Thursday, June 21, 2012

To-Go Fliers Long Term

To-go fliers have a slow return in the beginning, but the repetitive ad on every to-go order will become familiar to the customers.  To make the advertisement effective, the customer must see the advertisement repetitively before they take action.  The customer, seeing the ad for weeks to months, will now respond and call for birthday parties, communions, block parties or company picnics.  If they don’t contact you directly, they call the restaurant for your information.

I once received a call from a lady looking to book me for her son’s first birthday.  She told me that I entertained at a restaurant that they visited.  She was so impressed with me that she kept my business card and told her husband that she was going to hire “Magical Balloon-dude Dale for their son’s first birthday.” It only took three years before she called to book me. She told me that my business card was in her wallet all that time.

Consider a minimum of six months for a to-go advertisement campaign to start working. If starting a to-go flier, consider budgeting for one year. Pay-offs will come in years to follow. Customers save restaurant menus. If your to-go flier is attached to a menu, then your ad will be seen every time the customer orders or is looking through their take out menus.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Trifecta of Marketing

Opportunities can be made and should not be overlooked.  In an early example, I discussed piggybacking off of a community fair advertising; by having the restaurant advertised on the marquee.  Expand your marketing by having the to-go filers advertise you during these weeks. Local customers will receive a community flier in the mail. They will recognize your name from the restaurant marquee and than the to-go fliers from the restaurant.  This trifecta of marketing is quick and efficient and can brand you to the event and to the restaurant.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

To-Go Flier Cost

We are going to assume that cost is an issue and we only going to make 101 copies.  We could make 100 copies, but I have learned that price breaks for coping drop over 100.  By adding 1 copy you can reduce coping price as much as $0.10 a copy.  Check with your local copier to find out what the price break structure.

Let’s produce 101 fliers at a cost of $0.39 a color copy. Three dollars a cut; each flier requires three cuts. Cut one vertically divides the two columns, cuts 2 & 3 are horizontal cuts separating the to-go fliers. Cost = (101 X $0.39) + (3 X $3.00), total $48.39 + tax. For simplicity I will round the total to $50.00. Six hundred and six to-go fliers produced, each flier will cost $0.08.  Comparing the price of producing a to-go flier to the cost of one 260 balloon (bought after shipping and tax) is cheap advertising.

In only weeks, the restaurant would have attached 606 fliers to all the to-go orders. The entertainer pays nothing for labor cost or stapling cost. The reward for producing the to-go flier is… every carry out customers and local businesses now have an opportunity to learn about your entertainment service through the to-go flier. You could not have reached these potential customers without the help of the restaurant.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Developing a To-Go Flier

The goal in creating a to-go flier is to make a flier that is interesting, colorful and large enough to get the vital information across.  You want people to remove the to-go flier form the order and read it. Remember this is an advertisement for the restaurant and you.

I choose to use a 2 x 3 gird layout.  This would be large enough to place a season balloon sculpture, large text, week day & time of entertainment, restaurant name, website address and telephone number.  I would develop this material myself and take it to a local printer for quick color coping. I wanted color so it would be interesting and give customers something to read while eating. I would have the printer cut the flier to the proper size.  I learned it was more efficient to have the printer cut the filers. Cost was $2.00 per cut, but they were ready to distribute ASAP.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

To-Go Fliers

One evening I observed that the takeout orders for the restaurant were steady, while the din-in was slow. This is nothing unusual; on other days it is exact the opposite. What I did notice is that every order went out had a menu stapled to the order. Bingo! It hit me. Why not include a to-go flier adverting kids’ night on the takeout orders. I talked with the owners and they said “if I make up fliers, they would staple them to the to-go orders”. At first I thought, “hmm, shouldn’t the owner pay for the fliers?” After all it’s his business. Then I really thought about it. How many companies allow you to advertise directly to their customers? None! So I took it upon myself to create the to-go fliers, with printing and cutting it cost about $0.07 for each flier. That’s about the price of a high quality business card.

I figured to have 600 fliers made at $0.07 a flier. It would cost me $42.00 dollars a month for flier advertising. So I had a 600 flyers made, and surprisingly that’s only a little more than a three weeks worth of flyers. So, I decided each month to have 600 flyers distributed. I told the owner I had enough made for the first five months and if it works, would he consider splitting the cost on the next run. He said he will think about it, and that is all I can ask for now.

