Turning Loyal Customers Into VIPs

Turning Loyal Customers Into VIPs

We were sitting at our favorite restaurant bar, Frescos, on a typical packed Friday night. It’s always a great place to enjoy Happy Hour and conversation with the always-friendly patrons. Normally, I avoid asking typical networking questions, such as what do you do or where do you work because most of us are trying to wind down and forget about work and business.


The other day I changed it up and asked: Where do you work? I was sitting next to three business-casual dressed young men. They worked at The Hartford, part of Connecticut’s large insurance sector. Soon after they left, four young women sat alongside me. Besides being of Italian heritage, always an interesting point for me given my Sicilian roots, they, too, worked at The Hartford. And being a marketer, their workplace origins got me thinking that this was no coincidence. Being one mile away, The Hartford is a source of business that should not be ignored. After all, every retailer and food and beverage purveyor knows the three keys to success: Location, location, location.
My grandmother Rosa did. Last Thursday I wrote about her business successes in a post called Grandma’s Sausage and Peppers. Here’s a snippet:
“Location, location, location. Rosa had it. Not only was her store next to a factory employing thousands who cherished the convenience of picking up a quart of milk, a loaf of bread or a can of beans before heading home after a hard, sweaty day’s work–Rosa figured out a niche: Sausage and peppers.”
Frescos had the location covered but what about the niche? There are several excellent taverns and restaurants with popular bars nearby. At least some of the several thousand employees from The Hartford choose Frescos’ Friday evening Happy Hour as their place to celebrate the end of a long work week.
Location certainly plays a role. I wondered how Frescos could take better advantage of their location by creating a niche, thereby making the restaurant the first choice of The Hartford. I began brainstorming several ideas. Here’s what a few of them look like.
The weekly Happy Hour is Friday. If I ran Frescos, I would create a Happy Hour just for The Hartford; say Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (The Hartford lets out at 4 p.m.) Not only is Wednesday Hump Day, it is a typically slow day for restaurants. Creating a special Happy Hour for the Hartford solves at least one challenge: Frescos exceeds some employee’s needs by offering Happy Hour bar prices plus free munchies. This could turn around a slow night and create a niche by catering to a local business. All an employee need do is show their corporate ID, and they get special VIP treatment.
Another idea caters to individual employees at The Hartford by celebrating special events in their lives–a promotion, a birthday, or an anniversary, for instance. Let Frescos know in advance, and they set you up in the bar’s VIP section, which doesn’t currently exist but a corner near the fireplace features a sofa and over-stuffed chairs in a relatively private part of the bar. This is a perfect spot to host three to 30 people. Provide a celebratory pizza(s) for the guests and free drinks for the person being honored. Only requirement, the event needs to be scheduled in advance and held on a Thursday evening, another relatively slow night for restaurants.
The idea behind this effort is two-fold: Create a niche by catering to a local business; thereby, exceeding their expectations and developing loyal customers who will spread word of mouth. It works especially well for Frescos because The Hartford is by far the largest business in town. Other businesses aren’t likely to feel slighted, but if they do, we smart marketers can figure out a niche for them, as well.
Questions: Do you have businesses in mind that could build a niche market but haven’t done so? Or they have created a niche–how? Do you have ideas for Fresco’s? I will share them with the owner, giving you credit, of course.

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