The deli of days gone by

Planit Agency
December 6, 2012

Recently one of New York’s staple delicatessens closed its doors after 75 years. The Stage Deli began serving its monstrous deli sandwiches in 1937 and grew to become one of the many stops for tourists in The Big Apple. With the closing, many say it’s the end of an era for the Jewish deli of yesteryear. With this drastic news, I start to wonder… What could have prevented the closing? Do other delicatessens face the same fate?

If a restaurant should learn anything from the closing of the Stage Deli it’s the importance of adapting to the customers’ wants and needs while remaining true to its brand.

The Stage Deli cited the economy as one of its main reasons for closing. With an economy only just recovering, consumers are still watching their pennies and restaurants must be mindful of consumer choice. The Stage Deli raised prices to keep up with the rising costs of rent and food. While that’s one way to balance the budget, it’s also a way to leave a bad taste in a customer’s mouth and a surefire reason for them not to come back.

What would I have told them?

Go local!

Restaurants, like most businesses, have to learn to be nimble in a trying economy and those that succeed are the ones that learn to be creative and use the resources readily available to them. Restaurants feeling the pinch from rising food costs can look to their local farmers who are producing quality goods without the brand name price, shipping costs, and minimum order requirements. An added benefit to being a “locavore” is that your restaurant can build a stronger relationship with the community by sourcing from neighbors and supporting the local economy. Once you’ve built that community relationship, you have established a loyal following and, more importantly, a regular customer base and therefore a steady profit.

Spread the word!

If you make a change or improvement, you have to be sure to get the word out to the new audiences you are trying to capture. My recommendation is to proactively promote your ties to the community through various channels including the media. Draft a simple, yet compelling, press release about the restaurant’s decision to go local and how it will not only benefit the restaurant and its customers but also area businesses and the local economy. Distribute the press release to local media outlets—think community newspapers, the major metropolitan daily, and the latest hyper local websites whose readers are heavily interested and invested in the community. To take it one step further, ask a news station to come along on one of your chef’s shopping trips to the farmers’ market, where the reporter can offer his/her viewers tips on picking versatile produce that can be used in various recipes. You could even share a recipe for a dish you plan to have on your restaurant’s menu.

I’d be remiss to say that marketing a restaurant is easy, but it is vital to its success—especially one that’s independent and not backed by corporate dollars for advertising. The most important thing to remember when marketing a restaurant, or any business for that matter, is to stay consistent. Results take time. Make a plan, starting with a six-month commitment, and stick to it. Then evaluate where you started and where you ended, adjust as needed, and start again.

While I’m sad to see the Stage Deli go, I also have hope for what’s to come for the future of the Jewish delicatessen. If you were running a Jewish deli what would be your next move?