9h30 on March 4, 2017 – It’s -10F on this cold Saturday morning (-17F with the windchill factor, but who’s counting!), and there are about 80 people in line – OUTSIDE – in front of Régine Café, a popular place for brunch in Montreal.
What in the world is the secret of its success?
A few years ago, I had the chance to design the website of this Montreal neighborhood’s small restaurant. Along the years, I have been following its success (thanks to Facebook), and I have seen the interesting approach it has taken.
But I wanted to hear from Pierre-Luc, Régine Café’s owner himself, how he described the concept behind Régine Cafe, as well as the approach and the tactics he used to get to where he is today – particularly when it comes to social media. So yesterday, I got out on that frigid Montreal day myself and interviewed Pierre-Luc!
Régine Café is not Pierre-Luc’s first restaurant. Pierre-Luc previously owned La Cantine, a well-respected Montreal restaurant which was open 7 days a week, 3 meals a day. But, as he describes it, “the message was “all over the place”, we were trying to promote everything from our great dinners to our brunches”. And it was exhausting. Pierre-Luc was getting burned out. He sold the restaurant for some profit and decided that he will never open another restaurant again.
One year passed. Pierre-Luc started missing the restaurant scene and that’s when Régine Café was born.
Nothing was random in the concept of Régine Café.
At his previous restaurant, brunches were the thing people remembered: Régine Café was going to offer brunches 7 days a week – exclusively.
“Other brunch places in Montreal were all very similar: all serving eggs benedict, all with decors of bright colors and drawings of hens on their walls (Chez Cora brunch restaurants)” he explains. So there will be none of that at Régine Café. Régine Café has the comfy feeling of a tearoom, with vintage sofas and armchairs, mainly in black and white. And eggs benedict are not on the menu!
And… most importantly and so incredibly unique… Régine Café was going to have its own voice!
As you can read on the website’s homepage, Régine is “Tante Régine” (Aunt Régine), “an imaginary persona inspired by the ideal of a loving, doting aunt who always embraces you with open arms, and above all, never lets you leave with an empty stomach. To spoil and pamper you, everything is homemade – the cinnamon buns, scones, ham on the bone, baked beans – you name it. And we never compromise on quality.”
Régine Café was going to be like the home of that grand-mother or old aunt who spoils you. The guest will get more than expected: little attentions beyond the ordinary, a special caring touch, oversized portions and more. On the counter, large (decadent) cakes are on display. When the weather is cold, people waiting in line outside are brought warm tea and blankets! When you come in, there is a chalk board with a handwritten note that reads “on vous aime” (we love you). There are toys and crayons for kids. Waiters and waitresses are selected not on their previous experience as waiters but for their caring personalities. If a waitress sees that a customer has overcooked eggs, she spontaneously replaces them.
And on Facebook (14K page likes), every post includes the warm words “my darlings”, “my loves”, “p’tits guidous d’amour” (sorry, too hard to translate!). “This is how my grand-ma called her grand-children” explains Pierre-Luc. “That way, her memory lives on.” Régine Café shares photos taken by guests.
And it spends a minimal amount of money to boost posts (with a varying targeting audience in age and gender, depending on the photo). Recently it even got 41K views for a short video of chocolate being poured on food! Crazy!
The secret of Régine Café’s success is great food – of course – but it is also a carefully crafted branding, meticulously and consistently implemented day after day that has created a large “tribe” (to use marketing jargon) of extremely loyal and engaged customers.
Congratulations, Pierre-Luc! A well-deserved success!
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