Day 29 – The Puzzle – How Long Should You Wait For Customers To Buy

How long should you wait for customers to walk into your restaurant and spend money?

Let me rephrase that, how long should you expect to wait for someone on your restaurants email list to FINALLY become a customer.

In episode 592 of my podcast, Restaurant Marketing Secrets, I talked about this exact topic and how a restaurant owner who joined our email list 12 months prior FINALLY became a customer of ours.  As a business owner it’s hard to wait that long right?  I know I’m not the only one thinking this, because every week the past 16 years clients of ours have asked “when are these customers coming in?”  For some crazy reason we all think that just because someone raises their hand, that they are no coming to buy what we are selling. 

This is what leads us all to fail in marketing.  It causes us to give up too soon.  And in many cases those changes to our marketing plan are why our sales never grow. 

The image above is what we call a “marketing funnel”.  It’s the journey your customers takes when they come in contact with your brand.  Most restaurant owners don’t have these funnels built like they should and they commonly under FUEL the funnel, meaning they don’t put enough people in each funnel to see success.  

By the way, we have a free training on restaurant funnels, CLICK HERE to join that ABR U module for free. There are 7 In Depth Restaurant Marketing Funnels in this training that explain exactly what I’m talking about and give you step by step instructions on:

– Restaurant Birthday Funnel

– Restaurant Loyalty Funnel

– Restaurant Marketing Funnel

– Restaurant New Customer Acquisition Funnel

– Restaurant Catering Funnel

BUT now back to my example.   Let’s say you’re building a Loyalty program.  The bottom of your funnel is someone joining your restaurants loyalty program.  But the top is the traffic.  The 3 places you can get traffic for your funnel are in-store, your website and through social media.  

The lack of traffic to your loyalty funnel is why loyalty programs don’t grow how they should. Here’s what happens.  You launch a loyalty program and your team is behind it 100% for about 45 to 60 days.  Then after that it slowly dies and loses all in-store momentum.  So a program that could have tens of thousands of members ends up with maybe 1,000.  

What you’re missing is traffic.  Loyalty is one of the toughest funnels because it’s too specific.  The only people that are going to join your Loyalty program are hard core customers.   So if you do not have another program feeding it, then it’s dead in the water.  Our best tactic for this is a VIP program.  We run marketing campaigns everywhere I mentioned above.  But we focus mainly on a source we can control, paid Facebook and Instagram ads.  We offer customers an offer so good they’d feel stupid saying no to in exchange for their contact information.  Now those customers are in our “restaurant new customer acquisition funnel.”  Once they are in that funnel we use the emails, texts and retargeting ads to drive that first visit through the VIP program.  And once they’ve visited NOW they are traffic for the restaurants loyalty program.  

From that point on it’s the funnel below.  The customers now like us, so it’s time to get them to like and trust us.  Then and only then will they convert to the loyalty program.  

And what we all need to keep in mind is that this process could take a month or 3 years.  The longer you keep your funnels in place the better,  and like I mentioned in the podcast I was reminded of this last week. 

See ya tomorrow,


Day 28 – The Puzzle – Bad Restaurant Birthday Offers

Ok, so you’ve done the hard work, you’ve asked your customer for their contact information and did an amazing job of getting one of the best pieces of data, their birthday.  

Next you took a very big step and hired a company or bought a restaurant marketing software like Repeat Returns to handle the marketing automation for your restaurants customer birthday program.

And finally the email goes out…and this is where the issues kick in.

In todays blog, the puzzle piece is opitimizing your restaurants birthday marketing.  This topic was also covered in episode 594 of my podcast, Restaurant Marketing Secrets.

Let’s talk about what I see wrong with this email and how you could fix it.

