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ChristinaM

How to generate publicity and interest in our restaurant?

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Pam

To sort of paraphrase Groucho Marx (I think), I dont't want to eat somewhere where I am not welcomed as I am.

On our forthcoming trip to Scotland, we're staying at Fort William overnight. Needless to say, I took a peek at the Inverlochy Castle website. Only a brief look, mind. Not only is a jacket required but a tie as well. Talk about old-fashioned, eh? I keep thinking that, one of these days, I'll try to identify the number of places in the country that are so backward as to still require jacket. Must be only a handful still clinging on (even Gordon Ramsey, Royal Hospital Road has now relaxed their policy to "preferred" so I might get to eat there yet)

John


Edited by Harters (log)

John Hartley

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Christina,

I think there is some good feedback here, and whilst it is useful to hear the opinions from potential punters and customers like me (enthusiastic foodies!) I would also set specific store to feedback given by people like Gary Marshall or Basildog as they have run or do run restaurants like yours and will I'm sure have lived through many of the problems you are facing.

My initial gut reaction here is to say NEVER GIVE UP (I speak as someone who has run businesses, some more successfully then others, through both good and torturous times) but I add the significant caveat that I think, based on what you have said (and accepting my very slim knowledge of your locale) that you could be in a dangerously limited position.

It comes down to location. I would say the majority of restaurants (not all, we're talking generalisms here to illustrate points) get the bulk of their business from local custom and ‘on site’ tourism (day/overnight, business or pleasure) that is brought past their doors by a third party (local visitor attractions, conference/event facilities, major transport routes etc).

In effect they only need to do initial limited small-scale marketing to locals (counting on them enjoying the experience enough to become regulars) whilst also ensuring they are visible (in location and/or marketing) and inviting to visitors who are merely passing by their door. In both cases though this market is already ‘there’, they need only to convert it.

This 'on the doorstep/passing the doors' business should give a restaurant decent sustainable turnover and indeed a comfortable margin, and if that business can then attract visitors to travel moderate or great distances specifically to eat at their restaurant this will be the difference between a nice life and a bloody good life (and potential expansion!).

Your restaurant does look good, and I don't doubt you could wind up in some of the guides (as noted start by filling in forms for every print/online guide going), and nor do I doubt some people might make a long trip to visit you, but I suspect it would only ever be enough to be the icing on your cake, rather than the bedrock (to mix metaphors) of your business.

So the guides might work (or might not) and the reviewers may come once (or not at all) but it's won’t “save” your business. If your local "doorstep" audience (as noted this could be a resident or transitory) simply isn't big enough for your current offering maybe adapt that offering to broaden your potential market (if you can bear to dilute/dumb down your passionately nurtured concept)

I don't think you could ever justify proactive investment in "national" marketing, and although the key is to maximism business in your locale I'm sceptical about the ROI from most such local advertising opportunities. As recommended above I say continue to network, plug into communities, add USPs and make sure you are visible/linked in to the major tourism drivers.

Oh and good tip about Google adwords thing (Google "Google adwords" and it will tell you how to do it). Quite simply it's about the best, most effective marketing one can have (it costs pence, and you only pay when people click through to you) and if people are on the net banging the words "Restaurant" and your local town name in you want to be top of the list!

I really, really hope you find a way through this, and by all means hit those guides and court those reviewers (just email them, politely and directly) but don't expect a panacea. I'd put everything you've got and more into snaring every bit of local and passing trade, and if those figures don't add up then... rack your brains some more (NEVER GIVE UP!).

Cheers

Thom


Edited by thom (log)

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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... Google adwords...

Right now, no-one is paying to be listed against >Perth Scotland restaurants< for example - so you'll be first and it'll be as cheap as it can be. That search also brings up a number of places online you might start trying to get listed: Perth City, Perth Directory, Restaurant Guide, Taste of Scotland etc.


QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Is your restaurant too upmarket for the broader population in your area?

The food concept looks great; local and real. The chef seems to be good at delivering, and the food must be good because you get good repeat business. And then you say you offer great value (marketing 101: never use the word cheap it creates a negative image).

But then you look at the food pictures with Michelin style plating, OK great in a restaurant with aspirations but maybe out of synch with your restaurant ethos. Certainly don't change the food but maybe tweak the presentation, less cheffy and more rustic seems to be a common factor in rural/local restaurants. Your niche competitor market at this price point is probably the gastro pub segment and a lot of very average places do well. But the very good ones - Harwood Arms, The Sportsman, The Star all have simple plating.

So what are the other features of the good ones? They keep it simple: they have bare tables and without table clothes, maybe a little vase of local flowers from the garden, and some tea-lights (the romantic touch) making the experience more casual and relaxed - a nice place for a bite to eat on Saturday lunchtime rather than a destination to dress up for on Saturday night. You can still maintain high standards but by simplifying the presentation you may make the place more welcoming.

