Business networking is an essential part of overall success for restaurants that want to build a favorable reputation in their local area. It's one thing to support the community by offering the best service and products you can, but networking with nearby businesses offers a deeper, more holistic approach to becoming a fixture in your community.

Be the restaurant that your community appreciates.

When guests see collaboration and shared values among several businesses in the area, they feel a true sense of community. Good local marketing can increase foot traffic, raise awareness about your brand, and offer a deeper connection between guests and business owners. Guests have the satisfaction of knowing you have more than a delicious menu and great drinks.

Restaurants that understand how to network with other businesses are in a position to become mainstays in their community and to gain the full support of a broader demographic, all while helping the local economy.

How (and why) to network with other businesses.

Business networking can happen in a variety of ways, ranging from membership in local organizations, like a Chamber of Commerce or Main Street coalition, to sponsoring children's sports teams or offering fundraising opportunities for local schools.

Partnerships and networking can be both fun and successful for your restaurant. One easy way to reach out to other businesses in the area is to source ingredients locally. Chefs that support local farmer's markets, wineries, breweries, and distilleries are forging deep relationships with their communities and raising awareness about the important work local businesses do.

Take for example Vana and Bardo, two restaurant concepts from managing partner Jayson Whiteside and chef owner Michael Noll that take advantage of Charlotte's vibrant food and beverage scene. They source 75% of their produce locally and have partnerships with nearby breweries and distilleries, meaning they also get exclusive access to local beers and spirits. And the best part is that the support is mutual—they host beer and distillery dinners at both locations to cross-promote local businesses.

"From the beginning, we've always looked at trying to buy local," says Whiteside. "Whether it is local co-ops or produce suppliers, they're all local."

The more creative the partnership, the more excited people will get. Hiring local artists is another great option for restaurants. Showcasing works on the walls of the dining area or setting up an arts and crafts event in the parking lot can demonstrate your interest in community projects and events.

Reaching out directly to other local business owners to have a conversation about how you can collaborate is always an option. When you forge a strong relationship with other brands, heightened word of mouth and social media exposure will increase awareness of everyone involved. And when you spend less on advertising and more on helping your community, the return will be greater in the form of guest loyalty.

Community partnerships motivate employees and guests.

In addition to navigating other HR strategies to retain employees, invite your staff to participate and feel the satisfaction of being part of something larger when your business gets involved in local events. If your team feels that they have an integral part in shaping how your restaurant is perceived by the public, they'll likely step up their day-to-day performance.

Restaurants that look beyond their walls to network with other businesses and their shared communities will enjoy greater success and become a central part of the local scene. Be sure to align your business networking efforts with brands and businesses that make sense for you and your values. Get creative and don't forget to involve your staff for the ultimate boost to morale and business perception.

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