New customers up 70 percent at Hilton Head bistro

New customers up 70 percent at Hilton Head bistro

Margaret Pearman
Margaret Pearman in her happy place.

A Hilton Head brother-sister team who took over their father’s French-American concept four years ago, managed to increase new-customer traffic this year by 70 percent.

Utilizing communication tools such as Constant Contact, as well as all the social media channels, and benefitting from the “game changing” spotlight of Open Table, business at Charlie’s L’etoile Verte in Hilton Head, N.C. has been terrific, says Charlie Golson’s daughter Margaret Pearman.

Charlie’s L’etoile Flounder“Open Table was a huge game-changer for us,” says Pearman, a certified sommelier under the Court of Master Sommeliers. “We were doing paper reservations up until about 2 years ago. But we transformed the way we reach our customers, and I feel a little guilty saying this, because I know what has happened to other restaurants, but, we’ve had a great year!”

In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Pearman discusses the way she and her brother Palmer Golson, a highly skilled butcher and talented procurer of ingredients, attracted more customers to the restaurant their father started in 1982.

BB: How did your reach more customers?

MP:  We started getting heavily into Open Table, and they do a crazy amount of marketing of restaurants. I think Open Table was one of the biggest influences on our ability to attract new customers. Our name, for example, is very French. But even if the name gives us a little bit of identity crisis, we’re able to market ourselves as a French-American bistro that has a deep selection of fresh fish and meat professionally butchered in house. Another big game-changer for us was Constant Contact. It was integral in helping us keep our local customers engaged. I wrote weekly emails to our customer list, and the people loved it.

Through Constant Contact, we were able to offer deals and specials that also boosted our sales. For example, we had 65 Valentine’s Day packages go out, which included menu items and bottles of wine that the customers could easily pair together. That one effort netted sales as if we added a whole extra shift.

BB: Please tell me more about your customer acquisition.

MP: Prior to the pandemic, online ordering wasn’t something we did. But following the (state mandated) six-week shutdown, we were able to build a strong to-go program with curbside pickup option. This produced a huge part of our monthly revenue pie. Online ordering through our website has dropped off since people have returned to more normal dining options, but it’s still very much part of our pie.

BB: How has the geography of Hilton Head influenced your ongoing success?

MP: Our area has changed dramatically since my father opened the restaurant. It used to be a seasonal resort community, and we were lucky, back then, to do 20 dinners in the month of December. That has changed completely. Hilton Head is now a year-round community that sprawls 20 miles out. And through the online channels we’ve used, we’ve been able to pull in so many new customers that we’re up by 70 percent this year!

BB: What keeps customers coming back to Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte?

MP: The restaurant had really good bones and was a great place when my father was running it. But, my brother has taken our menu to the next level. He’s an outdoorsman who is highly skilled at butchery. What we have that many restaurants don’t is skillfully cut fillets of fish. Big restaurants get pigeonholed into pre-cut fish, and they just don’t have the same quality. And I’m a certified sommelier with a good, professional working knowledge of wine and wine pairings. Together, with the original bartender my father hired, and an amazing chef, we’ve been able to offer an experience that continues to pull people into our restaurant. — Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte of Hilton Head uses Boxerbrand’s Corks menu covers and SuperDuck printed menus in its table presentation. Thank you!

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