Strategies to increase foot traffic

Strategies to increase foot traffic

Porto Restaurant in Boston is set to open its second Amalfi Coast themed patio after rave reviews last summer.
Porto Restaurant in Boston is set to open its second Amalfi Coast themed patio after rave reviews last summer.

Amanda Lewis says there’s a better way for restaurants to pull in customers. And to make the patron experience so worthwhile they become devotees of the hospitality brand.

She knows from which she speaks.

Over the Christmas season Lewis transformed a restaurant into a North Pole wonderland so beautiful that a neighborhood Italian restaurant in Weymouth, Mass. was booked solid from Nov. 1 until the end of January.

Reservations for The Venetian Restaurant became so hard to get that patrons were selling them online. And the photographs taken by patrons went viral in social media, attracting the attention of television news channels, who featured the restaurant in their nightly programming.

“At this one restaurant in Weymouth we had a shocking number of first-time guests,” says Lewis, CEO of AGL & Co., a marketing company and Boxerbrand customer that works with restaurants and hospitality on brand enhancement. “First-time guests at The Venetian increased by 608 percent!”

In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Lewis offers her opinion on changes in the wants and desires of restaurant patrons, and of her secrets for helping restaurants book out months in advance.

Boxerbrand: How have you helped restaurants bring in more customers?

Amanda Lewis: A lot of owners are not tech savvy, so one of the first things I do is help them capitalize on the systems they already have in place.

There’s this whole other back-in world that exists with platforms like Open Table and point-of-sale systems like Toast that helps us better understand guest behavior, whether they’re ordering online or in person. So for example, there may be a guest who orders the chicken Parmesan all the time, and we’ll take that information and send the patron a coupon for the chicken parm.

Boxerbrand: How can restaurants better utilize social media?

Amanda Lewis: There are so many things that restaurants do in the creation of their menus, from their cocktail program to their ingredients. I take over their social media content creation to help them engage better with their customers.

A lot of our restaurant clients are surprised to discover how vital marketing and social media are in generating foot traffic.

One small example, again with The Venetian Restaurant— which I mention because it’s one of the establishments where we placed Boxerbrand menu covers— is a decision they made about flour.

They recently switched from American flour to Italian flour because they feel there’s an enormous benefit in the taste and texture of the pasta made with Italian flour. It produces a lighter, cleaner and fresher pasta. So we took that decision and created an awareness campaign around it.

Boxerbrand: What’s changed with restaurant customer desires?

Amanda Lewis: What we’re finding is that guests want to connect with their environment. A huge part of the dining experience isn’t simply the dinner and what’s served on the plate, but it’s about the room, or the space.

There are so many small details in the customer experience, from the locations of the bathrooms, to how a guest enters the space, to the lighting, the color of the wall paint, and many other small details that make up the feeling and experience of a room.

As a way to illustrate to my own customers the importance of the restaurant experience versus a great plating, as strange as this might sound, I mention Disney World.The restaurants there are so popular because the patrons are transported to another world. The food, frankly, is not that good. But the experience is the equivalent of ‘dinner and a show.’

Boxerbrand: Tell me more about these show-stopping restaurant experiences.

Amanda Lewis: We transformed the outdoor patio space of Porto Restaurant in the Back Bay, Boston, into an Amalfi Coast theme. We festooned the space with live greenery, lemon trees, and created a Mediterranean oasis in the Back Bay.

Patrons loved sitting beneath a canopy of lemons and greenery in the outdoor space, and it was so popular that the theme is being reintroduced this year at Porto.

We’re also working with two-time James Beard Award winning chef Jody Adams on a new restaurant La Padrona, which is part of the A Street Hospitality Group.

Boxerbrand: What are some common mistakes restaurants make trying to attract guests?

Amanda Lewis: The biggest mistake I see is that restaurants spend a ton of money with the false idea that ‘if they build it, they will come.’ They’ll put up lots of fake greenery outdoors on their patio and think customers will love it. They won’t. There’s a right way and a wrong way to create ambience.

Boxerbrand: Have Boxerbrand menu covers worked out for your restaurants?

Amanda Lewis: We use Boxerbrand menu covers in all of our restaurants. The menu covers are one of the details that play a role in how a guest connects with the environment, and how they feel sitting in the space.

— AGL & Co uses Boxerbrand menu covers in restaurant table presentations. Thank you!

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