1st – THE OFFER – The most important aspect of ANY marketing campaign is your “call to action” (CTA).  In his book “100M Offers” Alex Hormozi talks about giving customers an offer SO GOOD they’d feel stupid saying no.  So, let’s DO THAT!  It’s my birthday, the offer your restaurant gives me should be 100% FREE.  In this email I got a FREE entree with the purchase of a full price free entree.  So I got a coupon, big deal!  And the messaging in here is jacked up too.  First they say “Dinner is on us.”  Hike hell it is, “on us” means Matt Plapp is eating free on his birthday.  You just introduced a lie into our relationship and the brain doesn’t forget that.  Second you included the words “full priced”.  By doing that, you now have introduced another negative thought into my mind.

2nd – THE DESIGN – This email is all about your restaurant.  The logo takes up the top third of the design and everything is branded for YOU and not my birthday.  Honestly, it’s a pretty sad design and doesn’t speak at all to me about celebrating. I don’t think there’s too much to talk about here, we all should understand this. 

3rd – RETARGETING – Now I can’t say they’ve not done this, because there’s still time.  They should have paid ads running targeting me since I’m in their list, this isn’t hard in Facebook.  Also, I hope I get a text and if I get that, how badass would it be if they called me?  I know, the latter more than likely won’t happen, but a guy can dream right. 

But wait there’s more…

Here are a few other things I noticed, good and bad observatiosn, on their restaurants marketing as I started clicking through their email, website and social media, because that’s what I tend to do… go down rabbit holes 🙂

1st – The header image, their logo, opens up like an image. It should be linked to the CALL TO ACTION page for that offer.

2nd – They link to twitter, sorry X, on the email and they’ve not posted since August of 2020.  It’s also linked on their website.  REMOVE that link, you’ve stopped using the platform.  And honestly this really makes me wonder if anyone is paying attention at the restaurant to their own marketing “oh we’re on X, I wonder what we post there…oh shit, nothing.”

3rd – Their website visually is AWESOME. I freaking love it.   The graphics, food pictures, etc are all great.  BUT their menu did not have the same pictures, in fact unless my phone and laptop were loading incorrectly, they didn’t have a single picture on their menu.  

4th – Their website has an “email newsletter” signup.  Consumers don’t want a restaurants newsletter.  That needs to be MUCH sexier of a name and they need to grab the customers phone #, birthday and visit frequency there.  

5th – The email “newsletter” I signed up for trigger an automated welcome email…GOLD!! That’s what should happen, EXCEPT it’s from another brand.  It’s from the companies parent name “XYZ Hospitality”.  Your customers don’t know who the heck that is.  The email should come from the EXACT restaurant I signed up for.  

6th – I had to “confirm” my email address.  That’s lame and should not be in there.  There’s not an online gang going around signing random people up for restaurant newsletters, get rid of that step. That adds friction to your customer data collection funnel and will hurt your opt-ins. 

7th – Their social media?  Well let’s just say they do exactly what all restaurants do, USE IT WRONG!  If you’ve not see this video of me speaking in Vegas watch it, CLICK HERE, they do this.  Yes they have really pretty pictures and video, but no one is watching or engaging.  Their Facebook page is a literal ghost town. 

8th – Their website does not have a pixel or tag on it for retartgeting.  So even is they wanted to, they could carry out my plan from #3 up top, retargeting me. 

9th – Their catering page needs a less invasive opt-in and a contest.  It’s great that they have the page and it’s set up solid with all of the right choices.  But if someone is coming there, GET THEIR ATTENTION.  They should have a CTA like “register to win a party”.  They have what most restaurants do, a form that forces me to give you WAY too much info. In fact, I can’t even submit an inquiry without a date or # of people.  That’s a form for buying, not inquiring.  This page’s goal should be about gaining catering inquiries.  

10th – They have a “media page” which I love.  Let’s show off what you’re doing…EXCEPT, it’s been 16 months since their last press coverage.  Now this restaurant is legit and so are their other locations (I’ve been) so I know they’ve been published somewhere.  Worst case scenario, create your own press with a blog post (like this) and tell whatever story you want.  This reminds me of 2000 when I was at an Arby’s in Cincinnati on UC’s campus and their employee of the month plaque had not been updated in a year.  It was hanging next to the register. I looked at the manager and said “are you struggling pretty bad with your employees?”  “No, we are doing great” was his response.  Then I pointed out the plaque and he was pretty shocked and amazed they’d missed that.  And yes I know, I’m a jackass 🙂

Talk to you tomorrow, unless I forget to blog again 🙂


Day 27 – The Puzzle – Your Employees


TODAYS puzzle piece is a the BIGGEST piece of the puzzle, YOUR PEOEPLE


Back in January 2019 I met this young man at this building.

