People come to me whenever a location closes on Clematis St. worried about the future of the street and how a new vacancy will affect the street. When Five Guys closed so quickly, I got a lot of these types of comments.

We’ve seen a lot of places come and go over the years. In my last email I mentioned that I had more to say on this issue, and here it is. My top five tips for surviving Clematis St.

1. Understand that Clematis Street is a Destination Location
Downtown West Palm Beach is a small and tight-knit community. We have our season which brings a good amount of out-of-towners into our downtown areas, and then we have the rest of the year, where the local dining establishments cater to a much smaller local business and residential community.

A business that doesn’t market themselves and only relies on foot traffic to succeed is going to have a rough time. What works are businesses that actively promote themselves, and bring people into our Downtown area year round.

2. Make yourself UNIQUE and Exciting
Competition is a good thing in Destination Locations, you just need to make sure you stand out. People will come to the Clematis District from Delray or Jupiter or even other places in the country. They may not already know specifically where they want to eat, all they know is that the Clematis District has great dining options.

Roxy’s and the their Rooftop are a good example of this. We have one location that can host Clematis’ biggest Superbowl Party (coming up on Sunday), as well as draw large crowds to their Rooftop Bar on Friday and Saturday nights. These events attract a wildly different demographic of people and create a buzz.

3. Get out there and Market Yourself
Pizza Girls do a great job marketing themselves both in their store as well as on Facebook. Even if you don’t do big events, if you are excited about what you’re doing you can create a buzz around it. Pizza Girls posted a picture of their “Inauguration Special” pizza which consisted of Pineapple and BBQ chicken. This one post made me walk the four blocks down Clematis St on inauguration day to try it.

You’ve got to go all out, you’ve got to let people know you are there and you’re doing something exciting. The best marketing is the kind that turns all your patrons into your spokespeople. You don’t need to hire anyone to do your social media, just get involved with your clients.

Make sure people check in on Facebook and Foursquare, review you on Yelp, and you offer deals on Twitter. You have no idea how much I have spent at Rocco’s Tacos after Rocco lured me in with a tweet about free patron shots.

4. Know your customer and Make Sure They Know You
The following comment was made on my Facebook page yesterday (edited to protect the guilty).

Field of Greens is great. On my second time there the owner remembered my name, and still does. Yet, after 17 years of going to [redacted], the same guy from way back when doesn’t know my name or what I order… it’s been the same sandwich all 17 years and the same guy taking my order. And then they have a line item for a tip – ha! Point is you go where you feel you matter, at Field of Greens you matter.

If you were serving food at the food-court of a mall you may get away with not being personal. On Clematis Street, when the season is out, you will come to depend on your local “regular” client base. If you don’t know who they are, then you are going to be in trouble.

5. Provide a GREAT Dining Experience
Last, but obviously not least, the BEST recommendations you can possibly get are from your customers. Your food and service has to be something that people want to come back to and, more importantly, go out and tell their friends about.

Before the rise of social media, a restaurant could get away with spending big bucks on advertising, work to get good reviews in the paper, and skimp out on the dining experience. Those days are over. Now each of your patrons is a potential reviewer who may have a large local audience. The success of your business may just hang on the two lines that they post on their facebook or twitter feed, make sure it’s good!

Well, that’s all from me! Please feel free to send this around to your friends and post it on your facebook wall. If you’re concerned about the fate of your favorite lunch spot feel free to print this out and hand it to the manager!