Jon Thomas, Co-Owner of The Famous Restaurant and DoubleDay's Grill & Tavern
"One of the things I always think about, I don’t care what I want – I’m not the one buying it. So I have to sell something other people want. It’s almost cheat code when they tell you what they want. All you have to do is listen." ~Jon Thomas
A Little History About the Thomas Family Restaurants
The three Thomas siblings - Steve, Jon and Stephanie - co-own a local Dayton, Ohio suburb restaurant group. This group currently consists of three restaurants:
The Thomas family started in the restaurant business in the late 50's/early 60's when the trio's grandfather opened the Golden Nugget Pancake House. The Golden Nugget Pancake House in Kettering, Ohio is still part of the Thomas family restaurants however not owned by the Thomas siblings.
In 1998, the first purchase was made of Doubleday's in Centerville in the Cross Pointe shopping center. The family restaurant business expanded in 2016 with a second Doubleday's location in Springboro. The third restaurant, The Famous in Centerville, was opened in 2018.
The Famous was purchased in 1948, sold it in 1958 (Pottsville, PA). What better way than to pay homage to our past than to remake the original locally?.
You’ll see a lot of history on the walls and adds to the experience. Also, the graffiti floor - it's the hallway that leads to the bathrooms. You’ll see the logos throughout the graffiti - for when the photos are taken and posted.
The concept is a play off a city that was between where their grandparents restaurant was in PA and where their grandparents cousins restaurant was ~1.5 hour drive between them. There was a city called Centralia that had underground fires and shut down the highway and eventually build a new highway. Everyone goes back to the old highway and puts graffiti on it so they thought they could implement that inside. When they learned about Centralia was it actually translated to Centerville. It became this crazy coincidence so they call it the Graffiti Hallway instead of the Graffiti Highway.
People come in and want to see it. People are walking around taking photos and videos to post on social media – it’s an Instagram-able spot. It showed them that something as trivial as painting the floor, gets people talking. “Before you leave you gotta go to the restroom.”.
People say it's a unique experience at The Famous. The craft cocktails like Pottsville Punch and Rat Pack Manhattan are served in old crystal glasses that gives you a feeling of going back in time. They wanted to bring something unique to Centerville because they thought it was needed. The atmosphere is probably the most unique part about The Famous experience.
What's Unique About Visiting Your Restaurants?
Doubleday's is a very family friendly atmosphere. They have good, timely service with quality food for the value. The Famous is more of a younger crowd, craft brew, gastro pub feel. Both brands have quality ingredients, affordable prices, really good service - and really cold beer.
Marketing and Special Events
Once the second Doubleday's location was opened, they already had a long standing word-of-mouth reputation so they didn’t need any real marketing. They just focused on brand continuity. At The Famous, it was totally different.
At The Famous they found out that no one knew there was an affiliation with Doubleday's. So it was more challenging to let people know where you are. The location sits back off the street, you can't see it from the main road because of a line of trees. They needed a way to be found so they started Facebook marketing.
They created catchy Facebook ads. They wanted to be a big part of the community, things that are important to the customers and clientele and tried to exploit those things and do good things.
They will have beer tastings, wine tastings and really rare beers in the future. They've done beer tastings and worked with a main beer company. They have some really rare beers including a 1 of 4 kegs in the state of Ohio.
People visit and want to drink those beers. It's a very niche way of getting people in there. You’re going after avid craft beer drinkers. It’s a good thing to market because your getting those people out there.
When you do the beer and wine tastings, it helps people better understand who you are and what you offer. They don’t have a preconceived notion of who you are. If you showcase what you offer people are more likely to try something. You’re always looking for ways to build a story.
The first experience was with our mutual friend, Marty Lambert. They hosted an event after she lost her son. They had a great turnout and it helped her a lot. That’s when they realized how much they wanted to help the community and give back to them. So that's the route they decided to go.