I was holding a restaurant marketing seminar for marketing agency owners in Cincinnati at Union Hall and he was one of the 51 in attendance.

I remember looking out at the room of mostly 40-50 year old men and thinking “is this kid lost. Did he scooter here, call security.”

And then I heard his story.

How he decided to bypass college to build his restaurant video and photography business. And how not too long after that he stumbled upon my book and online training and changed his company into a restaurant marketing agency.

When he saw the event we were having, he knew he had to come down for it, so he grabbed his cousin flew down from Philly.

Over the next 12 months I got to know him more and really see the talent he possessed.

My business coach Billy Gene had been on me to hire a personal videographer to document my journey and capture better content to market our company, you know the stuff I preach to all of you all 🙂

So in December of that year (maybe early January) I wrote a now hiring Facebook post with David in mind. I wrote it REALLY REALLY detailed thinking this kid would see it and jump all over it.

But he didn’t, and I was scratching my head. So after interviewing a few people and narrowing it down to one person I decided to give David a call and ask if he saw the post.

And in fact he did see the post, but the line about moving to NKY was a deal breaker. So after some discussion we determined he could travel with me every other week and edit in Philly, thus eliminating the only hurdle.

In January 2020 he tested the waters by filming me at an event I held in Jacksonville Florida, and as they say “the rest is history.”

When the pandemic hit in March of that year we never skipped a beat. We stuck to our plan, in fact we ramped it up. We were on the road 2-3 weeks every month, hopping from one plane to another.

And then in the Spring of 2021 when I told David, Luis and Doug that I was going to buy a Mercedes Sprinter van and wrap it so we could drive all over the US to start filming the ABR Roadshow from America’s Best Restaurants.

David didn’t hesitate and jumped in feet first.

What’s even more impressive is that David not only kept doing all of his duties as my videographer, but he also become the 1st videographer for ABR, edited the first episodes and then hired the team of editors that would end up editing the first 500 episodes. David also oversaw the production and branding.

All of this from a kid who went straight from high school to the big leagues.

At one point David was in charge of a team of 10, including his mom, who became an account manager in 2022.

Now it’s 2024 and he’s our marketing director and helping us shape what will become a $100 million company by 2030.

So now that I gave you the backstory of who he is, let me tell you how I feel about him.

He’s an absolute rockstar who never says no, never doubts the vision and is always ready to go at a moments notice. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met and to have him on this journey with me means a lot.

He’s one of my WHY’S!

I’m doing what I’m doing to see him become a millionaire and look back on the many years together and smile.

Thank you David, I appreciate all that you’ve done, all that you’ll say yes to in the future and more than anything for being a great friend.

Day 26 – The Puzzle – Customers Emailing Rotting Away In Your Point Of Sale System

Take action today with the massive email list that’s sitting inside your restaurants Point Of Sale and your restaurants company email account.  

This week we are on the road visiting restaurant owners to talk about what they think they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.  Three owners in 48 hours told me they were not leveraging the emails currently sitting in their POS.  They acknowledged their fear of using it wrong and that’s whats stopping them from taking action.  In episode 589 of Restaurant Marketing Secrets I spend 15 minutes digging into the topic and dropping a few tips to make this easier.  

But I’ll say this, don’t wait!  Take action today.  You as a restaurant owner have a few levers you can pull every day to dryve sales and email marketing is one of them.  

Day 25 – The Puzzle – Traveling To Talk To You…Restaurant Owners, In Person

Day 1 is in the books of our road trip from Northern Kentucky to Las Vegas. 