As the months wore on and we approached the slow season (January-March) management opted to cancel kid’s night.  I have not given up on the to-go flier idea.  I have presented the idea to my Friday night restaurant and the owner asked, “Are you advertising kid’s night or just you.”  I told him it would be both. I would advertising about kid’s night with both our contact information.  His reply was “Yah, go ahead.”  When I asked how many should I have made, he informed me they do about 200 to-go orders on Friday and Saturday nights and about 100+ orders during the week; So about 1,000 fliers a week.  I jumped at this opportunity to advertise. Advertising would start at the end of January when times are slow and because the restaurant is close to home, be marketing to local community. My goal is to reap the rewards later in the year by increasing my party business and to pickup business in the slow months too.

Restaurant entertainers should have a to-go flier in their arsenal of marketing material and present it to restaurant management.  Don’t miss out on an opportunity to advertise to 100’s if not 1,000’s of people each week. Make it a win-win for both you and your restaurant.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Become Part of the Advertisements

Entertainers need to be alert because opportunities arise and they simply overlook opportunities at restaurants. My Thursday night restaurant was reprinting their menus and I suggested they add me to the activity page.

Many restaurants have a simple plastic insert that allows management to add a specials or holiday events into the standard menu. I suggested they consider having an insert page incorporated into the new menu design.  The owners, wanting to save cost, decided to advertise my services directly back of the menu.  This was more than I expected, but will take the free press. On the back cover of the menu it reads:

Every Thursday Night from 5:30-7:30
Come see Magical Balloon Dude Dale
Our Amazing Balloon Artist

The restaurant included pictures of me performing in their franchise brochure to help sell the restaurant birthday and field trip parties

The owner has decided to revamp their website and have added me to the main page. They have even gone as far as providing a link to my web site and created a slideshow of kids with balloons.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Available for All Events

Restaurant entertainers must be aware of activities occurring at the restaurant.  Owners are always looking to promote their business and can quickly overlook entertainment especially if the event is off-site.  Aggressive restaurant owners will schedule promotional events at malls or business expos to market their restaurant.  Entertainers can use these opportunities to help the restaurant draw attention to its booth and be able to promote their business while at the event. These off-site restaurant events provide opportunities for entertainers to garner public exposure and to pass out business cards.

Expanding management’s interpretation of your entertainment potential can only come from the entertainer.  By participating at an off-site event, the entertainer will draw crowds and their knowledge of the restaurant, along with their people skills, can greatly benefit the restaurant marketing.

Restaurants participate in seasonal events from local business expos, community carnivals, holiday gift certificate drives to promotions in malls to name a few.  So, talk with the restaurant owner, let them know you are available to work all events, not just kids night. Expand management’s perception of entertainment and show them the possibilities of using the restaurant entertainer at other events.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Let Management Know You Have Friends

In my twenty plus years of entertaining, I strongly believe in networking.  Networking gives you an upper hand over your competition because you are creating a circle of friends are willing to pass-on or recommend you for work.  This network is valuable when you get in a booking jam.

Why would you tell management that you know other entertainers?  As a restaurant entertainer, our goal is to work with restaurant management to create a successful restaurant.  By educating management about your network of entertainment friends and your abilities to call on them if needed is an extra benefit to a restaurant.  The perception given is that you are a reputable entertainer with good entertainment connections.  The better caliber of entertainer’s connections, the better repetition you will get with management and entertainers.

So how does having a network of entertainers help a restaurant entertainer or restaurant owner?  Lets first look at the restaurant entertainer and how a network of friends can help. 

Restaurants are great for providing a weekly income. But can become a burden on a restaurant entertainer when planning vacations, family events, or more lucrative accounts.  I have found it is a great help to call upon my network of entertainers to help fill-in dates that I can not do.  For these entertainers, this is extra income. During the slow seasons entertainers are happy to get the work while in the busy season, it’s the little extra money that makes for a great year.

The restaurants I normally entertain at are looking for quality entertainment. If I can replace myself with another balloon entertainer who does quality work, I can take off or work better paying job.  But finding another quality balloon entertainer available may not always be achievable. So, from time-to-time, I will ask a magician friend of mine to fill-in.  The Magician entertainment style is different treat for regular customers while the restaurant will quality entertainment for its customers.

I have learned over the years that it is best to use entertainers who has worked a restaurant, or works a restaurant on a weekly basis.  These entertainers understand the pay structure and how to work the restaurant environment.  By offering other entertainers the opportunity to cover a restaurant, you are creating a bond with that entertainer who in turn will feel an obligation to you and will reciprocate by passing work back to you.

Restaurant owners can greatly benefit from knowing that their entertainer knows “people”.  A restaurant may have an upcoming event and is looking for a stage act, promotional entertainer, magician, balloonist, or face painter and may not know who is good or how to find them.  Management can save time and get recommendations from their restaurant entertainer, which can lead to rehiring or recommendation on who they should, hirer. 

