Monday, January 4, 2010

Bridging the Gap

The media keeps reminding everyone how important it is to reach out to the Hispanic market, but practical advice on how restaurants can appeal to this demographic is often lacking. The reality is that, because of all the differences in income, levels of acculturation, and countries of origin, Hispanic marketing can be daunting for even the most sophisticated and budget-rich marketers, given the higher risks of getting it wrong versus the price of doing nothing at all.

With all the potential complexity involved with reaching this target, it might come as a shock that some of the most important business-building strategies for appealing to America’s Hispanic Latino population aren’t expensive ones and don’t require menu or language accommodations. In fact, much of the advice is built on good old-fashioned principles that have been guiding restaurant owners for decades.

Know Your Trade Area It turns out the adage about the importance of location still applies. Given that the Hispanic population is not only growing, but also is spreading well beyond traditional border states, Susan Mitchell, a senior analyst at Mintel Research, advises that “the very first thing is to know your local demographics,” which can be accessed through the American Community Survey link at This is a distinction, Mitchell says, where the “smaller operator has a competitive advantage, since large restaurant chains generally don’t have the luxury of catering to demographic differences from unit to unit. Go and find out the local Hispanic population—where they live. How many Hispanics live in your area versus five years ago? Are they exploding, trickling in, or declining?” Mitchell says.

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