So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Four-walls marketing

What is this odd sounding name and what does it have to do with me as a waiter?

Four-walls marketing is the use of the restaurant itself in lieu of employing outside advertising dollars to promote said restaurant. The restaurant still has an advertising budget, but they use it almost exclusively within its four walls. The idea is to get positive word-of-mouth promotion in the community and create a loyal customer base without the extensive use of outside advertising. Most of the “ad dollars” that would usually be spent on outside media are spent on things like cutomer loyalty programs, higher paid kitchen help and higher food costs (to assure consistency), better uniforms, local press releases when appropriate, more aggressive upkeep of physical plant appearance and support of targeted community groups and events. Yes, doing an outside event can be considered four-wall marketing – it’s the dollars that stay within the four walls, not necessarily the promotion.

The opposite of this approach is the “Olive Garden” approach. Heavy marketing campaigns and value-driven menus. There’s nothing wrong with that approach – it’s just a different way of doing business.

In order to be successful at this sort of marketing, the restaurant has to have a great appearance, consistent food and friendly and caring staff that make people feel like the restaurant is an extension of their home. And this, of course, is where we as waiters come in. We have to maintain a top-notch appearance, be consistent with our service, and make the guest feel like they’re part of something special.

All restaurants have facets of four-wall marketing. However, more and more restaurants are making it a concrete part of their business strategy. If your restaurant has adopted this approach, you should have already been brought in as a “partner”, because you’re a key component to the approach. You are the point of contact with the guest and it’s you who holds the key to making them want to return time and time again, all the while telling their friends about your joint.  However, you aren’t the only key, just the most visible, and the one that spends the most time with the guest.

If a restaurant actually uses the four-wall marketing approach, they might not verbalize it to you, which I think is a mistake. You should know that they are employing this approach so that you know the importance of your role. If your restaurant does little outside advertising, such as coupons and ads in the local paper or ad buys on local radio, they are relying on you and your co-workers to be their advertising and they are in essence doing this sort of marketing. Who knows, they might be doing it by accident or due to a lack of advertising dollars.

For a restaurant to really be successful with this approach, they have to consciously do it, because all of the key elements have to be followed. They can’t stumble around hoping that their in-store efforts pay off – they should work up a program and adhere to it. They almost need to make a contract with themselves and their employees the same way they would sign a contract for outside advertising. It doesn’t do any good to spend money on better food and snazzy uniforms if the restaurant looks shabby. It doesn’t do any good to have a glitzy interior if the guest never knows whether the food is going to be great or lousy. It doesn’t do any good to have beautifully plated food and a sparkling interior if your waitstaff isn’t sparkling (in both appearance and spirit) to go along with the decor and food. 

Hopefully, this blog will help you keep your edge and deepen your knowledge of what it takes to be successful in the restaurant world, whether you work at The Olive Garden or the Palm, or whether you are a rank beginner or grizzled veteran.



One response to “Four-walls marketing

  1. Mark August 30, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Often times the wait staff is considered by many to be “at the bottom of the totem poll” The real truth is that successful restaurateurs have learned long ago that quality service will win over the fence sitting guest every time. Focus on delivering top quality service with a smile and friendly attitude and you will ensure a prosperous future.

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