Restaurant Marketing and Customer Acquisition After Coronavirus

Restaurants affected by COVID-19 are getting creative with their customer acquisition strategies. Read our restaurant marketing tips for inspiration.

The restaurant industry has been singled out as one of the kinds of businesses most impacted by the coronavirus crisis. Government orders have closed dining rooms across the country. At the same time, many eateries have struggled to hang on with delivery and takeout — and some have even done quite well. Thus, it’s still not time to abandon the restaurant customer acquisition ideas that can bring in revenue now and help you emerge even stronger after the coronavirus outbreak finally passes.

Restaurant customer acquisition ideas for during and after coronavirus

Pre-coronavirus, the National Restaurant Association projected almost $900 billion in revenues for American restaurants in 2020. In March, out of about 700,000 jobs lost, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of the laid off employees came from the hospitality and restaurant industry. John Harkey Jr., the CEO of Consolidated Restaurant Operations, called this crisis a financial tsunami for the restaurant business. In any case, it’s clear that the restaurant customer acquisition and marketing plans that businesses had before the shut-down and stay-at-home orders will need to change quickly.

Consider online ordering, pickup, and delivery

With the growth of delivery services and consumers’ growing desire for convenience, delivered, takeout, or drive-through meals already accounted for a significant and growing percentage of overall restaurant revenue. Some kinds of restaurants, like pizza places and fast food, had already based a large portion of their business around delivery and takeout. Still, as various state and local governments began to close dining rooms, some restaurants had to scramble to put online ordering in place.

Sometimes, they did not have time to do much more than post a menu on their website and social sites and offer customers a phone number to call for curbside pickup orders. Still, depending upon the existing following these restaurants had, they still managed to keep a steady flow of customers.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Orlando restaurant marketing has focused upon delivery to offset the loss of in-store business. They gained assistance in their efforts when Uber Eats, one of the largest delivery companies, waived their fees for any orders from independent restaurant businesses. Some of the larger chains already offered their own delivery, and they’ve also begun to stop charging fees as a gesture of goodwill to their patrons and an incentive for more people to order.

Exercise enlightened self interest

Pickup won’t work for all restaurants. Harkey, the CEO mentioned above, said that they operated most of their restaurants out of malls, and since the malls have closed, they can’t easily offer pickup and don’t really have the structure in place for deliveries. At the same time, delivery companies like DoorDash are heavily promoting an #OpenforDelivery campaign that pushed their services, the restaurants they work with, and even such competitors as GrubHub and Uber Eats.

Some restaurants have balked at using these kinds of services because of the extra delivery charges, but for restaurants without capacity to offer certain services, they might serve as a handy option in more ways than one. In addition to pushing national chains, they’ve also helped promote local restaurants they deliver from. Another example of related businesses sharing resources includes a group of businesses that agreed to donate a percentage of revenue to coronavirus-relief charities. As they all promote the relief effort and their own struggles to keep employees working, the digital presence of the charitable organization also promotes the companies that sponsor it.

Create compelling digital content for your restaurant

Certainly, you attracted diners because they loved your food. Even better, you may have retained business because your customers loved your facility and even you. With that in mind, you can develop content that helps strengthen your connection.

You could give your audience a behind-the-scenes video tour of your kitchen. Introduce them to your staff or let them watch you prepare one of your specialties. For example, one high-quality Italian restaurant shared an engaging recipe of the process they used to make, cut, and cook their homemade pasta. Another produced a series of cooking videos. Don’t overlook introducing your audience to your hard-working employees in order to remind customers that their patronage helps keep people working.

These kinds of content tend to do very well on Facebook, YouTube, and other social platforms. Don’t worry about giving away all of your secrets, you’re probably just going to make more of your audience hungry than eager to attempt your recipes. If you need extra revenue, you can even monetize your content with ads and sponsors on some platforms. Don’t worry if you don’t have any production experience. While you should strive for quality, you can find cell phone apps that will allow you to shoot, edit, and upload decent videos.

