Updated: Jun 20, 2020
Getting involved in a local business community in your town or city where you live is something that you may or have not considered yet.
The success of your restaurant relies on those people who live in the 3-5 mile radius of your establishment. And you can and must get to know these people by engaging in local business networking groups like the Chamber of Commerce.
I read a fantastic book which is called "Growing Pizza" by Michael Shepherd and he shared that as business owners, you should join the local Chamber of Commerce. And so that was what we did from the beginning of our restaurant in 2014.
You have people from banks, from the insurance company, other businesses, all of them gather in the local Chamber of Commerce.
It is one of the local business groups where you can find and attend their weekly meetings and give and receive referrals.
You must join the Chamber of Commerce because it will allow you to meet other local business owners and networks that can eventually affect you grow your restaurant through the following 10 benefits:
1. Business community support
We have a few Facebook Groups and the biggest ones have 20,000 members.
These are the people who live here in our area, within the 3-5 mile radius of our restaurant. And I tried to be there as much as I can, but I am not always in there active. I am trying to interact or read what’s going on in town.
One of the greatest benefits of me attending local business networking groups and befriending these folks on Facebook is that other people are in these Facebook Groups who know me and my husband on a personal level.
And whenever there’s an issue, whether somebody Kudos our restaurant or we might have had an issue like the delivery took a long time, somebody there ordered from us and they were disappointed, for whatever reason, and I may not be on Facebook, not as much really, someone will tag me and say that they know us, the owners, who are very nice.
They are going to address it and they tag my name, and I get a pop up here on my phone and go to that Facebook Group and I can immediately address this issue.
So one of the main reasons that I am involved in our business community is the support that I may be able to give and receive from our fellow business people.
And in this day in age, that is very very important because you want to have a group of people like the business owners who will always have your back. Sooner or later, you’re going to need that and again, you can also be the one who provides the support.
2. Possible partnerships
Another reason we are part of multiple business groups, which I am asking you to join too, is possible partnerships.
For instance, we have a local business that is not a competitor to us and we partnered with them.
The name of the business is Color Clay and they do have pottery classes for little kids.
Attending these pottery things is not cheap, and why does that matter? That matters because those families who go there with young kids were our demographics.
These are people who have money to go and spend on something that is not a necessity per se, it is something that they do for fun and we want to attract those customers. And the owner of Color Clay had also become interested in our customers.
We shared the same demographics, we are not competitors because we have totally different lines of businesses, we’re food, and they are some sort of entertainment. So we’ve been able to partner with them multiple times, and created events we called like “Pizza and Pottery”.
So kids come out to join this event, we charge $25-$30 per child and we give this whole experience where they get to create a piece of pottery that they can take home, as well as build their own pizza.
Partnerships are critical and so how are you going to build those partnerships? You need to attend business networking groups and get to meet people. Think about, how can I partner with this person, how can I partner with this local realtor, for instance?
These realtors whenever they closed a deal, they probably would like a gift card or thank you card.
If there is a gift card from my restaurant and there is this realtor who can build me up and say "Hey, thank you so much for your business, I want to also invite you to check out this pizzeria or this burger joint, I know the owners personally, they have fantastic food", that will be a great benefit for my business.
Since you are most likely new to the area, like us, that’s a fantastic way of building a relationship with the local realtors. And no better place to find these folks than at these networking groups that I am talking about, especially the Chamber of Commerce.
I don’t know about you, but in the first few years when we started our business, we were pretty much stuck at the restaurant all the time.
We were there, as in 70-80 hours. But we realized that beyond that we need to actually have a life, clean our homes sometimes, meet our kids and hang out and we don’t have as much time for friendship.
We were new, we moved to the state when we open the restaurant, and we have no friends.
So the first friends I found were in local business gatherings. It is a great place to build some friendships because you do have some great things in common which is, you are all business owners, you go through some challenges, as seasons go up, seasons go down, we deal with similar issues.
It is an excellent place to find a few people that you can have coffee with. Aside from partnerships, you also build friendships.
4. Catering sales
This matters because, of course, we want to grow our sales.
As a restaurant business, we are also focused on catering.
You’ve got to have a catering menu where you are feeding masses, which is way more profitable than finding one or ten customers that order ten things, you always want to go for that bulk order.
For instance, you have the manager of a local bank present in the local Chamber of Commerce that you are building a business relationship with.
Since you are one restaurant in town who is taking the time to meet and greet them, whenever they order catering to feed their crew, they are going to think about you.