Their grandfather told them the best type of advertising is word of mouth. As you grow that gets tougher. They realized with their aunts at the Golden Nugget that they had such a great relationship with their clientele. Stephanie is very good at that. She’s naturally personable and sweet and it attracts people. She becomes the face of the restaurant. Those things help the face of your business. And it lets people know that you care. You listen to their concerns. And it’s a way of marketing.
One of the things Jon always thinks about is, he don’t care what he wants because he's not the one buying. He has to sell something other people want. It’s almost cheat code when they tell you what they want. All you have to do is listen. If you’re a really good listener, you’re communication is usually better. Your customers aren’t afraid to let you know what they want – they might also tell you by telling you what they don’t want.
New menu at The Famous coming out in the Fall. It will have some new items, all of which are based on feedback from what other people want. As long as you let your customers speak to you, they will tell you what they want.
If you build a personal relationship with your customers, it's good for you in a lot of ways. Honest feeback only helps you and doesn’t hurt you.
No one seems to know all the restaurants are connected. Menu cover – build credibility through our other restaurants and also let them know there is an affiliation. So if you trust at Doubleday's, you can trust them at The Famous.
What they've done with the menu is incorporate the logo of The Famous a darker print, with all the other logos around it to build branding and credibility.
If the new menu cover works well at The Famous, they will go ahead and do the same at the other locations by rotating the center logos the next time the menu gets updated.
How do you use marketing in your menu layout?
There is a lot of marketing that goes into menu planning. Eyes read left to right, top to bottom. The placement of an item can totally make a difference on whether an item sells.
They want to push the greatest value – not necessarily the most profitable item but they want an item that's going to get customer returning for another visit.
Another item was on the menu, people loved it when they ordered it but it didn't sell well. It was the Meatloaf. They took it off then put it back on - the same exact recipe and meal - but called it "Mom’s Meatloaf". Now it sells like crazy. Just adding “Mom’s” now makes it sound like a home cooked meal and more people want to get it.
Same for the Boston Italian Flatbread. They tried it on the menu 3 different times and it didn’t work. Everyone always said it was the best sandwich they’ve ever had. So they renamed it to “The Boss" Italian Flatbread and it become noticeable. People were trying it and responding to it. Started talking about it as “The Boss”.
The point here is that you can have the best meals in the city but if no one is attracted to the name of the meal, it's not going to be ordered. Use your creativity in naming your menu items and consider placement, images and descriptions. Pictures 9 out of 10 times is what people will look at so use images to set your business apart.
How do you connect with your customers?
Facebook is their main form of marketing and connecting with customers. Most of the posts are for The Famous mostly because the crowd at Doubleday's is an older clientele.
At The Famous they are trying to capture young professionals, ages 30 - 50 and try more engagement type posts like movie themes. They don't want it to be all about food and the restaurant.
Ex. Saturday, Elton John Grilled cheese (favorite sandwich) – in honor of Elton John, run a special that.
He boosts posts as well and for all 3 locations, he shares a post to the other pages. That's how he gets to as many people as he can.
They have growing interest in Snapchat and Instagram. People like seeing food and images in general. If you would like to see them on either platform, go to The Famous Facebook page and let them know.
To connect with The Thomas family, each restaurant name at the top of the page connects you to the website. Below are the Facebook pages:
My 3 take-aways from this episode:
People do business with people. By being personable and relatable, like Jon and his family are, it creates a great customer experience and a ripple affect.
When you have limited resources, invest the time you have into marketing on one platform where your target audience is – that means knowing who your target audience is and where they spend time. That marketing will create the traffic you want to your storefront whether your storefront online or in person.
Just as how you evaluate the layout of a website, an email or a piece of sales collateral, the content and layout are important to the overall consumer experience and in generating sales – just like the marketing that goes into the menu planning process.
Don't worry - the menu is more extensive than these 3 options - and at all 3 locations!
You'll know why I used this image when you listen to the podcast.
How Jon is Connecting the Dots
Jon leverages his experience with different marketing strategies to engage with their customers.
By trying something new, like fundraising events, Jon realized that not only are they helping one person but they are bringing a community together.
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