Tired town squares, neglected ‘fascades’, shabby ‘streetscapes’ and ageing infrastructure. Sound familiar? Many regional and urban centres are currently undergoing renewal and revitalisation in an effort to transform themselves into modern, liveable, visitor attractive destinations. Some cities are constructing light rail to move booming urban populations between home and work, work and play and home to play.
In many cases, this means lengthy construction disruption for the retailers on the high street who rely heavily on foot traffic for their livelihoods. I found myself in a similar situation some years ago. I had just given up full time employment to concentrate full time on an artisanal small business and to have my second child.
We had moved (by design) to a property on a busy arterial intersection. Just six months in and road-widening works began directly in front of the property, affecting visibility and traffic access of the business for 12 months. This was before the internet was mainstream in Australia. With no budget for marketing, I was forced to move outside my comfort zone to survive.
The silver lining to this cloud was that I uncovered every no-cost, low-cost method to market the business and diversified our offerings to include mail order products. These low cost marketing methods became the norm for us and ‘diversification’ products and services subsequently became a significant income stream for the business.
For food and drink venues, I now proffer…
The Four D’s of Urban Renewal Disruption Survival
Digital Marketing Savvy
If you aren’t all over social media by now, you should be. Learn to manage your Linkedin (Owners and Chefs), Facebook, Instagram & Snapchat accounts or get a professional agency to do it for you.
You should have created, be monitoring and managing your profile on TripAdvisor, Zomato, Yelp, Australian Good Food Guide (agfg.com.au) and anywhere else diners rate or food bloggers review and rate dining establishments. If it’s all too much, get a professional agency to do it for you. Check them out here.
Once that’s under your belt, take a look at engaging a photographer certified by the Google Street View Trusted program specialising in 360° virtual tours which can be published on Google Maps, Google Street View, Google Search results, Google Earth and your other web and social media platforms such as Facebook. You can get this started for under AUD500. Check out workpics.com and also Vloggi.
As your foot traffic diminishes, you may need to ‘tool-up’ for offering delivery of some of your more popular dishes. Do your homework on what others are doing, what works and who are the best delivery options in your area: Deliveroo, UberEats or foodora. You may be take the option to partner with online restaurant ordering companies such as menulog, deliveryhero or eatnow. If you are looking for a company that provides combines a dynamic sales force, an online ordering system and logistics in one platform, check out Menulogs founders lastest venture, FoodByUs, a B2B marketplace for Australian foodservice venues and local suppliers.
If you have the capacity and tech savvy in-house, you might start your own Meal Subscription Service. Read more about the UK’s MealPal model here.
If you are in a business or university city, corporate catering is another product you can offer. Start this process by showcasing your amazing board and meeting room offerings on Linkedin to the right geographical connections.
Masterclasses, workshops, pairing and food/drink appreciation events gain cooks, chefs and mixologists priceless marketing exposure. What ticketed masterclasses could cooks or chefs present at your destination to showcase their talents and become a culinary hero? Cold oil spherification? Gold leafing? Chocolate and Sugar Work dessert decorations and garnishes? Multi-cultural dishes? Best Bao Ever? Elegant meals from cheaper cuts of meat? Fermented foods? Preserves and Pickles? Classic Australian Slices? With the growing interest in Australian-made gins and craft beers, what food pairing event could you create to highlight your chef’s talents and your bar staff’s knowledge?
Don’t forget children. Kids cooking workshops and activities bring mum’s in the door for a meal or snack and a natter while their children are being edutained. Check out Death to Nuggets, Kids Cooking Classes and think about reviewing your kids menu.
A little black dress goes from day wear to night wear with the addition of a few clever accessories. Spacious in New York saw that restaurants which were closed during the day could be transformed into an affordable network of co-working spaces and makes them accessible for US$95 per month. Is it possible to partition off the back half of your dining space to be a co-working space during the day? More about how food venues and co-working spaces function here.
Toronto’s got Urban Food Tours nailed. See Savour Toronto. Can your venue become a regular on an urban food or drink tour or trail? If you are in Western Sydney, check out Taste Food Tours. What about creating a small audio walking self-guided food/drink tour using smart phone tech which you and a few other venues chip in together to build? Check out Detour.
Develop Additional Digs
You might consider signing up for a regular stall at your local or out of town Night or Farmers Market stalls. Do your signature street food dish or house specialities which fit the market’s niche to drive food or delivery customers to your venue or website.
Can you do the same street food and rent a fully equipped Food Truck to expose your offerings to a new type of customer? Social media is the marketing tool of choice for food trucks. This means if your venue is struggling to get leverage or exposure with millennials, food trucks are a pathway to ‘social mention by stealth.’ Read more here.
Does your council or can you lobby your council to sponsor a Pop-Up Disruption Diner? A Disruption Diner is made available to affected food/drink businesses on a rolling basis for one week each at a nominal rent. The diner is set up in a suitable foot traffic area that is not affected by construction. The council set up and manage the Disruption Diner Facebook, Instagram etc and promote the variety of food fare available during the course of construction at no charge. (One can only dream.)
Also in the ‘one can only dream’ file… can your council or an entrepreneurial developer make available a space as a temporary Food Hall for those food/drink businesses affected? See about Food Halls here.
Finally, you may just decide or need to move on. Start something completely new in a new space. It is possible. Check out this story about how a Funky Old Gas Station in Napa Valley Is Now a Mecca for Millennial Wine Drinkers to get your inspiration juices flowing.
Viktoria Darabi is a Food Culture Tourism Whisperer, Food & Beverage Trendspotter & Futurist, championing the power of food culture activities to celebrate multi-culturalism, promote social cohesion, engender a sense of community pride and to transform or construct ‘place’ to define a destination’s identity and distinctiveness.