Restaurant owners are great for running a restaurant, but do not understand what would be the best entertainment for a particular event. 

During the holiday season, restaurant owners try to add that little “extra” atmosphere to help draw holiday customers. One year, a waitress convinced the owner that her husband’s country band would be good attraction. 

The band was good, but the acoustics of the restaurant was lousy. The band proximity coupled with the busy restaurant was more of a nuisance to the customers than a benefit.  If the owner would have talked to me, I would have expressed my concerns that when the restaurant is busy it is difficult to maneuver around customers and wait staff, seating will be lost do to band area and the noise will be increased during the busy hours.

That was the only time her husband’s band played that venue. The owner now offers free candy canes or a holiday chocolate to customers as a holiday treat.

Providing quality fill-in entertainment can become a win-win for all parties. One of my fill-ins is Frank Birdsall, a world class unicycle rider.  While filling-in one Tuesday night as a balloon artist, the manager asked Frank what else he did.  Frank told him about his unicycle act and places he performs regularly.  When I returned the next week the owner informed me he was having a ten-year anniversary party for the restaurant and was wondering about Frank’s unicycle act.  The owner was asking my opinion and was wondering if Frank’s show was right for the crowd and would it be entertaining?  I assured him Frank’s unicycle act was a very entertaining and family originated show and his customers would not be disappointed.  The owner asked if I could call Frank to get pricing and to check availability.  Thrilled, Frank preformed at the ten-year anniversary party and everyone was happy with his show. 

This owner has asked about other entertainers I deal with, so when the fifteen-year anniversary arrives, he has some ideas who to hire.  Frank in turn has passed my name on to agents, customers and has referred work.  This was a win-win for all parties.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chapter 4 – Expanding Your Marketing Throughout the Restaurant

Many performers underestimate the marketing capabilities of a restaurant. Restaurants advertise in newspapers, radio, television, Internet and door-to-door marketing campaigns. 

Knowing this, a good restaurant entertainer will encourage management to advertise their weekly entertainment in these media outlets.  The goal is to get your name out into the community and gain affiliations with the restaurant.  Allow the restaurant advertisement’s to work for you and get your services known to the community.

Over the years, I’ve entertained for many of the community fairs located near restaurants I have entertained at. One such event is the Taste of Orland.  I am hired to entertain the crowd as they roam the fair grounds tasting local cuisine. Since I’ve become a regular attraction, the fair committee has advertised the, “Magical Balloon-dude Dale” as a major attraction to the event.

I use this fair’s advertisement to help increase my restaurant business. I inform the restaurant management that “I will be appearing at a local event and they are advertising me by name as a major attraction. You (the restaurant) should put my name on the restaurant marquee.”  This allows the restaurant to piggy-back off of the fair’s advertisement.  People attending the event will see the name again and associate it with the fair. Your name is now associated with the fair, but also the local restaurant. Using the fair’s advertising and my name on the restaurant marquee gives me better visibility and can increase restaurant attendance and personal bookings.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Customers Birthday or Anniversary

Many times while entertaining, severs will approach you and inform you that a customer is having a birthday or anniversary and they would like you to entertain their table.  I always ask the servers “How far they are into their meal? Did they just sit down or are they getting ready to leave?” The answer to these questions will determine how fast I need to attend to their request.  I thank the server and let them know I will get to them in due time.  I want to control my work pattern and not allow the servers to dictate my schedule. The server has learned that if the customer is happy, they can improve their tips. Servers are not concerned about other customers in the restaurant, just theirs.

When I start my shift, I always ask the servers if they have any parties and, if they do, how far into their meal have they gone?  Some servers will quickly say “My party is killing me; they’ve been here all day already. We need to get them out of here.”  Others will say “they have just started and not everyone is here”.  I look around the room and quickly determine who needs entertainment ASAP.  I have learned that it is better to please many individual people then to worry about one big party. As I’ve told many owners, I would rather make sure I entertain the restaurant’s regular and new customers immediately, and then get to the big party of out-of-towers. At most of these “big” birthday or anniversary parties, you will see a pattern. There is usually one family member who is either a regular to the restaurant or lives in the neighborhood and has chosen this restaurant because of its location. Everyone else in the group is often from out of town, infrequently visits to the restaurant or will never come to the restaurant again.  If I choose to entertain the big party first; I can upset regulars and first time customers by getting bogged down at the party and neglecting their tables.  I also let the wait staff and the party knows that I’m here for the customers and not just their party. If they want to, they can hire me for their next event.

