Originally Posted by MichaelGA
Making a business without the locals is quite hard - it can be done, but is much harder.
Straight up you should make 'upscale' versions of what the locals are eating. Go back to those stores and push past the banality. If they want chicken pot-pie then make them the best one they have ever tasted... and offer them frozen for take home!
If I recall correctly you've only been in business for a year so saying tourists are 90% of your business isn't really accurate. Most tourists eat where the locals eat.
Make the locals love you and they will recommend you to all the tourists they meet. I know when i'm a tourist the first thing I ask the taxi driver is where do you like to eat? Straight up no extra information - but take me to where you buy lunch!
Make taxi parking free outside your place - offer a cabi special etc. Spend 100 Euro and get a bus/train token back to the city etc. for tourists.
Focus all your advertising on the local travel agents, taxi drivers and anyone who works with tourists - offer them discounts / incentives or just talk them up (much less cost) to bring clients in. Hell half the battle is getting them to know you exist. Find out what your tourists like to eat (not where coming from) and make the menu have parallels to what your locals want to eat. If that is simply fried herrings with citrus than so be it.
From this and other posts that you have made - I think you are pushing food that is 'too fancy' on the locals. The tourists buy it because they think that is the 'local' style the farmers and producers eat but it won't last, the novelty will wear off.
PS - ever try crudo plates / charcuterie / baked bits etc. I have a hunch that with the crepe lovers you have you might get more bite with them... especially if you name the farm the items are coming from. ie. not just local cheese but cheese from the zimmer farm etc. just a one out there idea.
Hope this helps - if not keep talking - we'll eventually hit on what works for your place!
thanks a lot for your ideas. I should explain further that my place is located in a village with a population of 1800, everybody knows we're here and I'm pretty well "integrated", i.e. I know how the locals think. The problem is that they are extremely conservative in their approach to food. They don't spend any money AND what they don't know they won't eat. The latter point is something I realised very quickly, so I adjusted the menu to always include "upscale versions" of stuff they know. It kind of worked, yet it didn't turn the 5% local business into 20%.
The locals are also used to vast menus which have been carved in stone since the Thirty Years War, and they may find a small menu that keeps changing with the seasons awkward. Incidentally, it is exactly this which a small number of locals from the village and the wider area appreciate. Seasonality.
"Tourists like to eat where the locals eat" - This is generally true in most places around the world and it is exactly what I do when I'm travelling. The difference in this particular region is that the average local eats at home and has absolutely no regard for regionally produced products. When the locals go our for a meal, which doesn't happen very often, they will look for somewhere cheap with extra-large portions. More often than not, this means sitting-down fast food. It's for a reason that the region is almost notorious for a distinct shortage of decent restaurants.
On the other hand, the tourists coming to this region are far more dialled in to seasonal and regional aspects, they are interested in upscale variations on traditional themes, locally produced ingredients with a "story" etc., all in stark contrast to the local mentality. Other restaurant owners in the wider region have the same problems.
In a nutshell, it seems as though there are two distinct customer groups which are mutually exclusive. You could argue that a restaurant round here should do "a bit of both", but imagine a menu sporting a number of cheap industrially-sourced dishes as well as mid-priced "politically correct" local specialities (local lamb, free-range pork etc.) that are marketed as such. How credible would that be???
In fact, my entire restaurant as well as our "mini farm shop" are based on high animal welfare and a farm-to-table concept. The tourists love it, the locals don't care.
I should also point out that there are very few restaurants that cater for the locals, less than ever before, because they simply haven't survived on serving crap food at rock-bottom prices.
Having said all that, quite a few locals actually do frequent my restaurant, especially my beer garden in summer, albeit only for coffee or wine. They like the place, but they don't want the food.
Michael, to take up a few more of your very valid points, I do cooperate with local B&Bs and hotels in that they will recommend my restaurant to their customers. I also cooperate with decent restaurants in the region, as many of us are located along a major hiking trail, so we will send each other our hiking or cycling customers. A transport token service to the larger cities, however, would quickly put me out of business, as these cities are at least an hour away. As nobody ever gets here by taxi, and parking is free all around anyway, there's not much I can do on that front. The restaurant is in a prime location in the village, however, so it can't be missed by those travelling through.
If all this comes across as severely disillusioned, it would be the wrong impression. When I started up I pretty much knew the situation. I just think that my situation is fairly unique, especially from a non-German perspective.
In order to put things into perspective: I'm very much on the same page as the local council who are investing significant amounts of money in tourist infrastructure, because they know that the villages for which they are responsible could not survive without tourism. Councils in the region that have not done this (which is most) are bankrupt, there is no financial influx from outside and things are getting increasingly bleak and unattractive. This council administration here, on the other hand, has actually built my restaurant for me! They bought this old semi-derelict farm house and turned it into a place fit for a restaurant, meeting most of my requirements, yet at their expense. I brought in the kitchen and bar equipment and the furniture, as well as a concept the council approved of to link in with the overall philosophy of village development. And yes, the mayor and his people are themselves often faced with ignorance or even open resistance from the locals, to whom any kind of change seems profoundly suspect.
As far as naming the producers of my ingredients, I have always done that, and again, the tourists love it. On my menu, each item has a little story about its origins as well as a short rundown of the preparation method. I want my food to have a story and frequently get positive comments on my literary efforts ;-)
Time to prep the evening...
Edited by Recky - 4/4/13 at 10:36pm