Your Hello Moment

Learning how customers know your restaurant can help you better understand your business

If your restaurant could walk and talk and introduce itself, what might it say to customers?

Could it say something interesting? Even memorable perhaps?

That little bit of information - the headline, the first impression - is your "hello" moment. And far from being purely up to your customers, it can be something your restaurant defines for itself.

SAY HELLO

In the same way people easily forget a name, but remember details about the person they meet, your restaurant's "hello" moment gives customers a shorthand impression they can recall and talk about.

It's not so much about telling them anything as it is about demonstrating the details that prove to be worth remembering.

A frozen yogurt store recently opened on the main street here in my town. The concept and buildout were so different from anything that exists locally, that they generated plenty of attention from day one. "Hey everyone - we're a froyo place! A comfortable spot to hang out and have a snack."

The combination of vivid decor, spacious tables and free wifi (and frozen yogurt) turned into that location's very visible and welcoming "hello". They've steadily built a clientele dominated by the teenagers and young adults in the area.

The froyo store made their details very visible and gave a customer what's needed to form an impression on their own. It's doubly effective because of the heightened authenticity people feel with their own ideas.

SAYING RATHER THAN PAYING

Major chains, too, put great efforts into defining their "hello". A good recent example is Chipotle.

Awareness of what Chipotle is about (their brand identity) is very high amongst customers. But most of that awareness is gleaned from interaction with the restaurant location itself. Why?

Because Chipotle does almost no traditional marketing. The company spent only $6 million on advertising last year.

As a comparison, Arby's, the smallest of the major fast-food chains, spent about $100 million. And McDonalds, the largest, spent more than $650 million.

Chipotle doesn't even contract with an outside ad agency. Internal staff handles everything.

THE POWER OF CONVERSATION

With fewer dollars allocated, Chipotle seizes instead on amplifying the conversational aspect of their identity.

Perhaps the best example of this is in their video shorts posted to YouTube.

The first (above) and second videos garnered 10+ millions of views on Youtube and countless follow-on blog mentions.

An independent restaurant wouldn't dream of that kind of promotion. But they don't have to either.

The important goal isn't to match something like Chipotle. Rather, it's to exceed the anonymity of being just 'that burger place' or 'that pizza place'.

If you can identify how to do that, you're already developing your "hello" moment. It mostly requires a creative approach to the details of what you already do and a focus on making details visible.

WHAT'S OLD IS NEW AGAIN

As a small example, an independent 'neighborhood grill' restaurant recently opened up here.

The concept isn't novel - but the menu and limited marketing they do make a big point about how they serve prime, aged steaks.

I'm not sure how many steaks they actually sell. But the glow of having prime, aged cuts is carried over to their 'steakburger' hamburger - and they sell plenty of those (with 11 different variations). All with the added cache of being "steakhouse quality".

With that simple emphasis, the restaurant not only sets themselves apart, they also chart a course away from business-stifling anonymity.

That's the real power of your "hello" moment. In a second part of this post, I'll examine some of tactics that can also make it effective marketing.

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