Ron Gurba Jr. wants to bring his Cajun-cooking specialties to high-end restaurants and supermarkets, but has been frustrated at the former by finicky chefs and at the latter by exorbitant slotting fees.
Allow people to sample your product, and if they like it, ask them to send a postcard to their supermarkets urging them to carry your products. If this inexpensive, backdoor sales technique generates 50 to 100 requests, no supermarket will say no.
Restaurants are just as easily swayed. Offer them free samples to serve as specials. Remember, you are ultimately selling to the public. Let them sell you to the restaurants.
The Right Angle
In your attempt to crack "white tablecloth" restaurants, don't ignore mom-and-pop establishments. They want something different, too. Your crab cakes might interest them (although maybe not the turtle soup). Also try hotel and independent caterers.
If you donate your products to charity banquets, you can make connections, perhaps garner some PR, and write off the expense. Consider donating food to a local homeless shelter. Your local paper might pick up the story.
Dearborn Heights, Mich.
Exp. Entrprnr. Sks. Same Part-time publishing leaves Marc Hyman with time on his hands, and he wants to spend it as a consultant to a small, entrepreneurial company.
As small family companies grow, they often begin to look for a board member from outside the family. Most want a person with general business expertise, and many want someone from another industry who can provide fresh perspectives. Put the word out that you're available. Start with your clients and the readers of your fax newsletters.
George S. Krasnov
Gee Kay Knit Products
Team Players As Michael Sheridan moves his company from hierarchical management to performance teams, some employees are balking at the changes.
Employees who feel uncomfortable with this type of change either don't believe they have the authority to act, or need guidance and information to help them exercise their authority. Once you've given them that, make sure all your employees understand how their work relates to one another's and how their decisions affect the others. Then they can make decisions consistent with the company's direction. It's worth the effort, but you must remain committed to the process.
Paul R. Vragel
Vragel & Associates
Home on the Range Readers continue to respond to Robert Haskell, who plans to move from North Carolina to Wyoming to buy a restaurant. He needs advice on setting the menu and marketing it (Menu Selections, October 1991, [Article link]).
You must develop a feeling of ownership among the year-round community. Try direct referrals. Have cards printed up with directions to your restaurant and an offer of a free dessert with the card. Give a bunch of them to anyone who can send you guests. Keep track of the redeemed cards and which establishments they came from. When you get 10 cards back from one source, thank him or her with a certificate for a free meal.
I've also used direct mail. The downside is generating the list and paying postage, so I got someone else to do both. I opened the first full-scale nonsmoking restaurant in Portland, so I contacted the American Lung Association and offered to take 10% off any meal purchased by its supporters when they presented a special coupon. The association included it in its next mailing, and the response was terrific.
Run an ad with a "menu ballot" in the Cody Enterprise, the local paper there. Send the ballot to the chamber of commerce, motels, and radio stations. But first, visit Cody. As a Southerner who moved to the Wild West 16 years ago, I'd recommend visiting in the winter, y'all, and making sure you can stand the cold. If you can't, stay out of the kitchen.