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Restaurant Innovators: Strategies to Grow Sales

by Alec McGuffey August 3, 2022

Restaurants have a lot to deal with in 2022. From rising costs to staffing issues, operators have had to be laser-focused on the day-to-day operational issues just to keep the doors open and the kitchen running smoothly.

With so many other pressing issues, it can be easy to forget how important it is to be focused on the other side of the business—getting guests in the door and filling empty seats—so you continue to grow profits and retain staff despite the huge challenges facing the industry.

There are many ways to fill your restaurant, and this month we’re highlighting a few restaurant operators who are changing the game when it comes to restaurant marketing.

Innovator Spotlight: TACOMBI

Tacombi is a Mexican hospitality group based in New York City. They opened their first NYC store in 2010 after starting as a food truck in Yucatan, Mexico. They have since developed a loyal following and expanded to 10+ locations.

The team at Tacombi has focused on creating an amazing dine-in experience while also growing a thriving delivery and takeout business. 

Given the huge number of competitors in the city, Tacombi has invested heavily in their rewards program and in-store/delivery experiences to drive loyalty and multi-channel purchases. In particular, they have:

  • Mobile App and Loyalty: They built an extremely popular mobile app (with a 4.9 rating in the app store) focused on driving loyalty, through which guests can earn rewards for ordering directly. With its own app and ordering channel, Tacombi owns all customer data so they can remarket to customers easily.

  • Branded Products: They also created fully-branded products for their online ordering channel, such as their Margarita Clasica, to differentiate themselves from competitors and grow brand awareness organically.
  • Focus on Dine-In: Tacombi has also leaned into their origins by creating memorable dine-in spaces to ensure they aren’t sacrificing the quality of the dine-in side of their business despite the success of their online ordering business. This lets them maximize the value of their customers by providing a compelling reason to dine in and take out.

Innovator Spotlight: SEAMORE’S

Seamore’s is a NYC-based hospitality group that focuses on delivering sustainable seafood to residents of the city. Founded by NYC native Michael Chernow, Seamore’s has a rotating menu of local daily catches (in partnership with Greenpoint Fish & Lobster), and has grown a devout following of seafood-lovers.

If you’re a restaurant owner looking for “best practices” on how to grow a mission-focused brand and develop new revenue streams that help you increase the bottom line, it’s hard to find a better model than Seamore’s. 

Here are a few things they have focused on to build their beloved brand:

  • Authentic and Mission-Focused: Seamore’s is the real deal when it comes to its mission of providing sustainable seafood to the masses, and its focus on this mission has earned it national praise. This has helped it build its place as the go-to option for sustainable seafood in NYC.

  • Social Media and Seasonal Offerings: Seamore’s has garnered plenty of press mentions by focusing on new offerings throughout the year. They promote these actively on their social media, resulting in frequent organic media. This shows how important it is to keep your menus fresh and make sure your customers are aware of everything you’re doing at your restaurant!
  • Exciting Takeout Offerings: Seamore’s experimented actively with its takeout menu during Covid, offering everything from meal packages to taco kits. For now, they’ve settled on a robust selection of standard menu items along with 2-person meal kits that provide a special offering for customers who prefer to stay home but still want a unique experience.
  • Incentivizes Off-peak Dining: Seamore’s also partners with Seated to incentivize customers for dining during slower times. By leveraging Seated’s dynamic rewards platform, they can fill empty seats and boost staff tips during slower services without discounting or negatively impacting their brand.

Innovator Spotlight: EATALY

Most operators are probably familiar with Eataly, Oscar Farinetti’s ode to italian cuisine that originated in 2002. It has since grown into a worldwide sensation, with restaurant concepts spanning the globe and offering an eclectic variety of high-quality Italian cuisine under one roof at sustainable and accessible prices.

Eataly has clearly done a lot right when it comes to building a renowned brand, and can be a model for all operators, whether you own a single location or a larger hospitality group. 

CEO Nicola Farinetti (recognized by Fast Company as one of its Most Creative People in Business) and his team have focused on a few things to build the brand:

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Be Creative: Eataly’s team has never shied away from innovation to build excitement around the brand. From the overnight lock-in with a full orchestra performance to hosting an exhibit about the Duomo of Milan, Eataly constantly experiments with new ideas and pushes boundaries. This has helped them craft a truly unique place in the food world.

  • Leverage Social Media: Eataly Flatiron has an active social media account, and uses it effectively not only to promote delicious food, but to drive awareness for events and partnerships. By partnering with brands and individuals who have sizable social followings, Eataly has been able to drive constant coverage and cross-promotion while organically expanding their brand footprint.
  • Customize Your Revenue Streams: Eataly also focuses on sharing the culture of Italy through its takeout and grocery offerings. Many restaurant operators have experimented with groceries and to-go options, but Eataly’s success with non-traditional to-go offerings is an exemplary model. Consider offering guests meal kits and prepared food or groceries to take home near the end of their meal.

What Can You Do at Your Restaurant?

While these three hospitality brands are all totally unique, here are a few key takeaways for operators to note:

  • Be authentic to your roots and commit to a mission or core set of values.
  • Don’t be afraid to get creative and go beyond the boundaries you’re used to.
  • Maintain consistent communication with your customers to stay top of mind.

Look for opportunities to implement these in your own operations—you may be surprised by what resonates with your guests!

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