March 22, 2014 |

How to Talk the Talk That Brings in Customers

By Pizza Today

Joel_Cohen photo

Joel Cohen

Over the years, in my many speeches, I’ve talked about the importance of differentiation—the need to separate your restaurant from the pack and the importance of standing outby making an impact and becoming memorable in the minds of your customers.

The fact is, customers only remember the last three to four restaurants they’ve visited. If you’re not one of those restaurants, then you’re forgotten.

Sound harsh? Most restaurants leave a bland lasting impression with customers—just another restaurant, with a robotic greeting and then the slapping of a plate of food on the table along with the fleeting server’s question, “Is everything OK?”

It’s a template that is repeated automatically in nearly every restaurant and every concept. The same thing over and over. Customers are weary of it, so the restaurant that makes the change to “wow”—embracing word of mouth as the number-one way to increase sales—can become the category leader. The restaurant that’s remembered is the one the gets repeat visits … despite the robotic restaurantdown the street that spends all its advertising dollars on fancy-pantsy, glitzy-ritzy loyalty reward programs or utilizes a mega advertising budget with glossy TV commercials.

According to “Cohen’s Law of Similarity”—(I took the liberty of naming a law after myself)—there are similar restaurants selling similar food, using similar menus at similar prices to similar people at similar locations.

Part two of the law identifies similar phrases being used in similar restaurants: “Is everything OK?” “Still working on that?” (What does “working” really mean?) “Two for dinner?” And here’s the one that wins the award for the greatest lack of creativity: “My name is John and I’ll be your server tonight.”

And you wonder why customers can’t remember your restaurant? When every restaurant in every category is saying the same thing over and over is it any wonder why our customers so readily accept mediocrity in restaurants as their only option when dining out? Only after a certainrestaurant presents itself as creative, unique and possessinga show-time flair, will customers say goodbye to mediocrity and opt for the establishment that is “remarkable.”

If your pizzeria has been entangled in the similarity cycle for years, you’ve probably experienced a customer baseandprofits that have grown little. And there’s a good chancethat just over your shoulder another restaurant is or soon will be encroaching your trading area with a concept that is truly remarkable and understands innovation and the power of word of mouth.

If so, you’ve got some work to do. It’s time to restructure your restaurant so that you’re the category leader.

What does it take to put your pizzeria in a leadership category? What does it take to win the decision made by customers so they’ll go to your restaurant rather than thecompetition? What does your restaurant have to do to become that tie-breaker?

This is the subject I’ll be talking about at Pizza Expo on Tuesday, March 25. We’ll go back to basic marketing and I’ll discuss with you the essence of being a category leader.It isn’t about competing on price. It’s not about competing on service and smiles—customers are weary of those claims. Being a category leader is about making up your own category within your category concept.

The essence of being a category leader is having a story. Does your restaurant have a story? Does your restaurant have different stories for different customer types? Is there a sensory story—fresh-baked cinnamon rolls? Is there an emotional story—first dates or birthday dinners? Is there a story at every customer touch-point from outside the restaurant to inside? And here’s the multi-million dollar question: Is it being communicated to your customers so they can share it with their friends?

How important is having stories? If a customer walks away with a story, your restaurant will be remembered. Storiesbecome embedded in the minds of our customers. Stories get your restaurant remembered and talked about. Without a story, you can’t compete with a competitor. Without a story, there’s no tie-breaker.

I’ll show you the power of stories, the power of word of mouth and the basics of marketing that still produce resultsduring my seminars at Pizza Expo 2014.


For the past 35 years, Joel Cohen has specialized in restaurant marketing and sales. He has established himself as a no-nonsense, cutting-edge restaurant-hospitality sales-builder with a vast list of clients. He is a regular speaker at Pizza Expo and he’ll speak at the 2014 show on two topics: “Back to Basics Marketing” and “Igniting Sales Through the Power of World-of-Mouth Marketing.”

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