April update: The Mulberry Tree
Friday 24th April 2009 18:13
After advertising in a number of glossy magazines at a high cost and small return, proprietor Karen Williams decided to go down a different route to market her business.
She says advertising in local parish magazines, which charge £100 for three months, has been much more useful. "A lady who had seen our ad called in booking a table for 30 people on a Wednesday in May, which is a great boost to the sometimes slow mid-week business."
The Mulberry Tree was named the Produced in Kent Restaurant of the Year in February, and Williams says the consequent coverage in local papers has really helped to drive business.
She adds that the restaurant is also putting on special events mid-week, when business tends to be slower, including a gourmet night and a jazz night. She plans to host an event once a month and is currently in talks with Bibendum over wine-tasting evenings with producers.
The restaurant also encourages diners to leave their business cards to win a free meal once a month and, that way, collects customers' contacts details. "I send out regular e-mail updates highlighting special events, menu changes and offers at the Mulberry Tree," Williams says.
According to mentor Roy Ackerman, "Karen is working in a very personal and direct way to talk with her customers and the idea of communicating via the local parish magazines is an excellent one, particularly in such a rural area, as the magazine is delivered to all properties in the parish.
"The point she makes regarding the kudos she has received from their recent award is a very relevant one, as everyone loves a local hero. The fact that she is concentrating on local products can only make her stature grow within the wider community.
"Karen's database contains more than 1,000 contacts with which she keeps in touch with details of special events and celebrations. This, plus the more obvious collecting of cards, all helps to build a dedicated following.
"An additional way of gaining extra customers is, of course, to work with suppliers and encourage them both to use the restaurant and distribute information about the restaurant via local connections.
"The fact that Karen runs a very family business, including her mother, daughter and local girls employed also helps in creating an interesting story for local newspapers and magazines to write about. I'm going to give Karen a slot on Coolcucumber.TV and provide her with the DVDs to distribute via her suppliers and customers as an illustration of local enterprise."
Hermitage Lane, Boughton Monchelsea, Kent ME17 4DA, 01622 749082
The Mulberry Tree last month had its best week trading so far at £11,200. This included Mothering Sunday, when, for the first time, the restaurant hosted three sittings.
"We had previously only ever done two sittings, but they were both fully booked about a month before, so we took the decision to open up for a third in the early evening," Williams says.
"Even the third sitting filled quickly and, during the two weeks preceding Mothering Sunday, we turned away more than 100 people. We actually served 180 covers for the day on our best single day's trading."
Williams adds that the Mulberry Tree has also increased its kitchen gross profit to 70.3%, with the overall weekly take up 7% compared with the last quarter of 2008.
"This is fantastic news for us in what are historically the worst trading months of the year," Williams says.