On busy days, let the party know that you only have time for the birthday child. And if time allows, you will come back.  The goal as a restaurant entertainer is to entertain the restaurant, not one individual party. I find it is best to do a show rather than a one-on-one form of entertainment.  If you can do a show, make something special for the birthday child and smaller things for their friends.  I find as a Balloon Artist it is quicker to do balloon hats than individual balloons.  Face Painters can decorate the face of the birthday child making simple designs for the guest.  Character Artists can draw a group picture as a birthday gift instead of individual drawings.  Magicians can use the birthday child in a routine.  Make the event special and different from your normal routine and the customer will appreciate your efforts and reward you accordingly.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Entertaining the Wait Staff

Over the years I have developed a stern approach with restaurant wait staff when it comes to providing them with entertainment.  I was hired by management to entertain customers, not the restaurant staff   So, I take the approach that restaurant staff should not be entertained, that they are getting paid by the restaurant and are there to work, not play.  I often hear restaurant staff say “He’s mean”, or “He’s not nice. He won’t give me a balloon”. It is not any of these things. I have come to the realization that restaurant staff turn out to be greedy and want you to make them something every week.

Restaurant entertainers normally entertain once a week. Because of this schedule, the restaurant staff can burden you each week with a new request.  Better to interact with customers or learn about upcoming events than spend time and balloon materials entertaining the wait staff.

Over a decade ago I started working an Aurelio’s restaurant. By now I have laid the ground rule that the wait staff doesn’t ask for balloons.  I explained to them that “I was hired to entertain the customers, not the staff.” Or my most popular line, “You haven’t worked here long enough.”  The person will ask, “How long do I have to work here?”  At this point one of the regular staff will usually chime in with “I’ve been here two years and he still hasn’t made me a balloon yet.  You can’t get something until I do.”  By me establishing a waiting time, I now control who gets a balloon and how long they wait.  I explain to the servers that “I make many different designs that you haven’t seen them all. And if I make you a balloon now, next week you are going to see something cooler and want that.  So just watch and find something you really want.  Once the novelty has warn off, I let the staff know that if they need a balloon for a special reason, like a little siblings birthday or grand parent’s anniversary, I’d be happy to make something for them.  But I’m not going to make them a balloon every week.

One night while entertaining, the owner’s ten year old son approached me and asked for a Daisy Duck.  I asked him, “Why Daisy Duck and not your normal Spiderman or Motorcycle?” He told me it was for his cousin.  Per his request, I made a Daisy Duck. Ten minutes later, I walked by the phone girls station and one of the girls was holding the Daisy Duck. She was taunting me saying “See, I got my balloon.”

Minutes later, the owner’s son came to me looking for another balloon, and when he asked for his Spiderman, I told him “No.”  When he dragged his mom over to me, I explained to her that the phone girl had her son lie to me and request a Daisy Duck for his cousin.  Since he lied to me, he was not entitled to a balloon.  I told the boy if he wants a balloon, take the Daisy Duck back form the phone girl and it’s yours.  The mother had no problem with the logic. She didn’t want her son lying. Minutes later the owner’s son was now bugging the phone girl for “his balloon.”  When the owner stepped in to correct his son, he then learned about the deception, looked at the phone girl and told not to do that again.  Needless to say the phone girl was not happy with me, but as I told her, “You had a little kid lie for you and you got caught. Don’t ever expect me to make anything for you.”  Word quickly spread around the restaurant about the deception and everyone agreed that using the owners’ son was not right.  That was the only balloon she received in the eighteen months that she worked at that restaurant.

Other entertainers have told me that they do requests for wait staff all the time. That it is no problem, they enjoy doing it.  These are the same entertainers who will accept food as payment.  They forget that their time is money. You charge the restaurant a fee for your time, but will stay the extra fifteen to twenty minutes and entertain staff for free.  These are the same wait staff who when its closing time, can’t prepare you a meal because they just cleaned everything or are leaving early. But they still want you to make them something before they leave.  They are now dictating your entertainment time which decreases your customer’s time, profit and prevents you from what management has hired you to do, entertain restaurant customers.

I had a bartender request balloons for her kids one night and, not thinking, I made her two balloons.  She gave me two dollars and that was it.  Next week the restaurant was busy and I was working the floor.  I was entertaining at the bar and the bartender interrupts me to tell me her kids were here and they needed a balloon.  I looked at the customers, then I went to look at her and she was now as on the other side of the bar taking drink orders.  I cracked a quick joke, “Wow, did my wife enter the room?  I could have stayed home and gotten orders like that.”