Don’t abandon marketing and advertising

Plenty of research from other downturns demonstrates the wisdom of maintaining a marketing budget. Business that do tend to weather the crisis and emerge even stronger. As with other hospitality businesses, you might need to adjust your restaurant customer acquisition strategy a bit, but you certainly should not abandon it.

Realistically, you may have to trim your budget, but you may find that some advertising platforms have grown less competitive as your competitors have done the same. You may also find you can do more with less as you focus upon satisfying existing demand within your community.

Geo-fencing for restaurants

Geo-fencing refers to setting a perimeter around your physical restaurant. For instance, you might use this technique to connect with people who are within the same shopping center, at work in a nearby essential business, or even just passing by your door. When they pass within the perimeter, this technology can alert them with a ping from a social network advertising platform, text, or message from a mobile app.

Geo-fencing for restaurants has proven to convert really well. It might offer you the perfect way to improve your takeout business now and entice more customers in the future after you have opened up your dining room again.

Retargeting

When people search online for the kind of takeout that you offer, why not concentrate on the hungry customers who have already visited your website or social platform in the past? Plenty of industry marketing analysts have suggested that businesses with limited marketing resources may enjoy better returns by focusing on ready-to-buy customers instead of trying to generate a new demand.

Build mutually beneficial relationships

One restaurant owner saw that hospital workers had an increasingly tough time accessing meals because cafeteria dining areas had closed and only essential staff could enter the building. He spoke with hospitals and found an opportunity to use his own catering vehicles as distribution points from outside the hospital, so hospital workers could pickup food and distribute it inside.

Besides generating an extra revenue stream, the restaurant had a chance to develop a lot of good will both at the hospital and within the community by featuring the story on social media and in press releases. They also began operating food trucks and started a GoFundMe campaign to help offset some extra costs, which also helped generate even more publicity.

I still need more marketing ideas for my restaurant 

If you still need a few more tips, you can find plenty of good examples from other restaurants around the country. You might include some of these promotions in your advertising to help attract new customers without increasing operating expenses:

  • You can save money on delivery costs by encouraging curbside pickup. You might incentivize customers to stop by with such incentives as a free dessert or appetizer.
  • Incentivize their next orders by offering customers discount coupons and gift cards along with each pickup or delivery. Also, work to promote gift cards that customers can buy to save for later or give to others as gifts.
  • Try offering family meal packs or kids-eat-free specials to help attract all those families who now have their children home from school.
  • Consider simplifying your menu or even offering a fixed-price meal deal. You can also try rotating a smaller set of menu items to help you reduce inventory and provide encouragement for customers to try next week’s menu.
  • Promote discount bulk orders that you package for easy storage and reheating. Some restaurants have even started offering meal kits that give customers the ingredients and instructions to duplicate some of their dishes at home.

Whatever you do to adjust your menus, hours, or business model, make certain that you keep employees and customers updated by posting updates to your website and social media. Also, let customers know about the steps you take to protect both them and employees. This current crisis will pass; however, most people will probably retain a heightened awareness about the many ways that germs and diseases can spread. You can help reassure them that you work hard to protect them now and will continue to do so in the future.

Restaurant marketing after the coronavirus starts now

The restaurant customer acquisition strategies that you develop today can help sustain your business through this tough time and help you emerge with a larger customer base than you had before. Once this crisis passes, and it will, diners will be eager to enjoy restaurants again, and you can make sure they intend to reward themselves with a trip to your dining room.

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Using Digital Marketing to Increase Group Dining Bookings

Group dining bookings are an essential source of revenue for many restaurants. Here’s how to maximize group bookings through smart restaurant marketing.

The restaurant game isn’t for the faint of heart. Roughly 60% of new restaurants fail in the first year, and 80% fail within five years. That’s the kind of math that will momentarily subdue even the giddiest new restaurant industry entrepreneur.

