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5 Survival Tips for Multi-Location Restaurants and Retailers

5 Survival Tips for Multi-Location Restaurant and Retail

(Plus 5 Things NOT to Do)

Published July 29th 2019

Every week we read about chain restaurants and retailers closing locations, declaring bankruptcy, and struggling to survive.

But many multi-location brands have lasted and prospered for 10, 20, 30, and even 50 years or more. What makes these companies unique?

Smart brands…

  1. Embrace the new and respect the basics. They are on top of trends and innovation and yet they know what led to their initial success and customer brand loyalty. Here are just some of the iconic restaurant and retail brands that are alive and thriving. They change and updates menus and inventory to meet the needs of today’s buyers (without chasing every trend). 
  2. Welcome cultural change. Hiring and assimilating leaders who are digitally-savvy and question the status quo is critical to longevity. Building a truly diverse team that reflects one’s buyer base is vital, as is creating an environment where new ideas are welcome.
  3. Create experiences. Retailers and restaurants alike are turning their locations into destinations for other related products and activities. Shoppers are still willing to visit brick-and-mortar locations if shopping or dining moments are unique, pleasant, and memorable.
  4. Expand their product offerings and collaborate with other brands. Whoever thought that a “variety” store like Target or Wallmart would one day be selling everyday food products or that customers could have keys made in their local grocery store? Think creatively about how to make your in-store experience most convenient for today’s consumer.
  5. Invest in digital marketing — especially proximity search optimization. Consumers today live on their mobile devices — in fact, the average person spends over three hours a day on their small screen. When they need to shop or eat, they consult Google for something nearby and most people will travel no more than 15 minutes for necessities. Shoppers and diners are looking for products by category (e.g., “cold brew near me,” “pizza near me,” “happy hour near me”) rather than specific brands. You need to stay on top of that trend — which has fundamentally changed the way people search and buy. Reviews are also critical to restaurant longevity. Not only do people consult them before deciding where to buy or eat, but responding quickly to them shows you value their business. Brand loyalty is on shaky ground and today’s consumer is often “digitally distracted.”

Fatal Errors

Although some brands have been victims of economic downturns or leadership errors, others have simply ignored or failed to respond to sea changes in consumer tastes and changes in buying behaviors. Many of the casualties of the retail and restaurant world have resulted from:

    1. Rapid expansion without a solid marketing strategy (especially at a local level) for new geographies.
    2. Lack of solid competitive and trend research. Loving one’s history and brand legacy is important, but so is understanding — at a deep level — what can remain constant and what needs to evolve to meet consumer need and demands.
    3. Inability to integrate digital and physical experiences. The term “omnichannel” is now a part of the brand marketing lexicon. Consumer experiences need to exist in both the worlds of live interaction and on-screen moments.
    4. Ignoring customer feedback. Paying attention to and responding to reviews quickly is not only good business, but it can also help tremendously when searchers are checking out your local businesses. Those one-star reviews add-up and can ultimately tarnish your brand reputation and depress sales.
    5.  Failure to understand and commit to local efforts. Brand advertising and mass promotions (television, online, outdoors, events, and others) are terrific at building awareness. Many brands have invested in search engine optimization and search engine marketing (SEO and SEM). However, proximity marketing (reaching consumers at the exact moment — and in the exact place — when and where they are ready to buy) requires a unique set of skills. Google updated its search algorithm 3,200+ times last year alone. Knowing how to reach your local customers will become even more critical in the decades ahead. 


Remember…only the strong, customer-focused, resilient, and digital- and proximity-savvy will survive!

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