We left NKY at 8am, stopped by a restaurant in Louisville Kentucky around 10am, then 2 more in St. Louis from  2pm-5pm Central time and finally a pizza joint at 9:30pm in Topeka Kansas. 

What a long and awesome day.  Talking to the owners and a few employees at these 4 restaurants was eye opening.  I heard a lot of things I already knew to be true, and also a few new twists.  The goal of this trip was to kill two birds with one stone. We had the 4th America’s Best Restaurants Roadshow van that needed to get delivered to the West Coast and I really wanted to get in front of more restaurant owners to find out what we can do better with our companies and the merger with Repeat Returns. I wanted to understand what owners need form the marketing side of things to get to their dream outcome and use that to help my team build the ultimate restaurant marketing platform that will dryve sales.  

Tomorrow we head from Topeka to Durango Colorado, stay tuned.

Day 24 – The Puzzle – Catering Marketing Help For Your Restaurant

Yesterday I talked about the two different restaurant catering campaigns I’ve encounter recently.  One that was from our company and another from a local coupon magazine that restaurants use incorrectly way too often.

I spoke about this in episode 586 of my podcast, Restaurant Marketing Secrets, have a listen.

Let’s break down these two different campaigns

First we dig into the print catering campaign

1st – There’s no way to no who sees it and when you want their attention again, you have to buy the exact ad from the exact company and pray the right people turn to your page in the 50 page coupon magazine.

2nd – There’s no way to retarget the people who looked at your page, tore it out or heck even showed it to their co-worker

These are really the two main points of weakness for a restaurant ad campaign like this in a coupon magazine.  I won’t go into how poorly the ad was designed, that’s another blog, but the biggest missed opportunity for this campaign was two prong.  They had a QR code in the ad which went to the catering page on their website, I love that…but this is where it all went downhill.  First there was not a tracking pixel installed on the webpage.  If there was, they could retarget people who visit the catering page with targeted ads, and these ads work GREAT!  Second, the page had no CTA (Call To Action) or form.  There was ZERO effort put into getting visitors to raise their hand and give you their information

Now, let’s dig into WHY the digital campaign is awesome.

1st – We are targeting local decision makers with a high value CTA, telling them to register to win a party.  These ads get a TON of clicks and engagements.  This means we can retarget those people for with other ads, like our catering ad.

2nd – When they engage with our ad via clicking the CTA or commenting, it takes these customers on a journey where the restaurant owner gains their contact information.  As the clients text message said, he’s received over 600 leads in a month.  

3rd – When we get a lead if does 4 things

– The owner gets a lead sent to them to contact.

– The customer gets put into a Facebook retargeting audience so we can nurture them to order.

– The customer is now put in an EXCLUSION audience so they don’t get the same ad again.

– And finally they get put into a multi step email and text nurture sequence that educates them on what the restaurant offers and entices them to place a catering order.

The differences between these two are night and day.  It’s honestly depressing as a marketer to see restaurants doing crappy ads like that in 2024.  How do they not have an expert in their corner and how is the print magazine not able to offer them digital solutions to go along with the ad?  There’s zero reason to spend your money on that ad in 2024, but if you are going to do it, at least make an effort to use the tools available today to optimize it.

Day 23 – The Puzzle – Acquiring Catering Customers For Your Restaurant

For many of you, the missing piece in your restaurant is catering sales.  The text message is one I received this week from a client who’d not really done catering in prior years.  He had never focused marketing and sales efforts on it until he added that service onto his program with us.  

This blog isn’t about showcasing how awesome my team is (but they are), it’s about showing you a missing piece of your sales puzzle.  Catering can allow you to walk into the restaurant every day and already have a few thousand dollars in sales, it’s a gold mine.  But, it’s not as simple as turning on a fancy advertising campaign. 

Chris worked the leads exactly how he should.  They are LONG TERM relationships just waiting to be built, and he’s taking full advantage of that.  

Tomorrow we’ll dig into the marketing funnel behind this and compare a traditional print catering ad I saw this week to this highly technical digital marketing campaign built to reach customers where they live in 2024, THEIR PHONES!