Redraft the menu, it is poncy aspirational menu speak which doesn't reflect the provenance of the food. In fact the menu reads like a tired old suburban restaurant doing euro-food. It doesn't read like a proud scottish restaurant doing local food (and I really hope the menu is a simple sheet of A4 printed out clean each day and not some tacky plastic or faux leather menu binder). Best to use simple straightforward language that doesn't need to list every ingredient and technique, diners often like an element of surprise, and by leaving room for questions it allows a dialogue to develop with the staff. Some thoughts:

  • Local Perthshire ribeye of beef from XXX cows on YYY farm, served with seasonal vegetables from ZZZ, with an added French twist.
  • King scallops from the west coast of Scotland with home made black pudding and slow cooked pork belly
  • Farmer Jocks lamb two ways contrasted with spicy red cabbage and a surprise soup
  • XXX farms free range chicken served three ways with pureed and creamed local vegetables.

This isn't dumbing down what's on the plate but it is about moving the menu descriptions forward. You also need to change the menu every few days if you want to keep regulars happy. Keep the favourites as core items but keep it seasonal by changing at least 50% on a regular basis. Also where is the haggis? You are in Scotland you need famed local products - but don't do haggis for tourists make your own and serve it with a twist.

And WTF is the Bluegrass menu - it put me off! OK now I see it is something to do with a local festival - great, but maybe on a sign board not the website. Interestingly the menu reads better than the poncy french one - more in keeping with the USP. Please update your Offers page - it is so negative to tell me I missed, in fact I am a bit pissed off I missed your special dinner offer and so won't bother booking. The offers page is the place for the Bluegrass menu not the main page

Are you and your partner welcoming enough? This may sound personal but it needs to be said, your web site has a picture of a dodgy used car salesman in a suit, a women who appears to be avoiding the press as she leaves court, and a very serious chef who appears to have cut off his thumb. Nobody is smiling! Face the camera, look happy and look welcoming!

I also don't want to read your CV - I want to be tempted to try your restaurant. Are you passionate about local food, is Gawaine and collector of great wines and whisky nut or something interesting to a prospective diner rather than employer - if so bring out the personality not the dull CV. Your home page is similar it is again like a CV - and the layout is wrong the big slow food and beef bits get in the way, and then you don't even mention them in the narrative. In fact the home page hardly mentions you are a restaurant with great food.

Jonny's CV is also a bit too accurate (and beware his journey through many hotels and restaurants makes him look a bit unstable) I have eaten with many chefs who worked as chefs with Ferran Adria at El Bulli, OK I know they did a short stage and were not really part of the core team but that is not how PR works Jonny has cheffed at the restaurants not simply staged. It would also be good to understand his food philosophy, and I can't work out why he has come full circle unless Perth is now in Northern Ireland

What do your staff wear? Hopefully not traditional scottish aprons and pinny's? Set standards, but keep it simple, don't dress the staff like a Michelin restaurant dress them in a relaxed style.

Finally how many places do you try yourselves? Check out the popular competition, head South the famed gastro-pubs (The Star in Yorkshire isn't that far) or take a trip to London and try The Harwood and others (and take Jonny)

PS - not a food professional I simply eat in restaurants a lot both for pleasure and whilst travelling for work.


Edited by PhilD (log)

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Leaving aside any passing travellers or festival goers, you need to think about catchment area.

We eat at a variety of places and,over the last couple of years, focus on places we havnt been to before. In the ordinary course of events, we limit ourselves to a 1 hour drive time from home. When I mention this to folk, they are generally gob-smacked that we'd be prepared to drive that far just for a midweek dinner. Clearly, they would travel less and, I suspect, much less.

Means that you are going to have a generally limited catchment area - probably similar to what you have now. The question is how to tap into that population better. If you havnt already done so,I'd suggest it might be worthwhile visiting the local restaurants in Perth and around which are popular and successful and see how they're doing it. Maybe one of those not seeing the wood for the trees sort of thing.

John


John Hartley

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Hi Christina,

hope you're still reading this forum (though I doubt it).

We recently visited your place (unlike 99% of other bloggers/photographers we don't want to be recognised, we don't want special treatment, and we like anonymity, as it is the only way to have an objective impression and write a balanced review).

Booking was a negative experience. The first time we called one weekday evening we found an answering machine. We were not called back until the afternoon of the following day, by which time we had already booked another place. The second time we again found an answering machine, and finally the following morning found a human who answered the phone. We did not find these arrangements welcoming and enticing for a visit.

Second, recently all the links to your website (e.g. Viamichelin, or the one you gave above, or even the one on your card!) sent to an error page. This is because (we discovered there) you have changed your web address without bothering to update the links! One consequence of this fact is that we did not know that you had no proper menu on Sundays, but just the stripped down version that you call 'high-tea'. The person who answered the phone also did not see fit to inform us. Once again, this is not nice to the customer (as we have to drive one and a half hours to reach you, it was particularly frustrating).

