5 Marketing Hacks From A Fancy French Restaurant (in France!)

I was in London town last week for my work with Really Useful, and since my wife had never been to Europe before, I packed her up and took her along with me.

Of course, one of the spectacular things about Europe is that so many different countries and cultures are just a train ride away.  You can go to Paris from London in the same time us New Yorkers can go to Atlantic City (you never thought Paris and AC would ever be in the same comparative sentence, now did you?).

And so we did.  We jumped on the ‘chunnel’ (or jumped under, I should say) and shot up to gay Paris.  We saw all the big sites in 36 hours (stay tuned for the debut of my new blog…www.HowToSeeParisWithYourSpouseIn36HoursAndNotKillEachOther.com).  But, of course, what she really wanted to do was eat at a Fancy French Restaurant (or FFR, as it’s known by husbands on the new blog).

“What kind of restaurant do you want to go to, hon?”

“Surprise me!”

Gulp.  The two words that can send shock waves of fear through the heart of any husband.  Am I right, men?  I knew, in my hot little Googlin’ hands, I had the power to make or break the entire trip with this one restaurant choice.

“Choose wisely, my son,” I heard the god of Husbands whisper in my head, “Or thou shalt be banished to never play golf on a Saturday morning again…and also binge watch the entire season of Downton Abbey.  Twice.”

So I chose.  And we ate.  And now you want to know where, and more importantly, you want to know…DidSheLikeIt?

Well, before I tell you that, let me tell you that in addition to some extra calories, I also added some marketing hacks to my toolkit that I had to share.

As you’ve heard me say before, the basic principles of marketing are the same for any business, and we can learn from all industries.  But restaurants and the theater are even more aligned than most (perishable inventory, labor intensive, product consumed at a specific location rather than in the home, etc.).

That’s why I thought you’d enjoy these Five Marketing Tips I learned from this FFR, so you can apply them to your show or your theater.  Here we go!

  1. They showed us the history.

Along the walls of the restaurant weren’t photos of France or even fine art.  Instead, they hung framed menus from their past…and we’re talking from the way, way back.  There were hand written menus from the 1940s and earlier!  (And oh, those prices back then!)  Walking to the restroom was like walking through their own private museum.  I found myself staring at the walls looking to find the oldest menu in the room.

These pieces of fine dining art were subtly saying to me without screaming it in my ear, “Hey, we’re not just old, we’re historic.  And if we’ve been around that long, then you know we’re good, because it’s not easy to hang around in this biz.”

How long have you been around?  And how can you show your consumers that you were “Established in 1985” without just saying it?

  1. Obama ate there.

Actually, that’s not true.  Obama didn’t eat there.  The Obamas ate there.  Both of them.  On a date.  When they were in Paris.  And yes, this was the #2 reason why I chose this restaurant (keep reading for the #1).

Celebrities matter…especially when they are on brand with what you are selling.  It doesn’t mean as much to have Will Ferrell show up at a production of Macbeth. But get him to a brand new comedy?  That’s on message and will help you spread yours.

  1. It was casual.

We dressed up for this FFR, but it wasn’t necessary.  There was a very casual and comfortable vibe in the place that made us feel at home.  In fact, we went to dinner straight after seeing a museum (or 7), and we didn’t feel any pressure that we were underdressed.

While all of us theater snobs lament the days of when people dressed up for the theater, ask yourself, is that what you’d really want to do if you were on vacation?

Tourists, Broadway’s primary audience, try to pack in as much stuff as they can into their 48-72 hours with us.  And getting back to the hotel and putting on a suit (that they didn’t have room for in their extra bag that costs them $75 to check) is a pain.

And more importantly, if they’re wearing something because they have to, and something that doesn’t make them comfortable (ever wear a tie in July?), how much do you think they are going to enjoy what they are about to see?

Make your audience comfortable and they’ll be more likely to enjoy what they are about to see.  Make them uncomfortable?  You’ve got a lot harder job to do.

  1. They offered us menus…in English.

Going to an FFR can be stressful, especially when you only speak “un peu” of the language.  I was prepared to ask for an English menu…but I didn’t have to.  The non-snooty waiter asked us as soon as we sat down if we’d like an English or French menu, and didn’t turn up her nose when I answered, “Anglais, s’il vous plaît.”

While we may not all be able to have audio language translations of our shows on Broadway (though we should all strive for it), we can work to make things easier for our foreign audience (which makes up 18% of our audience).

If our box office attendants don’t speak other languages (and at least one should speak Spanish, I’d think), we could easily have signs in other languages, or “menus” of ticket options, synopses, etc. to hand them to make their ordering easier.

  1. No matter what the language. WoM is just as powerful.

I told you that the Obamas ate there, right?  And that was the #2 reason I chose this specific restaurant?

Well, the primary reason I chose this eaterie was because someone recommended it to me.  In fact, two people recommended the same place to me, and both had lived in France, so I felt like I was getting a “local” rec instead of a tourist rec., which always feels stronger.

I may have checked TripAdvisor later.  And I may have googled the “eff” out of this FFR, but it was good ol’ Word of Mouth that got me thinking about it in the first place.

Word of Mouth is the strongest motivator for purchase for all products out there. It always has been, and it always will be.  Every other bit of marketing just supports that WoM.

Your job is to make sure you stay top of the mind with your audience to make sure they are recommending you…and that they have the tools to recommend you easily and often.

The restaurant?  It was this one.  And yes, I recommend it as well.

Because the wife loved it.  The food was great. The wine was great.

And,  an added bonus?  We started talking to the couple next to us just as we were ordering dessert.  Turns out they were from the U.S. as well.  About 60 miles from where my wife and I got hitched.

And they had invested in Dear Evan Hansen.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.