How do small, local businesses compete with the larger franchises on their doorstep? In order to shed some light on the subject, Small Business Trends spoke to Andrew Doumith, marketer for the family-owned The Burger Shack in Whitehall, Pennsylvania.
The Burger Shack opened in 2012. The restaurant was established with the aim of using local vendors and high-quality ingredients to make fresh, natural and healthy burgers. The Burger Shack competes effectively against huge numbers of fast food chains within several minutes’ drive.
Local Marketing Hacks
Doumith offers 11 amazing local marketing hacks on how Burger Shack manages to stave off competition from larger fast food competitors.
Differentiate Your Products From Your Big Competitors
“As a local restaurant, it is important to clearly differentiate your products from your big competitors in at least one major unique way. One of our creative methods is to stuff our burger patties with the freshest ingredients,” said Doumith.
“The Burger Shack’s ‘stuffed’ burgers are unique in that the ingredients are stuffed within the beef,” Doumith said. “Our 94 percent lean beef is naturally raised on open range pastures without using any steroid implants or any needless antibiotics. It is safe and healthy for the consumer because it is not the usual white fat-laced beef consumers buy from the grocery stores. Our beef is of the best quality because its triple ground and no fat or additives are added. When we say, ‘ALL NATURAL’ we mean it!”
“The combinations of ingredients used are purposely creative and locally sourced, Doumith said. “We pride the freshness of our burger beef so much that we source and stuff our meats twice a day, every day — once for lunch and once for dinner. Let’s see a food chain attempt this one!”
Use Local Produce that Supports the Community
“Many of our customers are proud to say they are ‘locavores,'” Doumith said. “By definition, ‘locavore’ means a person who makes an effort to eat food that is grown, raised, or produced locally. This in itself is a strong reason why customers favor dining with us, but it does not nearly stop there.”
“Both Marlyn (Yacoub) and Sanaat (Nomie), the two owners, are also locavores and bring this into their ingredient selection,” he added. “We make it a bold effort to ensure that over 90 percent of all ingredients used are sourced raised, or produced locally. Ingredients sourced locally range from meats, vegetables, honey, and much more.”
“We view sharing the maximum amount of local foods to our customers every day is an intrinsic value that supports our local community,” Doumith said.
Build an Active and Engaging Social Media Presence
“The Burger Shack strives to have an extremely engaging and active social media presence on both Facebook and Instagram,” Doumith said. “We believe that as a small business, it is important to be as active and engaging as possible on all of your social media platforms. This is one thing that your local Burger King or Red Robin will be lacking due to their broad reach.”
“Since food chains have so many restaurants, they lack focus on their social media presence of each location individually,” Doumith said. “This creates a big opportunity for us to use our traits of being agile, locally connected, and personal, to create an engaging, active social media presence. A few of our notably successful social media strategies include:
- For example, “Guess the number of meat balls in this tray for a chance to win a free burger of your choice!”
- Customer Burger of the Month (BOTM) and Weekly Special Suggestions
- Share this for a discount, special discount promotions.”
Strive to be a Sustainable Business
“We prioritize being environmentally friendly in every aspect of our restaurant’s operation, from the food preparation to the sourcing of our fresh ingredients,” Doumith said. “Our environmentally friendliness shines in our beef burgers, which are 94 percent lean beef, naturally raised on open range pastures without steroids, chemicals or antibiotics. Instead of the harmful processing that usually goes into beef creation these days, our meat is as unprocessed and environmentally friendly as possible.”
“We value recycling of all recyclable products at The Burger Shack,” Doumith added. “We go about doing this by placing recycling bins next to the trash bin for our customers to make sure they never miss it. We also recycle our fryer grease every 4-5 days. This has been used for purposes such as waste oil heating and other uses. I think it is easier to enforce such environmental policies in smaller restaurants, such as The Burger Shack, because we are dealing with a much smaller amount of recycling responsibilities and factors.”
“Being a restaurant that shows our customers that we recycle gains the respect and loyal support of many of our customers,” he said. “We cannot say how many times we get complimented on having a recycling bin available near our trash bin for our customers to use after enjoying their meals dining with us.”