I finished entertaining the customers and went to the hostess station to remove my supplies.  I was nearly finished with my two hour shift and was going to take a needed bathroom break.  When out came the bartender screaming that I didn’t get her kids a balloon, that I always skip her kids, that they have been waiting all night for me, and on, and on. She went on raving like a lunatic.  This immediately put me on the defensive, “Hey, I just taking a quick break to hit the bathroom.”  That didn’t mean anything to her; she wanted her balloons now for her kids. She went back to the bar ranting and raving something about “I always tip you….”  The manager looked at me and said “What is that all about?”  I told the manger how she interrupted my entertaining and “I had just stopped in to remove my stuff and visit the restroom and next thing I know, a crazy bartender is saying that I’m not making balloons for her kids.  This is the same bartender who told me that ‘the bar is too busy and she could not buy back my singles’.  This is why I have you (the manager) buy back my singles at the end of my shift, because she too busy.

Not two seconds later the bartender’s husband and kids are standing outside the hostess. The manager looks at me, “Are you going to make balloons for these kids?”  “Yes, once I use the bathroom.”  The husband and the kids were cool and waited the extra minute while I use the restroom.  Each kid received their balloon and went on their way.

Needless to say the mangers were not pleased how one staff member could treat another. I’m not sure if they said anything to that bartender, but I have promised myself that if this woman ever asks for a balloon, the answer will be “no !”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Educate the Customer

The restaurant entertainer is the ambassador for the restaurant and should keep abreast of any restaurant specials events.  In every restaurant, there is a server’s station and the majority of restaurants will post messages instructing servers to promote an upcoming event.  One of my restaurants has a message board in the back, above the servers’ food pickup counter, listing food and event specials.  Other restaurants will have street marquees listing events, posters in the lobby or will have information at the hostess desk.  Restaurant entertainers need to make themselves aware of the upcoming events so they can tell customers or explain the upcoming event to them.

Normally, restaurant entertainers, being independent contractors, are left out of the information loop. By keeping abreast of the upcoming events, a restaurant entertainer can prepare for the event and make sure they have the right materials.  Once I was working what I thought was a typical, busy Friday night when a half hour into my shift I came to find out the restaurant was running a Halloween special.  Kids in Halloween costumes eat free; Parents in costumes eat half price. 

Most my regular Friday night customer were unaware of this Halloween special.  I, being new to the restaurant, did not hear anything about it so I could not promote the event the weeks prior.  The restaurant did have a good turn out and tips were good. But as a restaurant entertainer, I felt I could have increased crowd size or convinced more adults to dress up.

Restaurant entertainers who stay in the information loop make themselves an invaluable asset to a restaurant’s management.  Let management know that you are promoting or what to promote an upcoming event.  Ask management if they have fliers for customers to take.  Show the owner that you are working with them to make the event a success.

Your involvement with any restaurant promotion can lead management to hire you for the event.  So far, management’s main focus has been on the event and may have simply overlooked your service.  Should management approach you about an event, negotiate wisely. Is the restaurant charging different rates? Do you entertain at a different restaurant that night?  Are you off the night of the event?  Is the event on a holiday? All these factors will help you determine the price you charge.  I recommend that you inform management that you are not sure of your schedule and will get back to them the next day.  This tactic gives the performer a slight edge because you can now analyze what you want to do and not make a quick affirmative reply.  You many want to negotiate for paid supplies, a chance to perform a show, an increased rate for less time.  Let management know what your terms are: If they were catering food for your event, they would not provide their service free. You can give them a discount, but it’s off the hour rate.

I normally perform at a local country club for St. Patrick’s Day. This particular year, it fell on a Friday.  I informed my restaurant months in advance that I would not be in for that holiday. A few days later, the country club banquet manager called informing me they were having the St. Patrick’s Day party one week earlier. So I went to my restaurant and told management I was available to work St. Patrick’s Day.  He immediately wanted me to come in early St. Patrick’s Day and work for tips.  I said. “Sorry, I don’t work for tips, but since it is my normal Friday night gig, how about you pay the normal rate for the two hours and I will come in an hour early and, if needed, stay later until I decided to quit.”  He agreed.

The owner of the restaurant knew St. Patrick’s Day is one of his busiest days of the year and was concerned about extra expenses. But once I convinced him that this was not an extra expense, he had no problem paying me my normal restaurant fee.  Next year, St. Patrick’s Day will be on a Saturday and, if they want me, they will have to pay my hourly rate.  If the restaurant is serious about having entertainment, they will pay for the service.