Developing a significant and sustainable pipeline of corporate and group bookings is one of the best methods for ensuring your restaurant beats these grim odds. Yet, many restaurant owners simply have no idea how to implement this strategy.

Let’s take a closer look at how smart digital restaurant marketing can jumpstart your group bookings business.

The Power and Reach of Digital Restaurant Marketing

Digital technology has radically disrupted countless industries and altered consumer behavior in innumerable ways. Streaming services, for example, allow people to enjoy on-demand films in the privacy of their living room — something that has led to US movie theater attendance dropping to a 25-year low.

Restaurants, however, have been insulated from this trend. While there have been efforts to let consumers have meals prepared by chefs in their own homes, these concepts haven’t gained much traction. Right now, people still enjoy eating in a communal setting.

Digital tools, however, have changed the playing field for how restaurants secure business. Major platforms such as OpenTable transformed how reservations are handled; Yelp now acts as a critical guide for consumers looking for new places to dine; platforms such as Instagram are bursting with photos and videos of plated food.

Savvy marketers take advantage of the new digital paradigm by doing the following:

  • Building a robust online presence. This includes a dedicated website and accounts with major reservation and aggregation sites.
  • Social media outreach. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat are all critical channels for engaging with customers and advertising and marketing new menu items, discounts and specials, etc. 
  • The creation of a valuable online brand. Today’s diners are looking for experiences, rather than just meals, when they visit higher-end eateries. Digital branding plays a key role is promoting awareness and establishing cachet in a local market.
  • Taking advantage of the latest digital marketing tools. One example is geo-fencing, a mobile marketing technique that allows restaurants to push notifications to the smartphones of people within a pre-defined geographical distance.

Gobbling Up Group Booking Revenue

Most of the above techniques are also useful in terms of stimulating more group bookings. Digital marketing plays a crucial role in surfacing your restaurant to the people who determine where to schedule their bookings.

Another sound idea: Designating a dedicated person to help with group dining outreach. Many restaurants use a similar model for organizing group meals onsite by hiring an event planner. Should you designate someone to handle group business development, that person can use digital marketing tools to identify corporate decision-makers, and to engage with regular restaurant patrons prior to birthdays and other celebratory milestones.

Taking an active approach and contacting potential group clients in advance of these milestones is a great way to increase bookings, as people generally dislike having to search for group dinner locations. By taking the initiative through digital outreach, you can remove this task from their plate.

One note: When reaching out to corporate customers for holiday-related group dinners or other special events, it’s essential to do this well ahead of time. Corporations often begin planning such affairs weeks, if not months, ahead of time.

Why Bigeye is the Perfect Restaurant Marketing Partner

At Bigeye, we have an insatiable appetite for designing compelling group dining marketing campaigns — and we have all the right ingredients on staff to make it happen. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your grow your group dining business.

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2018’s Top Restaurant Marketing Tools to Bring Consumers to Your Door

Reputation is everything

More than in almost any other industry, reputation can make or break a restaurant’s success. Before online platforms such as Yelp, Facebook, and Google+ were common, written reviews from trusted sources, such as the Wall Street Journal’s Food & Wine section or Zagat, were the most accessible way for consumers to glean information about a restaurant. Due to the niche distribution and content constraints of printed reviews, restaurants could be overlooked entirely or not given the credit they deserve.

Today, foodies have an abundance of digital tools to connect directly with each other and share their experiences. This is a wonderful opportunity for restaurants to engage their consumer base and get the word out about their venue. Ask your customers where they look at reviews and incentivize them to share their opinions by offering a free drink or appetizer in exchange.

More reviews will help normalize your rating and provide insight into where you can improve. And if you think reviews don’t matter: think again. In a recent study, the Huffington Post found that a half star difference on Yelp can influence a restaurant’s revenue by 27%.

