July 26, 2012
Restaurants and marketing part II

Last week, I compiled a list of restaurants doing a very good job at marketing and promoting their businesses. What led to the list? My recent experience with Erawan Thai Restaurant, which has good food and, at least until the review came out, very few actual customers.

Restaurants that sit back and wait for customers to discover their tasty food and friendly staffs are destined to lose out to those that realize this is a highly competitive business that requires smarts, persistence, exposure and repetition.

Many folks emailed me to point out restaurants I might want to add to the list. Two certainly stand out - Mikuni and de Vere's Irish Pub. Consider them added. These two do an excellent job. In fact, struggling restaurants looking for a boost would do well to study what these places are up to.

Let's look briefly at Mikuni, which has eight locations. Just the other day, I received an email informing me that their new app for iPhones and Android phones was up and running. Great idea, including ""push" notifications about exclusive offers and happy hour specials. Here's an example of a successful restaurant group working hard to stay ahead of the pack. It also has a frequent diner program that rewards regulars with a $25 gift once you earn a certain number of points.

Mikuni hosts all kinds of events, including the upcoming 17th annual Mikuni Summer Golf Classic on Aug. 18 at Catta Verdera Country Club in Lincoln. The event benefits several local charities. Those interested in learning more can click here.

De Vere's also does a tremendous job in the marketing game, often with bold measures like asking the city a few years ago to close off a block of L Street for a St. Patrick's Day party. It created plenty of excitement and brought energy to an area that used to be practically vacant.

Curious about how de Vere's addresses marketing and promotion, I called Henry de Vere White this morning to chat. He looks at marketing as a never-ending process. There are still folks, for instance, who didn't know de Vere's was a restaurant, too - after four years of highly visible events and promotions.

"There are a lot of great restaurants and new places opening all the time and people are always looking around. You have to remind them what you have to offer," he said, noting that de Vere's is active in social media as well as traditional media advertising.

Among the pubs' other smart ideas (there's a second de Vere's in Davis) is the "whiskey society," which convenes on the second and fourth Tuesdays every month for tastings of whiskey flights, guest speakers, reps from whiskey companies, and 20 percent discounts for members. This idea not only helps educate customers about the wonderful and complex world of whiskey, it gets them into the pubs, builds loyalty and, perhaps, allows them to make new friends. Oh, and it gets them to enjoy really good whiskey. De Vere's also knows these are tough times and that prices matter. It has a $6.95 1/2 sandwich and soup deal for lunch, and it gives 15 percent off for state workers (at the Sacramento pub). In other words, it's out there battling every day for business.

Since it's happening this weekend, I'll mention one more de Vere's event - "A Bike Ride to Beat Cancer" - devoted to Christina Rosales, who is battling cancer for a second time. Rosales graduated from Christian Brothers High and is friends with brothers Henry and Simon de Vere White, both of whom are Christian Brothers alumni. She has a simple wish, to send her daughter, Ella, to Christian Brothers. For more information about the ride, which already has 100 people signed up to do the ride from the de Vere's in Sacramento to the sister pub in Davis, click here.

Being a successful restaurant isn't all about profits. Holding events like this one, which is slated to be an annual bike ride to fund scholarships for other kids in similar circumstances, shows folks how a business is committed to its community, its people and to doing the right thing.

If you have other suggestions for this list, please let me know. Meanwhile, today is Thursday - I think I'll head to Fremont Park for some Hot Italian pizza (corner of 16th and Q streets) and some live music at the "Hot Lunch Concert Series" from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Freebadge Serenaders will be performing banjo/washboard jazz.

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

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