In the first two posts, we discussed the basics of how to get a knife rental business started, focusing on the cutlery and sharpening equipment that you need. In this post, we'll talk about what it takes to go get the business. It can definitely be the most challenging part. There is no one size fits all, easy solution to getting and retaining customers in your knife rental business. There are, however, several things you can do to improve your chances. By building a strong online presence, being aware of what's going on in your local area, and building strong relationships with your current customers, you can establish a solid customer base.
The easiest way to get new knife rental business is to have them come to you by way of Google. A simple, attractive, and easy to navigate web site can be a big source of business, especially if you are planning to do it for several years. It's surprising how many knife rental companies have either no website, or they have a website that further confuses customers. Be straightforward, and make it easy for potential customers to contact you. When you get a good handle on your pricing, put it on the website! Nobody wants to feel like they have to call and get the "hard sale", or that the pricing isn't straightforward. You can also put a form on the site where customers can give you their information and you will email them a quote. Of course your phone number and email should be prominently displayed so they can contact you however they want. Make it easy for your customers by not making them jump through hoops to get basic information. They mostly want to know:
1. How much per knife
2. How often do you come
3. Is there a contract?
4. What if knives are missing (lost or stolen)?
5. Can you also sharpen.....
If this is all stated clearly on the website, you can save a lot of time for both you and your potential customers.
You want to make sure that you are coming up in Google searches after your site has been up for a couple of months. Fortunately, there isn't a ton of competition in most areas. While huge cities like New York or L.A. may have a lot of other companies, most smaller cities only have a handful of companies that are providing knife rental service. Without knowing much about search engine optimization, most sharpening companies should be able to come up on the first Google page for listing knife rental services and the areas that are available for service. Do not neglect your website or put up something that doesn't look professional. People expect to find whatever they want on Google, so give them what they want!
Another great source for new knife rental accounts is from places that are just opening. If you see places that are in the later stages of construction, stop in and talk to them. Don't just limit yourself to new restaurants either. Keep your eye out for any place that will have a commercial kitchen - assisted living facilities, schools, hospitals, food trucks, etc. See if you can find out who runs the kitchen and talk to them. It's really important to keep good notes about when you stop in, who you talk to, and what they need. The first time you stop in is a great time to leave a couple sample knives and a brochure explaining what you do, along with a business card. Then follow up! If you don't stop in these places, somebody else will beat you to it. Another way to get this info can be through government websites. Many municipalities will list the names of companies (with their addresses) that have applied for permits to serve or sell food. You're usually better off going in person to these places than trying to call or email. Stay on top of this information so you know when there is going to be something new and you can be the first one on it.
After you have finally gotten your first few accounts, nurture the relationships. Learn names and remember them - take notes! Find out if there are other locations being built, or if they know of anybody else that could use your knife rental services. If you are a mobile sharpener, you can also add other services to your visit, or sharpen the personal knives of the chefs and cooks. Some places have "house knives", which are rental knives, and then the chefs and cooks like to have their personal knives as well. These hybrid set-ups can be good opportunities to build trust in the relationships if you can sharpen other knives as well. Treat everyone with equal respect and be aware of the culture in the kitchen. Some places are fun and energetic one week, then chaotic and stressed out the next week. Be aware of what time you are there. Most places don't want you there during peak times. Ask when it's best for them and organize your route to make it work. If you are consistently providing clean, sharp knives, along great customer service, and reasonable prices, your business will grow. Many employees and managers who work within the hospitality business change jobs within the same area. So you'll get a reputation pretty quickly. Make it a good one!
I hope this has helped you get an idea of how to get some of the knife rental business that's out there. There are many other ways to get it, but these are some proven techniques. Like anything else, you'll get out of it what you put in. At foodserviceknives.com, we provide bulk cutlery and specialty blades for knife leasing companies of all sizes. We're here to help with any questions. Please leave comments or other ideas below!
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