For years we have fought our location. While there is much to love about our space, being located in a small boutique mall defines the restaurant as something other than what we see it as. This year I am trying to embrace the location and the perceptions. The problem is seeing where my desires for the restaurant diverge from the location's reality.
For instance, we have a couple of ingredient themed culinary festivals in this neck of the woods. For the first 5 or so years of being open we tried doing "events", like winemaker dinners, etc. We struggled to sell reservations to these things, wondering why friends of ours were able to sell these same type of events to 40-50 while we averaged 12-15. Similar situations happened on holidays like Valentine's Day. One year we did a prix fixe that was meant to be shared between two people with instructions to lick, bite, slurp, etc. No one did. I sold a few, but...
In this instance we realized we are not a special occasion place. Not to say people don't celebrate at our restaurant. They do, and they celebrate very special occasions but our identity is of a friendly neighborhood place. An old motto of ours used to be "the neighborhood restaurant that overachieves." Now during the festivals, or during holidays we take a different approach. Rather than stress about selling an event, we offer a modestly priced three course prix fixe as well as the regular menu. We put together wine pairings for the menus and they're all selling.
In this instance we've embraced the location. How much are we willing to embrace the rest? We know all summer long people either get up and leave or never sit down because we don't serve clam chowder. We still don't think we want to serve these people, so we probably won't be serving chowder. But by doing that we're letting money walk out the door. This year we're trying to follow the words of the lovely Debbie Harry, "I'll take the money, you can have the fame", so who knows. We may morph into a burger and chowder palace.
We're also talking about asking people with marketing backgrounds to identify where public perception differs from our internal perception (or perhaps internal deception). Perhaps then we can align ourselves with our location in ways that make sense for us and our potential customers.