What A Local Painter Can Teach Us About Growing Our Restaurant Business

I recently did business with a local painter.  He was a local handyman, who did a lot of different types of jobs in the community.  I was very impressed with him.  As a painter, he was average.  The work he did was OK, but what really impressed me with was his marketing.  He did just about all of his marketing through referrals, and it was clearly working for him.

First, I found him through a referral.  I was working with a real estate agent at the time, and she advised that I had my property painted in order to help me sell my property.  Then, she introduced me to Warren, a local painter that she had worked with in the past and could personally vouch for on price and quality.  At that point, I didn't need to go perform my own search, I took her word for it and moved forward.

At first introduction with Warren, he talked to me about his business and how he worked only on referrals.  He also set the precedence up front in that conversation that he would like me to refer him after he has finished my job.  He was so sure I'd be happy, he had no problems asking for this up front.

It took Warren a few days to complete the job, and when he was done, I stopped by the property to inspect it.  It needed work, as there were several places that I noticed needing to be touched up.  I called Warren, who thought the job was done, and explained to him my concerns.  He didn't flinch, and immediately apologized.  He told me that we wanted my recommendation to my peers, and that he would be at the property the next day to fix things.  Warren also explained to me that he took a lot of pride in doing great work and did not want to let down my real estate agent who referred me. 

After the job was done, it came time for payment and Warren did exactly what he told me he would do.  He asked for my referrals.  He also offered to reward me with a discount next time if I successfully referred a customer to him.  Now, next time I have a neighbor who needs some paint done, guess who I'm going to refer?

How does this pertain to your restaurant and hospitality business?   Here's some ideas:


Create partnerships with local influencers, such as real estate agents.


Reach out to local influencers in your community and in your current clientele.  

Some influencers in your community may be local concierge, tourist hot spots, event managers, etc....  Think about all of the people in your community that act as guides to others.  You should do your best to develop a relationship with those people.  When they ask where the best sandwiches in town are, your business's name should be on the top of their mind.

You can also identify the local influencers that are in your base of guests who frequently patron your business.  You can do this by building referral programs that your guests can use and then identifying who the top referrers are.  Now, go out of your way to welcome them and encourage their referrals.


Ask for referrals before doing business with a new customer


Ask for referrals before or immediately after doing business with a customer.

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you'll know one of the most common pieces of advice we give is to ask for what you want.  This absolutely includes referrals.  You should be asking your customers to refer your business.  Most of your happy customers don't just want to help your business be successful, but they want to share their great experience with their peers.  You should be giving them a way to easily refer you (perhaps through an automated referral program?).


When a customer is unhappy, go back to the job and make it right.


When a guest is unhappy, go out of your way to make it right.

In my opinion, this is the core of bad customer service in the United States today.  Too often, employees who are out of touch with their customer base will use the" easy path out" when they encounter a disgruntled customer; they let the customer go away angry.  You should be doing the opposite, and be training your employees that as well.  You should respond to an unhappy customer with an apology and the opportunity for you to remedy the situation.  Follow this plan, and watch a bad experience for the customer often turn them into a raving fan of your establishment.


Ask for actual referrals when the project is complete


Follow up with your guests after the sale, and ask for their referral.

After you have a satisfied customer, ask them again for a referral.  Also, now is the time to collect actual details about their referrals and act upon them.  Treat the guests that were referred to you with a little extra care, as the you don't want to break the trust of the guest that referred to you. 

You can continue to ask for referrals from your guests in every interaction of your communication with them: over social media, email news-letters, and in your establishment.  Be creative.


Reward customers when they refer him


Create a referral program that lets you track who's referring others, and reward your guests for referrals.

A big part of a great referral program is rewarding your guests that are referring others.  This reward can be a lot of different things, from coupons to VIP events to public acknowledgment.  Think about what motivates your guests and do a little more than that.  You now have guests marketing your business for you through their own personal recommendations.    This is the MOST POWERFUL marketing you'll have for your business.  Make sure you say thank you properly and genuinely.

What else works for your business?  Let us know