It's mid-morning. Toboggans, bikes and a wooden cow hang from the ceiling. The wall is covered with…whatever a customer wants to write. It's down time at the south Reno Squeeze In. But general manager Amanda Martinez still doesn't have a moment to rest. "No, not exactly. The fridges are stocked...I just have to make sure we're ready to serve all of our guests."
And there are plenty of those: 52,000 in their customer club alone. The Squeeze In has grown from a hole in the wall in Truckee, to four area restaurants. Amanda graduated from UNR with an elementary education degree, but she chose a job at the restaurant because she can see the success. Her theory why they thrive? "We love our guests. And when you love your guests, they love you back."
In Reno, there have been several new restaurants open and expand lately, and you may wonder why considering the economy. Well consider this…while retail stores are being hurt by online shopping, an experience like dining you just can't do online. Squeeze In V.P. Shila Morris told us, "That's the beautiful thing about the restaurant business. Everybody's gotta eat. They're coming in to buy. No one window shops here."
And today there's a timing advantage. Shila told us, "Lease rates are good, and developers are looking to work with businesses, which you weren't seeing 5 years ago, so that's really amazing."
But you still have to work hard at it, now more than ever. We saw a side of the restaurant customers never see…a social media "war room." In there, they manage a web site, mobile sit, and post on Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram...reaching customers where they are. As Shila told us, "Where are they? They're on their phones, they're on Facebook, they're pinning things and checking in on Foursquare. If we're not there, other competitors will be."
Newsletters are mailed and emailed. They communicate with the customers in their club, asking for their reviews every time they dine, then read and take input the next day. Every review on "Yelp" is answered. Their social media efforts even received notice from a New York Times blog.
There are contests, specials and freebies. Like their food, all of this came from scratch. Shila told us she was born "to parents who were on food stamps, WIC, welfare, eating government cheese." To today, finding the formula that works. "Well you gotta be cutting edge. And you can always better your best."