June 29, 2009

Kosher Restaurants Use Aggressive Marketing to Survive

New York…A number of kosher restaurants have closed in the past few months, most as a direct result of the ongoing recession. “Owners can’t just sit back and wait for people to come to them anymore,” says Elan Kornblum, "The Restaurant Guy" who publishes the
Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine (www.GreatKosherRestaurants.com). “They have to be pro-active, aggressive and grab customers in – so more are advertising. That is why this year’s magazine is the thickest one yet.” In surveying many well known kosher restaurants, it appears that business is off by 10% - 15%. Mr. Kornblum and others believe that kosher has fared better than non-kosher simply because kosher clients have much fewer choices. Rick Glickman of DaNali’s in Skokie, IL is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. “I truly believe it will get better. I think it is starting because people are getting used to the fact that we are in a recession and it is still important for them to go out and in our crowd it’s the only place we go out.”

The industry has become extremely aggressive in driving business to its restaurants. Mr. Kornblum has introduced a new VIP card (free in every magazine), which allows cardholders special free promotions to dozens of restaurants. In addition, a Dining Club, where customers can buy restaurant certificates at a discount, has saved members over $86,000. Restaurants all over the country are surviving as a result of stepped up promotions and marketing. Brocha Landau of Dougie’s Brooklyn is offering coupons, discounts, contests and promotions. Geoffrey Ghanem of Shiloh’s in LA offers 50% off specials to stimulate traffic. Jack Kotlar of Purple Pear in Monsey offers a free breakfast special with every dinner, hoping that it will bring customers back in the morning.
Alan Bresler of T Fusion in Brooklyn is offering discounts, specials, prix fixe menus, lower prices, freebies, and live music. Despite the recession, many restaurateurs are upbeat and investing in the future. Sam Wasserman of Shallot’s Bistro in Skokie, IL is hiring new chefs, including an award winning sushi chef and a new celebrity executive chef, took a new lease on a larger location, is planning to move the restaurant and open a new concept alongside its old restaurant. David Maleh of Turquoise NYC says: The future is promising. We have become lean due to the economy so when the upturn occurs, we will be well positioned to prosper. It will get better.” Joel Brown of Kosher Cajun in New Orleans says: “There’s no question that the economy has had an effect but business hasn’t been the same since Katrina. So it’s gone from really bad to just bad, but going in the right direction. Lots of money went into the rebuilding, but conventions are back. We’re advertising more and offering more discounts.”