What to do in a low population density area

In a big city, if you execute correctly the takeaway presence, the new orders just happen. No matter how many restaurants are already doing this, there are always enough people getting bored of eating from the same old places they usually eat. You never run out of "early-birds" interested to try a new menu, a new dish, even if your restaurant is one of the 21st to 34th restaurants recently opened in their neighborhood. The main challenge in such case is to continuously give enough reasons to food clients for ordering from you again and again (but that’s another topic).

If your restaurant is in a low population density area, you have some business challenges that restaurants located in big cities do not have when it comes to assuring an initial growth. You may do a perfect execution of the takeaway steps and still register very little business increase.

However, there is always a way. You just have to think this through, to reshape and reposition your food services according to your geographical specifics. So if you are open to the idea of exploring your restaurant's business relevance a bit, we suggest the following steps first, before jumping on other action items.

Understand where you are with your business right now

(you don't need exact figures.... rough ideas would also work if the error is less than 10%):

How many unique clients do you have for your existing operation?

How many ordered in the least 3 months?

How many dine-in orders did you have last month?

How many casual pick-up orders offline?

What rough percentage of your clients are from your little town and how many from surrounding locations? Do you roughly know how many people are living in those villages?

If you rely significantly on tourists, please think about this and also try to figure it out from where (which booking room places) the tourists are coming to dine-in at your place and why they stop by. Also, which is the main touristic attraction in the region, if any.

Are there any delivery businesses around? How many you know of and in what towns? Do any of them do online ordering or they just do phone orders and drive-in/on site takeaway?

Are there any notable factories or offices (with more than 200 people working in the same building) in the surrounding locations? Can you then plot the ones you know as comments on a map?

Which is the closest nearby city? Are there any delivery businesses in the neary bigger city? How many you know of and in what towns? Do any of them do online ordering or they just do phone orders and drive-in/on site takeaway?

Can you learn something about the brief economic overview and history of the region? What are most people doing for living in the region, what were the main economic activities 50 years ago and which are the main activities now? (e.g. is there any high-school or university nearby that attracts population from further regions, if there any notable construction site that attracted new economic verticals to open... things like this).

Also, do you have any idea of population percentage split by ethnic or religious groups in the region? (This is important to understand as muslims eat halal food, jewish people eat kosher...etc.)

Also, do you have any idea of population percentage split by age and each group eating habits?

Once you have answered to those questions, probably you’ll have many questions just answered immediately.

A list of conclusions you should chase

Try to understand if your menu is diverse enough and contains the locally known “best sellers”. These may be burgers, chicken wings, sausages, veggies, fish… it depends. What’s important is to have something that resonates well with the eating habits of your target client group in your area. If the food quality is at the level of the menu display, people would just love ordering from your dish choices.

Compare your sales volume figures and number of existing clients with the local demographics and try to understand if you are already a leading restaurant business in your town or not. If the answer is yes, than you are onto something. If not… go back to basics and see what needs to be done there.

If you don’t really have any competition in the nearby villages area (apart from a few bed & breakfast houses), than this could be an opportunity of expansion for you. The main question would be then: is there a relevant base on people in the nearby villages that would jump on the car, drive 2 km for 5 min to buy pick-up food from you at least on a monthly basis, if not weekly? If you could organize a drive-in window, these people would probably be even happier… they would just take their food within seconds, without leaving the car seat, and drive back home. Think about it…. just an idea).

With the two points above, you can safely assume that you have quite a “steady” base of frequent orderers that you can count on for a sales increase, but you can also capture quite some frequent orderers from nearby villages too.

What you can do keeping the existing dine-in and pick-only services

In the nearby locations we’re probably talking about a few thousand people, in an area of small villages scattered over 5 – 10 km radius. After going through the research step above, you would know better. Without such info, we propose estimating that you can probably count only on a quarter of them to consider buying food from you for pick-up. The rest would probably limit to in-house cooking due to revenue constraints and quite a lot of available home-time.

Read more of our how tos and decide which is the most effective way to reach out to them and if this would add-up enough business volume for you.

Some other things you may consider trying

For tourists there is little that you can do about pick-up ordering. Even if this is your core business for dine-in, don’t count on it so much for takeaway. Tourists are normally there to visits places, experience local atmosphere… they do not plan to stay in their small hotel room to eat. Make sure you have a verified Google Plus Business page, Facebook , Tripadvisor profile…and stay good on this. Also make sure you mentioned in those profiles that you do takeaway service and maybe some casual takeaway orders would come from there too. Additionally, you could try to run some catering deal with those one-day trip organisers (if any in the region) or some other little peons to bring tourists for lunch to you or deliver them Lunch Boxes that they can have for later, if hiking or anything similar. But that’s pretty much it.

If the competition is low in the biggest towns nearby, than you may also have a point there provided that you are not further than 10km radius or so. The people there would probably love to order from you also. Probably they got tired of the same 3 menus options… However, you cannot tap into those towns demand with the pick-up service only. They are too far away for people to just jump-in their car and drive to your location for pick-up. Especially when they have alternatives closer.

But you could capture some of the “work commuters” that drive everyday from downtown-offices to suburbs-homes for example, and that could find as handy to stop-by to your location and pick-up some food on their way to work or back.. You could simply create another two value boxes named “The Office Lunch Box – Best Deal Daily” and “The Easy Dinner Plate - Best Drive-in Deal“ and promote it accordingly. Think about it…the recipe of this best deal box can be different each day (depending on your supply prices too) and people can just let themselves be surprised and in the same time happy that they made a good deal, if they don’t feel like choosing themselves something else. That’s a very good way to attract clients and “surprise” them with new things so that they never get bored of your menu.