Restaurant Marketing in Simple Words

Giancarlo De Leonardo
6 min readApr 3, 2023

“If you don’t understand you don’t act or you act badly”

Florence, Via dei Neri Saturday, 9.45 a.m.: I was standing in line waiting for the manager of the 4 adjoining All’Antico Vinaio shops to start handing out the precious stuffed focaccias that are making the world go crazy. And have made Tommy, the owner, a likable, famous and now very rich person. I’m Giancarlo De Leonardo, founder of Caro Collega Ho.Re.Ca. And our first goal is to help entrepreneurs and managers in the hospitality business to understand the opportunities offered by the digital revolution. What better opportunity could there be to reflect on what marketing is?

SUMMARY

- Restaurant Marketing in simple words

- “Genuine” marketing

- Instagram

- The ability to delegate

- All the channels where you can find customers

Restaurant Marketing in simple words: All’Antico Vinaio Case Study

RESTAURANT MARKETING IN SIMPLE WORDS

If there is one street in Florence that is more crowdy than the Galleria of Uffizi, it is Via dei Neri. And the credit must go to Tommy the founder of All’Antico Vinaio, the most famous focacceria in the world, the only one to have four identical shops side by side to satisfy the demand for the focaccias that is driving the world crazy. After Milan, Rome, Bergamo, and Forte dei Marmi, there are even two shops in New York City and one in Los Angeles. In addition to the Percassi Group has become a partner of the brand and will spread it throughout Italy and Europe. All’Antico Vinaio has become a ‘must’ for those who visit Florence and are downtown. And the kind of marketing is easy to explain when you see people queuing in front of the shop when they could be getting an equally good and certainly quicker but “less famous” focaccia in the neighboring shops.

Certainly, Antico Vinaio’s focaccias are a good product, made with industrial quality cheeses and cured meats, otherwise, it could not maintain a price tag of €7 to €10 each, which you eat standing outside the shop and which becomes incredibly uncomfortable when you have a bottle of water or wine in your hand.

So what makes the difference?

The main ingredient, which is there even if you don’t see it, is marketing, which I, Giancarlo De Leonardo, would define as genuine, of which Tommy All’Antico Vinaio is an absolute interpreter because it’s not studied at a desk, it’s present in his DNA.

Marketing, then, is everything that we do not see, but that contributes decisively to the success of a product or activity. In fact, in a modern digital society where no one has to satisfy basic needs such as eating and sleeping, it determines the success of a restaurant or a hotel.

Giancarlo De Leonardo Founder of Caro Collega

“GENUINE” MARKETING

At this point, you might ask: what is “Genuine” marketing?

I like to say that marketing is the ‘salt of the business’, i.e. without salt the flavors might become uniform and leave no memory. This analogy is also interesting because the salt in the kitchen costs nothing, but clearly determines the flavor of a dish. In the same way, today’s digital marketing can get the message across to people who might be interested.

Tommy’s father made the same focaccias, but Tommy used “genuine marketing” to create a brand and become popular, famous, and rich. Genuine marketing is what you have in your DNA and it develops to unimaginable levels without you even realizing it.

And so it was, because Tommy didn’t start with the idea of becoming an Instagram account followed by 652,000 people, he started with the idea of having fun and turning his passion into a job. In the same way, All’Antico Vinaio has been the most-reviewed business in the world on TripAdvisor for years!

INSTAGRAM

Almost 3000 posts on Instagram and almost 700,000 followers, acquired organically, are the result of digital sacrifices that few restaurateurs understand. For example, until a few years ago, I too would have thought that Tommy was just a luckier restaurateur than me. I had no idea how much work he put in every day to tell his followers what they wanted to hear in video after video. In the end, there is a big difference between the business he built and the one I had developed until I got into the restaurant business. On the surface, I thought of Instagram as a game, like any other marketing activity except word of mouth. Instead, my story as a restaurateur would have been different if I had also started producing informative, inspirational, and entertaining videos like Tommy’s.

Ability to delegate: the only way for an International success

ABILITY TO DELEGATE

Looking at Tommy and all the shops he is opening at ‘All’Antico Vinaio’ reminds me of another fundamental aspect necessary for the transformation from a traditional entrepreneur to an enlightened and successful one: delegation. Most restaurateurs mirror the way I was until a few years ago, concentrating on all the operations necessary to run a restaurant: administration, human resources, purchasing, customer service, quality control, etc.

Instead, those who embarked on a virtuous path with Caro Collega Ho.Re.Ca. understood that a restaurant is a small, sometimes medium-sized business that cannot rely on a ‘one-man band’. Something I had unfortunately failed to understand when I was in their shoes! I always wondered why I had never thought to adjust my behavior to understand what was the best way to spend my time. The reality is that when I was a restaurateur, it was enough for me to feel busy: the number of hours I spent at work was the only thing I focused on, and the quality of how I spent all that time was of little importance. Well, if you don’t overcome this self-limitation, dear colleague, it’s going to get worse and worse, because you’ll be surpassed not only by other superheroes like Tommy from All’Antico Vinaio, but also by many colleagues who have realized that “marketing is the soul of commerce” and are implementing integrated digital marketing plans in their businesses.

ALL CHANNELS TO ATTRACT CUSTOMERS

Many people ask me the same question: can I become like Tommy or like other famous influencers on Instagram? The answer depends on the effort and investment you are willing to make. Consider this:

- Gone are the days when you could grow organically on Instagram without the help of advertising investment, which is now the only way to get noticed.

- The battle for people’s attention has become increasingly fierce, so you need to design different content, where creativity and professionalism will increasingly make the difference.

- You have to assess the weight of social media on a business in terms of the effort to be made.

- You have to consider all advertising channels because Instagram and TripAdvisor were good for Tommy, but not necessarily for you.

For the same reason, I always recommend avoiding the question: “How many followers will you get me? I know it’s tempting to have an Instagram profile with hundreds of thousands of followers, but growth on Instagram doesn’t necessarily mean business development. Followers can now be bought in ‘packages’ for a few tens of euros, but the business will never grow; on the contrary, it is likely to decline, as the algorithm will penalize the few interactions that will inevitably take place with a ‘fake’ or uninterested audience.

The question I think you should ask your marketing consultant is: what should I do to increase my sales by 10/15% in 12 months?

Of course, I can give you the answer, which is contained in the Caro Collega Ho.Re.Ca Method, which we have validated in more than 10 restaurants in the last year alone. If you want tangible results directly attributable to your restaurant’s online presence, you need to develop an integrated digital marketing plan based on

- A website that meets Google’s minimum requirements (core web vitals)

- SEO optimization

- Business profile on Google and Local Seo

- Social media management: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest

- WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram

- E-mail

- Mobile phone

- Online reservations

- Advertising campaigns on Google and Meta, where Caro Collega Ho.Re.Ca is the official partner

- TripAdvisor/Yelp

- Web reputation

And you, how many bookings have you received through these channels?

Written by Giancarlo De Leonardo, Former restaurateur / hotelier and Founder of Caro Collega Ho.Re.Ca.

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Giancarlo De Leonardo

Founder of carocollega.com a marketing agency focused on developing the business of hotels and restaurants still excluded from the digital revolution.