Make it easy for customers to find you

Don’t rely on foot traffic to bring guests to your door. More than 97% of diners look online to find local businesses. Of which, 60% cross-reference their restaurant selections with review sites, according to BrightLocal. This means, your restaurant needs to carefully orchestrate geo-targeted ads, as well as listings across major local map and review platforms so your customers can easily find you.

Consistency across channels helps your customers make the jump from searching for a place to eat on their tablet, to entering your location into their GPS, and leaving a positive review on their laptop after the meal.

Additionally, a seamless multi-channel presence signals to consumers that you are a reputable business that understands their needs and is able to provide the information they want, when and where they want it. Learn more about the importance of utilizing multi-channel marketing within your restaurant marketing from our team.

Pictures really are worth 1,000 clicks

When promoting the quality of your restaurant and food, pictures are the easiest way to engage consumers. While an online reviewer may share different tastes or expectations than the reader, a picture provides clear insight into what someone can expect at your venue. We recommend investing in professional photography to showcase your menu and establishment, combined with a curated social media presence.

As an example, Instagram – the quintessential photo sharing platform –  is slated to hit over one billion active users in 2018. If you can only pick one platform to invest in, this is your best bet. Over 80% of their users happily engage with brands already according to SproutSocial, and the photo-centric nature of this platform makes it an ideal place to showcase creative restaurant promotions alongside mouth-watering visual appetizers.

Whether you need assistance finding a food photographer, setting up your local listings, or boosting your reputation, our top Florida digital marketing agency can help. Reach out today for a free consultation with the BIGEYE team.

The science of restaurant menu design and what you need to know

It’s no secret that restaurant branding – specifically in terms of restaurant menu design –  is truly an art form. Be it unique, exquisite, quirky, or reminiscent of the latest fad in bringing the scrumptiously delicious to life, there’s much to be appreciated about menus that possess that special quality. Think of it as a certain creative ingredient (or perhaps an entire recipe) that only serves to elevate a pleasurable dining experience – even if from the very first brand interaction.
Below, we bring you 5 outstanding restaurant menus, and why we believe they’re prime examples of complete culinary design genius at work:

Brass union

I love everything about this concept! I’m such a mark for industrial-style design and you can’t get much more industrial than menus made to look like invoices straight out of a 70’s-era brake pad factory. The layout is straightforward and easy to navigate, and the descriptions of the items aren’t too long and complex. Overall, this menu doesn’t look very daunting when it’s first presented to you. For authenticity’s sake, I hope these menus are printed on a dot-matrix printer.

Brass UnionBrass Union

 

Some burros

Who doesn’t enjoy bright and friendly colors paired with bold, hand drawn lines? This menu design makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I like that the only actual menu descriptions are specific to this brand’s speciality items. It definitely helps to keeps the clutter to a minimum – and let’s be honest…it’s Mexican food. If you don’t know what a taco is, then I pity you.

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Black tap


It’s so easy to get minimalist design wrong, but this team got it oh so right. The flow of this design is great because what this restaurant does best is placed front and center. I’ve been to so many restaurants that bury their signature items deep in the menu, and I’ve never understood why they do so. If you are known for a signature dish (or even have it in your name), then it makes perfect sense to ensure that it’s a cinch to locate on the menu.

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Made

The ingenuity of this menu is to be applauded. The design team kept the actual look of the menu simple so that the experience of going through the menu is what stands out to the restaurant patron. It’s so intelligently thought out –  brunch, side items, and drinks take up the least amount of room so they are up front, while lunch has a larger selection, followed by dinner (which typically has the largest selection overall). This menu just begs to be explored, no matter what time of the day you are visiting the restaurant.

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Salty’s

When I’m going to a seafood restaurant, this is the kind of menu I want to see. The illustrations are great, and the overall feel of the brand definitely reminds me of the beach. The menu being rubber-banded to the wood backing board is a nice touch, too. Overall, the presentation is an inexpensive, easy way to make a customer feel perceived value in their meal, all while enhancing their dining experience.

