the more rural areas of the Midwest. 

The casino boat in the Galena area went out of business in just a couple of years.  Another has operated for quite a few years on the Iowa side of the Mississippi that has two restaurants.  One is a high end steak house and the other is cheap appetizers served buffet style.  The buffet is fairly busy.  You can walk into the steak house on a saturday night at 7pm and be seated immediately.  So rest assured, your worst fears will probably not materialize.

Thanks again, to everyone for their posts.

I agree, it ain't gonna be as bad as we all thought.

Ahhh... Galena.

One of my favorite towns.

I honeymooned at Chestnut Mtn. Resort back in 1971.

I always loved Galena and really wanted to move there back in the day.

We did manage to get there several times over the years.

Hope it hasn't changed much.

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If you do catering, suggest to your regular clients (seasonal cabin owners) that you can provide dining for them at their cabin. Prepare the meals and deliver so they remember what you offer. Suggest this for their friends who stay at the cabim and leave menu's.

"I drink to make other people interesting".

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  • 2 weeks later...

Old Timer

Galena hasn't changed much other than three new hotels which were much needed. If anything, many of the larger historic homes and commercial buildings that were empty have been restored over the last 8 years, so it's better than ever. Look me up if you ever get out this way. Just call City Hall. I'm the economic development and finance director.

Cindy

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I think dockhl hit an important point. When I worked at Keystone Resort, we had a bunch of restaurants, but our concierge was constantly answering the question of where to get a meal off-site. I sat in for the concierge for about a month, and my palm got greased so many times by local restaurants and businesses that it kept those businesses top of mind. I'm not suggesting anything nefarious, but if you already have a good operation going, then make sure the key service staff knows about you. And by the way, when I was in Chicago a few months ago, I confused my transportation captain for the concierge for 3 days - so don't limit to the concierge.

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  • 1 year later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I happened to stumble on this thread I started and will give an update.

The casino started out like gangbusters. Top quality food, very low prices and a steady stream of customers kept their restaurants filled.

One of the dishes they offered for breakfast was a huge slab of ham, (picture a piece of meat a good 12" in diameter and 1/2 " thick) with eggs, hash browns and coffee for $4.99. They also offered decent 12oz. Prime Rib dinner for $9.99.

The problems started when they could not keep help. It seems that chefs/cooks were coming and going on a daily basis. Even a few of the top echelon chefs were either fired or quit. This caused inconsistent quality in the food and I don't think locals go there much anymore. In the beginning, they had chefs applying from all over the world, with some coming from Europe to work there, primarily due to the big plans the casino management had in mind for the future. There is a lot of competition for the casino dollar now and they are feeling the pinch.

The owners of the casino claim that they are doing well but I hear differently. Most of the restaurants are closed during the week, and their huge "International Themed Buffet" closes at 7:00. The prices have gone up dramatically as well. The meals listed above are now probably twice the price.

It really has not affected the bottom line at my place, as our records show the same numbers of guests coming as we had last year.

One bright note...

My wife cooks at the casino and they offer great health benefits through Blue Cross/Blue Shield as well as a decent starting wage.

Edited by Old Timer (log)
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