Surviving The Recession

Making the best of what lies ahead for the local economy.

How to recession-proof your business

For cafés, restaurants, & other catering businesses, Easter is traditionally seen as the launch of the tourist season, a season on which many are completely reliant, – & in the current economic downturn many have their fingers crossed as they enter a make or break season.

“It doesn’t have to be like that!” says local expert.

Malcolm Harris, director of The Café Academy, a Cornish based company that specialises in turning around struggling or failing small businesses is confident there are many opportunities for the region’s retailers, regardless of the recession. 2011 can be the year you can turn your business around & not just be a surviving minority, but a thriving success.

There has been a lot of negative press of late, about the possible fall-out for not just the South West region, but the whole of the UK regarding the current economy as well as post general election.

But even in this recession, if you look closely there are catering & other retail businesses in most towns that do very well regardless of recessions & bad tourism seasons. What is it that they do, what do they know & what strategies do they employ to enjoy year-round success?

If there are less people dining out, you need to make sure you are grabbing a larger market share of the customers that are. But when people are watching their money more closely, you don’t have to start on a continual downward spiral of cutting corners- & prices. This is commercial suicide! Most people will still spend, they are just much more value driven.

There are a number of strategies they can be put in place to not only make their business recession proof, but also to ensure that they’re not totally reliant on the tourist trade.
These simple strategies will make a substantial difference to their turnover & profit margins.

5 of the ‘essential keys’ where businesses can make a substantial improvement to their turnover & profit margins – all year round are:

1) Direct Marketing. Understand that 90% of your target customers are within 5 minutes of your business. Design a fantastic offer and deliver it to all businesses and homes within a short walk from your premises. This will almost guarantee an immediate hike in trade – but the secret is, you have to be good to ensure some of them continue to use you on an ongoing basis for their lunch- at your usual prices.

2) Secondary Marketing. There are a number of strategies you can use to create loyalty from those new (& current) customers. Including giving them a VIP card as a thank you for responding to your offer & trying you, with a 10-20% discount next time. It is said that getting people to use you three times creates a new habit.

3) What is your USP? (unique selling proposition) What differentiates you from your competitors? Are you ethical, eco-friendly, fair-trade, organic, are your disposables recycled, recyclable, bio degradable? Capitalise on current trends. Do you sell a special theme that no-one else does? Most people like to ‘buy local.’ Is 90% of your produce sourced locally? Do it well and broadcast it clearly.

4) Offer really great service. Choose you staff well, make sure they have the correct attitude; they are the face of your business. Train them well. Customers hate being told ‘I don’t know’ when asking ‘what’s the soup today’ or ‘are the eggs free-range?’
Even if you’re busy, ALWAYS acknowledge your customer. ‘Nice to see you again.”
Everybody likes to feel special. It’s one of the things you have over the formulaic responses of the big chains.
Offer a ‘phone order service.’ If a business person with a half-hour lunch break can phone in
their order, it can be ready when they get there, saving them valuable time.
Most of your competitors don’t do this.

5) Entertain. These days, people don’t just go out to eat. They want the full experience. I don’t necessarily mean live music. A specialist coffee shop that blends its own beans might have a massive display of different styles & roasts of beans. And little packages for sale for home grinding. Grinders will be on show for display & sale. There will be pictures on the wall of the coffee growing process overseas. A ‘Field to Cup’ story on the walls & other coffee memorabilia.
(This is also a USP.)

Another key point is how inviting is your business? Take off your ‘Owners Hat’ & put on your ‘Customer Hat’ & walk past. You’re looking for a coffee, or lunch. Would you instantly walk in yourself? Why? Why not?

To make 2010 the year that you turn your business around and thrive in the recession, you have to think differently & be creative. Standing behind the counter with a smile on your face just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Customers are more discerning & value-driven. You may be a great cook, fantastic host & offer incredible value, but if they don’t know who you are, where you are, or how to find you, how could they possibly know that you sell the best Chicken Caesar Salad in the land?

The Café Academy would be excited to offer a comprehensive FREE REPORT to all Breakfast viewers looking for expert advice in setting up, or improving their current business- ready for the forthcoming season & beyond… Go to & download your copy.

Malcolm Harris the director of The Café Academy Limited is available for comment or interview. Please refer to the contact details at the top of this press release.

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