“Being environmentally focused is bound to gain the respect of your customers as well as helping the community be as green as possiblem” he said. “We believe that restaurants should have a special interest in being environmentally friendly because of how many recycling opportunities are present at restaurants.”
Place a ‘Homemade’ Emphasis on Products and Services
“Fast food restaurants may provide packaged BBQ, hot and honey, and other pre-made sauces,” he said. “Whereas, The Burger Shack prides itself in providing our unique, famous housemade sauces, made fresh three times weekly. Some of our famous housemade sauces include: hot and honey, BBQ, honey mustard, jalapeno ranch, tzatziki sauce, chipotle mayo, garlic parmesan, and more. All of these sauces are made with our in-house, secret recipes. These keep valued customers coming back again and again, even requesting these sauces by the bottle!”
Keep Customers Returning by Engaging Them in Competitions
“To keep customers returning with excitement time and time again, and to keep our creative, engaging culture strong, we established our BOTM series,” Doumith said. “Burger of the Month (BOTM) is our popular monthly special, which introduces a new, creative burger for a limited time (one month).”
“Our BOTM selection is either made by us or by nominations made by our customers through a voting system on Facebook,” he said. “Many customers will comment or post their dream burger of the month, we narrow it down to three, then the Page’s audience votes for their desired one by using Facebook’s ‘Like’ feature. The most liked option becomes next’s month BOTM.”
“This is only possible because of our agile and locally connected culture,” he said. “No large food chain can ever do this simply because of their fixed supply chain and lack of local engagement.”
Create an Agile, Personal and Locally Connected Culture
“To keep our agile, personal, locally connected culture strong, we created our weekly special series,” Doumith said. “In this strategy we create a new, creative weekly special every week to keep our frequent customers continuously excited about new options every week. These weekly specials are usually derived from customer suggestions or our own creativity.”
Cater to as Broad a Range of Customers as Possible
“We understand that not everyone loves burgers and people have different dietary needs such as being a vegan, that’s why we decided to utilize our spectacular cooking skills and restaurant culture in other foods,” Doumith said.
“Apart from our outstanding, highly customizable, selection of fresh burgers, we offer a variety of other fresh, specialty foods, which we also take great pride in,” he said. “These foods include, boneless and boned wings, made with a large selection of freshly-made, housemade sauces. A large selection of Hot Dogs. A large selection of specialty sandwiches like fresh pulled pork, pulled turkey, gyros, cheese steaks. Wraps like our bacon honey mustard wrap, sizzlin’ chicken wrap, and more. Salads made with the freshest ingredients. Some of our famous salads include, housemade fattoush salad topped with chicken kabab, pesto chicken salad, etc. Sides like quessodilla, homemade pierogies, philly cheese steak fries, shack fries, gravy fries, etc.”
“Desserts like our famous, Pennsylvania-Dutch whoopie pies, fresh baked everyday chocolate chip cookies, and we can’t forget our special occasional housemade baklavas,” he added.
Some of our popular Vegetarian options the restaurant offers include:
- Falafel burger
- Falafel wrap
- Veggi Burger
- Made from scratch, housemade specialty hummus
Create a Friendly, Customer Oriented Culture
“Unlike any fast food chain in the USA, what sets us most apart is that we welcome each and every customer into The Burger Shack like if it is their home,” Doumith said. “We work hard to create the most homey, comfortable environment. This proves effective because it makes the customers want to come time and time again to ‘see us’.”
“We have customers that have been returning time and time again since the inception of The Burger Shack five years ago,” he added.
Expand Your Line of Business by Offering Services that Go ‘Above and Beyond’ What Your Customers Expect
“Using the strength of our agile, personal, and fresh culture we began offering our valued customers with catering options for their special occasions,” Doumith added. “Our catering service began by us listening to our customers who were frequently asking if we can cater for their special occasions.”
“Accepting a few requests, we began to focus more and more on catering, expanding that line of business to make it more successful,” he explained. “Now we frequently cater for businesses and special occasions like birthday parties, graduations, weddings, etc.”
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Images: Burger Shack