A small town bar & grill has an advantage over the same type of restaurant in a big city -- less competition. This doesn’t mean that operating the restaurant profitably is easy. Success in this business depends upon the owner and staff being able to manage the myriad of tasks and little details that add up to a great dining and entertainment experience for customers. Delivering less than satisfactory customer service can be particularly damaging because the potential population of customers is limited in a small town, and once patrons leave unsatisfied it is difficult to bring them back.

Understanding Your Market

In a small town, it is not difficult for a business owner to study the demographic characteristics of his market or who his chief competitors are. All he has to do is drive through the neighborhoods or stroll through the business and shopping districts. He needs to decide what the largest target markets might be and design his concept, menu and marketing strategies with the goal of attracting these target markets. Issues such as the average income level of the town and the average age shape these choices. A restaurant designed for the younger demographic of singles out to socialize would look and feel completely different than one catering to families.

A small town bar & grill depends on its loyal customers coming back. One way of encouraging repeat business is to vary the menu -- adding exciting new dishes on a regular basis. Create a newsletter that is emailed to customers and talk about upcoming menu changes. Plan the menu with a keen eye on the cost of each item, factoring in personnel cost to prepare and serve the food, and the overhead to run the restaurant. Focus on executing a small number of dishes to perfection rather than having a large menu that the cook staff executes inconsistently. This not only helps maintain high customer service but helps with cost control -- reducing waste from unsold food.

The Importance of Word of Mouth

Print, radio and TV advertising are not regarded as cost effective marketing tools for bars and restaurants. By far the most effective way to bring in new customers is to have existing satisfied customers recommend the restaurant to their friends and colleagues. In a small town environment this is particularly effective because potential new customers do not have to travel far to patronize the establishment. The owner can encourage word of mouth promotions simply by asking customers to recommend the restaurant to their friends.

High Customer Satisfaction

Critical components of customer satisfaction are the service level and food quality. Restaurant patrons seek consistency in both areas. The owner must put an emphasis on training of all personnel in the restaurant. Everyone involved in operating the restaurant -- including the owner -- should make an effort to get to know regular customers and make all customers feel welcome. Over time this helps a small town restaurant gain a reputation as almost like a second home for its customers.

Marketing Strategies

Even with a limited marketing and promotion budget, a small town bar & grill can become an active member of the community. Donating certificates for free dinners to a charity auction, for instance, can give the restaurant visibility. Hosting special events and announcing them to the local press can generate free publicity and bring in new clientele. For example, the bar & grill could host a pet adoption event in its parking lot one Saturday morning before the establishment opens for the day.