A common misconception floating around about the food and beverage industry is that the big name national chains of restaurants and bars are completely taking over the space. Yet if that’s true, then  how can the continued success of single unit operations be explained? Statistics show that 7 out of 10 eateries currently in operation nationwide are single unit businesses. Yet with customers constantly being inundated with marketing from the national chains, how is it that small time “mom-and-pop” outfits still find success?

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The answer lies in their own unique brand of marketing. While the big boys aim to reach a wide audience with their marketing, single unit stores tend to thrive be selling themselves as being part of a single community. It’s this sense of kinship that creates a strong sense of loyalty in their customers. The national names tend to devalue this sense of community partnership. Their hope is that customers place more emphasis on name recognition. Does this strategy work? It can if you let it.

If, on the other hand, you hope to see your single unit restaurant or bar compete in your local market, the key is to focus your efforts on community-centric marketing. Success in such marketing requires that you not only have a strong understanding of your customers, but also that they believe that you’re as equally invested in the success of the local community as you are in maintaining a healthy bottom line. This might seem complicated, but if you’re willing to keep your eyes and ears open to what’s going around you, you’ll soon notice that opportunities to build bridges with your customers are there for the taking.

Use Local Media Sources

A terrific way to show your customers just how serious you take your community partnerships is by taking advantage of local resources available to help you spread the word about what you’re all about. Local collaboration may include local newspapers, radio and television stations, or Internet bloggers. How do you get such groups to spotlight you? Consider holding a special event commemorate a local holiday or accomplishment. Offer up your space for local bands to perform live. Better yet, collaborate with these news sources to celebrate their own achievements, such as throwing a party to mark the release of local magazine issue or celebrate the arrival of a new media host.

This may seem odd to some, but you can also consider your nearest competitors to be marketing resources, as well. Those engaged in an all-out marketing war for the same customers often find themselves driving customers away from both locations. On the other hand, collaborative events such as block parties, bar hops, or even friendly sales competitions are viewed by many as an indicator or a robust local economy. Customers tend to be more willing to spend their money at local businesses in such an environment.

Be Charitable

The ultimate sign that your business cares about the community is a willingness to give back. By engaging in charitable work, you not only show the heart of your business, but you enjoy the benefits of free marketing, as well. Some of the ways you can support local charity work include:

  • Staging auctions or events to benefit local individuals or organizations
  • Sponsoring local fundraisers
  • Offer up a portion of each patron’s bill to a local charity.

As you can, the opportunities to sell yourself to your customers as an important part of the community are plentiful. Once you’ve won that place in a community’s collective heart, it’s hard for any big-name establishment to push you out of it.

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