Here at Restaurant Insider, we encourage the support and patronage of small businesses all year long. On Nov. 25, moms-and-pops around the country get an extra boost with the celebration of Small Business Saturday. We tapped Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, the official spokesperson for American Express’s Small Business Saturday program and founder of Retail Minded, a publication dedicated to supporting independent business, for her pro tips on restaurant marketing strategies and how to provide the best customer service for restaurants looking to make the most of the opportunity.
Partner with Non-Competitive Local Businesses
“As a restaurant, you might be able to talk to a favorite local toy store and—depending on the weather in that part of the country—they could set up a little sidewalk table or pop-up shop at the restaurant. Or inside, as well. So it’s great when like-minded but non-competitive businesses work together.”
'Don’t limit yourself to just one experience. Deliver layers.' -Nicole Leinbach Reyhle of American ExpressClick To Tweet
Support the Community with a “Passport” Program
“Like-minded businesses, such as restaurants, can do what’s called a ‘passport experience’—there’s a template for that at shopsmall.com—that encourages consumers to go from one place to the next, to the next, to the next. You could do a bar hop, a foodie street day—you can get creative with it—but the general idea is to get customers to visit multiple restaurants through the passport experience. Because, as a community, Small Business Saturday is really about rallying around each other, supporting, of course, the idea of shopping small, but also supporting your community at large.”
Get Social Media Friendly
“It’s great to do something exclusive to your own restaurant. A selfie station, for example. Maybe make some props that complement your type of restaurant. And you should encourage customers to share [photos] on social media with the hashtag #shopsmall, as well as your own handle, whether it’s on Instagram or Facebook, or it’s checking in on accounts using that selfie station picture. That’s a fun, very affordable way to get things going.”
“The other thing I would say is, the more the merrier. So, maybe you have the selfie station in your restaurant and also participate in the passport program. Don’t limit yourself to just one experience. Deliver layers, so that your customers really get this interactive, exciting, unique, one-of-a-kind day that truly represents supporting local communities, shopping small, dining locally, and just having a great time.”
“In Parker, Colorado, there’s a cupcake shop and they had a cupcake designed for Small Business Saturday. They were blue and white, and it was really fun. They gave out mini cupcakes. It was a complimentary experience that brought people in, and those people ended up spending dollars—buying a dozen cupcakes, for example. So they created a mini tasting experience, basically. So I think, whether it’s a coffee shop, a cafe, a bakery, or a traditional restaurant, tastings are a really engaging thing to do.
“A restaurant could also invite a local coffee shop in in the morning to do a coffee brew/smell experience. So, you’re tasting coffees, bringing in a barista to talk about the different kinds of beans, etcetera. If you’re a restaurant who doesn’t typically serve breakfast, but you have the space to welcome that sort of creative idea to kick off the day, and offer some doughnuts, things like that. But I’d definitely say that incorporating taste into that interactive experience is extremely important. Consumers in general engage through their senses, all five of them, but taste certainly benefit restaurants.”'It’s great when like-minded but non-competitive businesses work together.' -Nicole Leinbach Reyhle of American ExpressClick To Tweet
Create a Schedule to Promote Small Business Saturday
“I absolutely would encourage [restaurants] to visit shopsmall.com, because you can download graphics that can be customized very easily with their own business name on them, so you can use them for Facebook headers, and on Instagram. … In addition, I always tell any business, whether it’s a restaurant or a brick-and-mortar store, to start the countdown. As the countdown starts, provide a fact about what shopping small does mean. Or even just saying, ‘X many days until Small Business Saturday! We’ll be hosting X!’ So now you’ll automatically have these great posts [promoting] Small Business Saturday. Even a 10-day countdown is very relevant, because that’s going to be more on consumers’ radars.”
Enjoy the Long-Term Results
“Through experiences like the passport program, customers will visit restaurants they might not have ever gone to otherwise. People tend to go to places that they’re familiar with, but incorporating shopping small, and supporting local businesses, customers are getting introduced to a lot more than they realized [was available to them]. So Small Business Saturday, I always say, is a celebratory kickoff to the holiday season. And while it’s one day, the impact of it is much, much longer. It’s really a year-round celebration.”