Day 22 – The Puzzle – Restaurants Sales Are Up 30% Since The ABR Roadshow Visited

Following an EXACT protocol EVERY TIME.

This week in our agency twice someone from our team has “skipped steps” to try and get a project done.  And both times, it caused major issues. 

I see it all the time in small business, whether someone is trying to help or simply being lazy, they alter the process and havoc ensues.  In three weeks I’ll be in Las Vegas for David Scott Peters, Restaurant Transformation Seminar, and this exact topic will be echoed there as well.  Restaurants deal with this every day.  Employees not cleaning the restaurant in the EXACT manner every day, not following a recipe EXACTLY or something “as simple” as not closing the bar 100%.  

Some people will say it’s not a big deal, but the ones who know understand how bad this is. 

I’ve been to boat and RV factories and I’ve followed the build from start to finish.  I’ve watched an RV make it’s way down a line and NEVER skip a step.  The factory workers carefully build the motorhome step by step and triple check their work and then and only then do they check the box and advance the unit to the next step.

Imagine if you will, if the assembly line at a car manufacturer didn’t follow the assembly line.  If it skipped around from the station station and “oh shit” it missed the brake installation station. 

Yeah, that wouldn’t be a very good situation.

I find explaining that scenario is easy for employees to follow.  Simply ask them how they’d feel driving their car home from the dealership if they thought for one second that someone might have “expedited the build” and possibly forgot something like the brakes, a brake line or a very important bolt.  

SOP’s and check lists are meant to be followed all the time, NOT SOMETIMES. 

So next time one of your team members goes off the path, I advise using that story to hammer home the importance of the customer getting exactly what they should EVERY TIME!

Day 21 – The Puzzle

it’s funny, as I head out on this 5 day road trip from Northern Kentucky to Las Vegas I have the question in my head “why do you do this stuff.”

I’ve got to think it’s a question we as entrepreneurs all ask ourselves.  

Questions like:

 “why did I get myself into this?”
” what was I thinking starting a business?”

” why am I really doing this?”

I’ve heard others who are business owners echo these thoughts, but many of us don’t tell anyone else.  We tend to live a lonely life.  We live in our own heads and don’t want to tell others.  

I don’t know if it’s because we don’t want to show weakness, or lose the faith they have it us.  Maybe it’s because we think we have to be a one man/woman army.  Regardless of why we do this, it typically is short lived and we snap out of it and get to work. 

The facts are, doing what we are doing is freaking tough.  It’s hard.  It feels like some days are damn near impossible.  

And then we see someone from our team loving their job.  A team member having an absolute blast.  A client telling us how much we’ve helped their business.  

Like the image above, where a restaurant owner emailed me to tell me the impact America’s Best Restaurants and the ABR Roadshow has had on his business.  This is what makes it all worth it.  To see the result pay off for someone else, and to know that it’s a direct effort of the prior 15 years.  When I see things like this I saw WOW, we did that.  

And you should to.  Because someone out there is smiling from the food you served, from the service you gave them, from the bad day you helped erase.

And know this, what we’re doing is freaking hard and there’s a reason basically no one else is doing it!

Day 20 – The Puzzle

Next week I embark on a unique experience. 

Me and two of my team are hitting the road to tackle two tasks.  First to deliver the new van for America’s Best Restaurants ABR Roadshow to the West Coast.  Second, to talk to 30 or so restaurant owners about what they’re trying to accomplish with their restaurants.  

I feel like I know what most of our clients are aiming for and what they are struggling with, but it never hurts to go directly to the source.  So for three days, we will drive 32 hours from Northern Kentucky to Durango Colorado and then all to Las Vegas.  

As I type this I’m thinking about what I want to ask these owners.  We’re going to incorporate our travels into our new documentary series, The Hereo’s Of Hospitality.  This is a series we created to chronicle the journey of 2024 with my company.  The journey of how we plan to reinvent the restaurant marketing industry.  And this trip will give me a great opportunity to ask what restaurant owners need to help them accomplish their life goals.

So stay tuned, more to come.