When people think about post-Thanksgiving shopping and spending, usually the hectic Black Friday comes to mind. But it’s not the only shopping day of the holiday season! in fact, another shopping day has slowly grown in popularity throughout the U.S.: Small Business Saturday.
Set the day after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday encourages consumers to look within their own communities and support those small, independent retailers and restaurants they want to see thrive. In 2016 alone, an estimated 112 million shoppers and diners participated in Small Business Saturday — that’s up 13% from 2015.
With this year’s Small Business Saturday just around the corner, how can your restaurant most efficiently use the event to connect with your community and make money?
Play up your small business identity.
No matter what day of the year it is, your status as a locally-owned small business is a feature to your restaurant, not a flaw. Think about what makes your small business special, from the personable service to your from-scratch items to your cozy ambiance. People want to support their community, and you’re part of that! Small Business Saturday gives you the perfect opportunity to really highlight that side of your brand.
Take advantage of the increased foot traffic.
Not every Small Business Saturday shopper will be planning out their whole day in advance. Many of them will heading to a part of town with lots of locally-owned shops and playing it by ear. That means you potentially have many opportunities to pull customers from the increased foot traffic. Make a point to put up signage saying you’re participating in Small Business Saturday as a fellow small business along with the retail stores.
Want to go one step further? Have a staff member go out in front of your restaurant with a tray of samples. Even just a drink sample would be appealing to those doing some power shopping. Make sure the staff member is prepared to explain the dish or drink and also explain that your business is participating in the event.
But what if you restaurant is located in a suburban area where everyone drives? Or what if you’re a little more out of the way? That’s makes it trickier to pull people in off the street. But if you’re located in an area where people might be able to see your restaurant driving by, put out a sign close to the street for to let drivers know you’re participating in Small Business Saturday. Just make sure your town allows you to put up that kind of signage.
Talk to your local business association.
If you are a part of any associations for local businesses, check in with them and see what they’re doing for Small Business Saturday. It could be that they already have advertising and collaboration plans that you can be a part of.
Partner with fellow local businesses.
Part of Small Business Saturday is that sense of community, not just among the customers but between the various businesses as well. Talk to your neighboring businesses and see what they’re doing for the Saturday. Maybe you can cross promote each other’s businesses or team up in other ways!
This is a major strategy for Emily Mendenhall, owner of Lily’s Bistro in Dayton, OH: “We have a lot [independent businesses] that can support each other and provide feedback and good practices for each other. So really I rely most strongly on our community of other independent businesses.”
You can also team up with other restaurants that compliment your brand. For instance, if you’re a soup and salad lunch place, partnering with your nearby bakery for Small Business Saturday means sharing but not necessarily stealing away each other’s customers.
Try out a special menu for Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday isn’t just an opportunity to bring in new customers, it’s a chance to experiment and try out new things for your menu. You should include your best sellers, but also add in some new items. Are there any dishes your chef has been eager to test out on customers? Are there any winter seasonal items you’ve thought about bringing in for December and January? This is a good time to see how they do.
And think about offering a tasting option — maybe small portions of your four most popular items and one seasonal item. It’ll allow brand new customers to really get a sense what your food is all about. Speaking of smaller portions…
Think small bites.
Just like on Black Friday, many of the customers who will stop by for Small Business Saturday probably aren’t planning to have a long meal. After all, they’re in the middle of shopping! Brainstorm how you can best entice busy shoppers with convenience along with good quality items.
If you already offer smaller portions or easy to-go items (cafes and lunch spots are especially good at this), that’s great! Otherwise, think about how you can adjust your regular items to fit with a quicker dining experience on this particular day.
Promote your catering and gift cards.
The weekend after Thanksgiving is considered the start of the holiday season. While you’re preparing to serve a bunch of new customers on Small Business Saturday, why not make sure you have a good stock of your catering information on hand for anyone who looking to host a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party.
And keep in mind that customers looking into holiday party catering in late November are starting the planning pretty late. They’ll be looking for a company who will make the process go smoothly, so it could be to your advantage to promote how easy your restaurant makes catering and private party planning. You might just turn a first-time customer into a first-time catering customer.
And don’t forget gift cards! Many shoppers will be on the lookout for holiday gifts. Nothing says “stocking stuffer” like gift cards.
Use social media to your advantage.
Take time in the weeks before Small Business Saturday to write about your plans on social media. Are you doing a special menu? Do you use ingredients from local suppliers? Are you teaming up with a nearby business? Will you be giving away samples?
Let your customers know ahead of time so they can including a trip to your neighborhood in their Thanksgiving weekend plans. Have “Dine local” be a cornerstone to your marketing in the weeks before the event. And then during the event, take time to post photos on social media throughout the day using the hashtag #SmallBusinessSaturday.
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