Anyway, once the frustration was overcome, despite the tables formally laid up, we would have been happy to eat simple pub fare. The problem was that the main dishes simply were not good enough even when judged as pub fare.

The 'Chef's roast' consisted of turkey that was too tough and dry even by turkey standards. The gravy was bland starchy water. The croquette was chewey. The fondant potato was not soft and buttery as it should be. The stuffing tasted exactly of nothing. The vegetables weren't served in a meaningful quantity. That said, no flavour were positively bad (in fact the flavour of the trukey was good). It was simply a very mediocre dish.

The Cumberland sausage (served in lieu of the lamb shank showed on the menu) showed that you source good produce. But the sauce that came with it depressingly lacked any depth or intensity. And again, in such a minimalistic dish, at least you ought to put some meaningful veggies.

The starters and desserts were better. The chicken liver parfait was smooth in texture and intense in flavour. And the prawn and crevettes cocktail once again witnessed to good sourcing. One problem was that the spoon supplied did not fit the small glass that contained the Bloody Mary jelly. This is sloppy - did you or the Chef not think of the customer when choosing glass and spoon?

And the dessert trolley was nice (you have a good patisserie section or a good granny in the kitchen!). The cakes were moist, in the nicely textured posset (which looked like a creme brulee) the lemon flavour came through nicely, and the chocolate praline had a pleasant light crumbliness.

Your pricing is very good: at £20, had all courses been prepared properly, it would have been very good value.

Your service is not professional enough. The young waiter does not know how to make one taste the wine (he poured a drop in the glass). The water was kept away from the table yet was not topped up properly (why don't you just put the carafe on the table?). We were served a New Zealand Pinot noir instead of the the Burgundy we had asked for (also my fault, as not admitting to my myopia, I normally just nod when the label is shown to me, and when the bottle was opened I didn't want to make a fuss). Anyway we saved twenty pounds on that one...A young waitress asked us if we wanted sauces with our sausage but had no idea of what sauces were available. Noone enquired about how we found the food. Long wait to get our coats. Etcetera. But I'd like to say that everyone was very sweet and smiley. They were just ineffective from a professional point of view.

In summary, we think that clearly you are doing something good at the Inn, but you stillhave a lot of work to do. I hope that your main Chef was not in the kitchen because if those are the standards he would not be able to cook the more refined dining menu of the non-Sunday days. We also think that for your location unashamed pub fare, properly done, and a rustic environment, would be be better than the more formal offering you seem to go for. For semi-fine dining, ten minutes from you, Graeme Palliser at 63 Tay Street seems to be streets ahead of you in standards of cuisine.

That's it. A review and pictures will appear on our blog on the 27th December, but there's no real need to look at it (apart from the pictures) as I've said more here, really. Hope you find this useful, and good luck.


Edited by Man (log)

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And that, ladies and gentlemen is why you never ask for advice like this on egullet...


"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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With perhaps a sigh of relief, I'm rather glad that it wasnt lunchtime when we passed this way back in the summer


John Hartley

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And that, ladies and gentlemen is why you never ask for advice like this on egullet...

The place is mentioned in Viamichelin and being approximately in my area it would have been blogged anyway, independently of egullet (as you can see, we didn't exactly rush there after her post) - if this is what you mean.

If not, what do you mean?

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Second, recently all the links to your website (e.g. Viamichelin, or the one you gave above, or even the one on your card!) sent to an error page. This is because (we discovered there) you have changed your web address without bothering to update the links! One consequence of this fact is that we did not know that you had no proper menu on Sundays, but just the stripped down version that you call 'high-tea'. The person who answered the phone also did not see fit to inform us. Once again, this is not nice to the customer (as we have to drive one and a half hours to reach you, it was particularly frustrating).

I'm not in a position to comment on the rest of your review, but it looks to me like the website is probably a transient problem - possibly with the hosting company rather than the restaurant itself.

If I enter the original website URL (http://www.theanglersinn.co.uk/) then, as you say, I get an Apache error page, but if I search on Google for "the anglers inn, perth" then I can see a preview of the website which looks almost identical to the one I'm guessing you describe as the updated website (http://www.theanglersrestaurant.com/). Since Google cached the copy on 13th December my guess is that there is a temporary problem and that link should have redirected to the .com website.

This seems to be confirmed by a WHOIS lookup on the .co.uk domain as the domain is still recorded as registered to "The Anglers Inn" and was renewed last month.

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I am not sure whether it is wise to forgo diacritics on the menu. (


Charles Milton Ling

Vienna, Austria

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Not intended as a comment on your review Man, certainly seems fair and you make valid points, more a general comment on asking a bunch of egulleters for advice on this sort of thing - it's often hard to hear the responses!


"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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I understand that the Angler's Inn has closed or is about to do so. So my recent experience above may partly reflect some degree of demoralisation on the part of the staff. Hope that if they try with a new place they will find a clear identity this time.

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