Back To Digital Basics For Restaurant Owners

Let’s step outside the startup framework into the purely technical side of the applications and solutions available on the market. Let’s take a look at the resilience and perseverance of entrepreneurs and restaurateurs during this lock down. Today, I’ll take you to meet someone who has decided to roll up his sleeves and do more than just roll up it.

Credits © Sander Dalhuisen on Unsplash

Pierre, in his fifties, married, with three children, is a savvy entrepreneur who, before entering the restaurant business, had already successfully ventured into the leisure sector. When he decided to take over a café in the Bel Air neighbourhood – the aptly named Café Bel Air! – he still had no experience in the restaurant sector or the Horesca, in particular.

Word of mouth worked and Pierre and his team managed to attract not only the residents of the neighborhood but employees of the companies located in the adjacent streets. Reservations started becoming necessary to come for lunch or dinner in the 40 or so guests’ room, which is only open from Monday to Friday. In the following years, the terrace and two rooms upstairs completed the offer of Café Bel Air, but reservations were still indispensable.

Pierre is one of the first entrepreneurs I met in Luxembourg. I remember having organized many lunches and several afterworks there with the idea of pleasing and making people discover this warm place. The benevolence of this atypical (!) owner, his perseverance and sharp sense of humor made him a trustworthy person. A few months ago we discovered a common passion for tennis. This indeed seemed like a wonderful opportunity to exchange on our respective activities and strengthen our friendships.

“We’ll probably change our organizational structure next year. More takeaways and fewer seated customers.”

The advantage with Pierre is that the filter is thin. He doesn’t hesitate to share what he has in his heart, his latest ideas, etc. It was a good thing for him since one of his regulars heard his call this fall. With containment, Café Bel Air has seen its turnover reduced by more than a third, but its expenses have been maintained at 100%. The five-person team had to reorganize the place, close the terrace (even heated) and get their bearings in the new kitchen installed upstairs this summer. « The days are long, there is the stress of not knowing how long you can work, and the fear of losing everything. I could continue to complain but I prefer to fight. If we get through this, we’ll be invincible, » he tells me.

It is therefore one of his loyal customers who took the bull by the horns and proposed to Pierre to develop a website on which the map of the day could be published. A welcome mentoring role with real business and IT expertise. Initial investment? A few hundred euros and a site created on Wix in a few hours. Was it done yet? Not yet, because now it remained to convince the regulars to order the famous burgers that made the reputation of Café Bel Air.

Then social networks and Facebook in particular came into play. Greg shares Pierre’s sense of humor and publishes 4 to 5 posts a day with a squeaky sense of humor to engage conversation with subscribers and publicize the burgers of the day, the dishes, the desserts and the very famous Belgian beers, some of which are referenced exclusively there in Luxembourg. Results: hundreds of burgers and fries are ordered every day and 65% of the turnover maintained. Knowing that before the confinement the turnover was divided equally 50/50 between burgers and drinks, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Last but not least: the site has a personalized customer area which allows the customer to follow his last orders and above all the team to put forward recommendations!

At Café Bel Air, no gift vouchers – even fewer chèque-repas! -, no referencing on meal reservation sites or affiliation to a delivery service for a commission on sales. 90% of sales are confirmed by click & collect. For the remaining 10%, the restaurant owner gets on his bike and goes to meet his customers! Pierre himself takes care of deliveries within a radius of 3 km around Café Bel Air. Everything is homemade! The welcome of the customers is so warm that Pierre rarely comes back empty and loads his luggage with gifts that show his humanity and devotion.

In this story, it is literally the basics of online referencing and customer relationship that are highlighted. A website, an online menu, posts on social networks, and a personalized delivery by the restaurant owner himself allowed Café Bel Air to cross this period. “We’ll probably change our organizational structure next year. More takeaways and fewer seated customers,” he admits.

If you’re in the mood for a good burger, you should also know that many burgers are famous for celebrating long-time customers. In the mood for a foie gras burger? Try me. The Machuron will allow you to make your reserves of fat to spend the winter! A beautiful mark of recognition for the one who pedals instead of swinging his bat on Saturday evenings. I should find my Pierre more a cyclist than a tennis player in a few weeks and above all more resilient than ever.

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