You will be on top of their minds because they saw you there, you were there physically, they are going to order from you versus somewhere else.
That is something critical so we've grown our catering tremendously through these relationships that we've been able to build through the Chamber of Commerce, and we are continuously growing catering sales, it's a big deal.
5. Master your elevator pitch
Another one is mastering your elevator pitch. A lot of these networking groups will give you 60 seconds to get up and introduce yourself during the meetings.
What's your business all about, what is that unique thing about you and what is a good referral for you?
You have to be able to summarize that in 60 seconds and sometimes 40 seconds depending on the size of the group, and they timed it.
The alarm of the phone goes on so you can't be just talking all the way out, you need to be able to communicate who you are and what you do in a concise manner.
Initially, it's very hard for you to get up in front of 50 people and talk about your restaurant in a short amount of time and it is such a great practice to do that weekly. I did that weekly for like two years, now I get up in front of a crowd, it does not matter what size it is.
I can be in front of 150 people in a luncheon meeting, I can get up in 30-45 seconds and be very concise, this is who I am, this is my business, this is what we do, this is what we are famous for, and a great referral for us this week, if this and that, get in touch with us.
That is a skill that you need to acquire and you can practice that by attending network meetings in the Chamber of Commerce.
6. To find an opportunity to serve and sow goodwill
When you are out there, find an opportunity to help others.
For instance, I attended the Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting some time ago and there was a couple who got up, they call them “Battle Buddies”, they are nonprofit local here in our area.
They start from a church and what they do is they train service dogs and from breeding all the way and connecting them to a veteran. A battle buddy or a service dog would be of tremendous help. So this is what they do and they need $25,000 per dog per year or something like that.
So I heard that story and it is great for me to think about hosting a fundraiser for these folks, which is always a win-win-win situation. It's a win for them because we can raise money and awareness for the community.
It's a win for our customers to get an idea that there is a nonprofit organization that they can get involved with and feel great that they too can contribute.
And it is always a win for us because we can be in the middle of helping a charity, building goodwill in our community, and establishing our brand because we want the community to know that we care about them, we care about the veterans.
We live in an area where this is a big deal, we want to honor our veterans anyways, right? So finding opportunities to serve, they are not going to fall on your lap, you need to get involved, you need to hear about it, you need to initiate contact, you need to cultivate relationships and show goodwill.
It is very crucial for you as a business owner to find opportunities that could lead to future caterings or sales and if not, again, a fundraiser to help and sow goodwill.
7. They may meet you at your restaurant
They may need your restaurant as a venue for meetings because a lot of these network groups need to meet up somewhere.
Usually, meetings start at 8:00 AM or 8:30 AM and since our restaurant is available because we don't serve breakfast, we have conducted several meetings there.
And if you have 30 people who gather at this meeting, and every week they are inviting new people and say that we are meeting at this restaurant and mentions the name of your business, you are going to get exposure.
You must always put your name down for free exposure and get people in your restaurant so they get a habit of coming to your restaurant. So have them meet at your restaurant, that is also a great opportunity.
8. Lunch sales
The meetings usually go like, from 8 AM to10 AM or so, and many of them stay around after.
So they have this one on one meetings or something like that, they stay and pay for their lunch. That is another fantastic thing for you to consider.
9. See other people
Why seeing other people matters is because being in a big room with other people is actually nice since we have so many issues or problems that we deal with in our restaurant.
We have equipment issues, customer issues, staff issues, this one did not come in, this one did not show up, and sometimes, it just feels so good when seeing other people who are nice.
It's like a breath of fresh air to somehow meet new people through these networking group meetings because we know that a day in a restaurant could really be exhausting. And honestly, it is important to make the effort to see and meet other people.
10. For future sake
You'll never know what are you going to need soon. So you need to prepare for what you don't know now.
For instance, you have a great advantage if you are building relationships with your local bankers when you don't need a loan because when the time comes that you will need one, you have already established relationships with these people you know can give you some assistance.
On the other hand, there's also a lot of politics involved in the business community, it is just a fact. Politics is very significant and it's just important for you and me to build relationships with the people within the local community.
So you are going to have the mayor, the city council folks who always attend your local Chamber of Commerce luncheon and it is a great opportunity to know them. It is very important for future sake because you'll never know what the future holds.
So if you have not been joining in any local business groups within your area, better start looking for one now and be a member.
Engaging yourself as business owners to different local business networking groups, like the Chamber of Commerce, is a very great way for you to find opportunities to get involved in your community activities and to grow your business.