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Do any of these menu options whet your appetite to further bolster your restaurant’s brand to create a positive dining experience to make your customers take notice – and come back for a second helping? Contact our team of uber-talented creative design experts today to determine how we can help you achieve your goals!

Social Networking & its Effect on the Ind. Restaurant Industry

According to www.restaurant.org, America’s restaurant industry currently employs 12.9 million people—10% of our overall workforce—and more than 970,000 dining establishments serve some 130 million hungry mouths per day. That’s a lot of “order ups.” While there’s no arguing the prolific nature of the business, there also exists a widely held belief amongst independent practitioners that if you toss your hat in the ownership ring, you should expect to get burned. Rookie pratfalls such as liquor license issues or frivolous use of working capital can crush a good concept.  Avoiding the lick of the flame means running a tight ship in the beginning stages so as to bolster initial impressions (that inevitably end up online) by laymen and professional critics alike. These unsolicited opinions act as free advertising and they should be used to the fullest.

An August, 2011 Business Insider article does a good job of uncovering the perils of New York City’s fickle hospitality marketplace. The story states that of the one thousand or so restaurants opened in New York City in 2010, 80% should expect to shutter their doors in five years time. For those remaining 20%, the race to collect on a massive profit margin buoyed by the cities some 9 million grumbling bellies is treacherous and uphill. The same statistic generally applies to the rest of the nation as well.

Numerous factors can account for a food establishment’s ultimate failure: things like poor heath inspection scores, a sparsely trafficked location, obscene rent charges and negative reviews. That last point may cause the most detrimental blow of all. In our “every (wo)man’s voice must be heard” culture, a single star snub by just a handful of unsatisfied Yelp.com reviewers is enough to spell lights out for underperforming establishments.

Yelp.com, a social networking site with content comprised of user reviews related to local services (21% are restaurant reviews), receives more than 71 million monthly unique visitors. And it’s not alone. Similar sites that allow users to provide their own feedback and rankings include Zagat, UrbanSpoon, TripAdvisor, CitySearch, Google Places and a whole slew of others.

Marketing agencies in large metropolitan cities—like New York and Orlando—whose economic ebbs and flows are so directly tied to the successes and failures of their hospitality network, know the importance of helping to further a restaurant’s reputation online. Florida advertising firms study reports, like the one on Yelp presented by Harvard Business School’s Michael Luca in September of 2011. Unique among Luca’s findings is that “online consumer reviews substitute for more traditional forms of reputation.”  He goes on to clarify, “Because consumers have more information about chains than about independent restaurants, one might expect Yelp to have a larger effect on independent restaurants. My results demonstrate that despite the large impact of Yelp on revenue for independent restaurants; the impact is statistically insignificant and close to zero for chains.”

This conclusion makes logical sense, however, it means that mom and pop shops who stand on precarious footing to begin with now must bare their knickers before a scrutinizing public. While the adage any publicity is good publicity still holds true for smaller companies with limited upstart working capital, the double edge sword is this: free publicity can’t be controlled or monitored so the key is to get it right the first time or fall prey to the wolves in foodie clothing.

Our Orlando advertising agency is ready to equip your company with the marketing strategy and tools to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace.

Four Tips for Restaurant Marketing and Social Media

The marketers at the fast food chain restaurant Checkers had it right back in 2000, when they introduced the slogan “You gotta eat.”  It’s true… Americans eat an average of three meals of day, spending an average of $2,700 per household eating out annually (and often times, even more in young, urban areas like Orlando, home to our Florida advertising agency).
If you’re a restaurant marketer, it may seem daunting to try to reach these people.  But if your restaurant hasn’t invested in a social media strategy, you may be hurting you chances of success.  It’s well known to marketers that people are more likely to try out new places based on recommendations from friends, and in this social age, it’s one of the best ways to get the word out.

Our Orlando advertising agency has come up with four tasty tips to help use social media to drive people into your restaurant.

Remember, It’s Not All About the Food

Okay, so to some degree, it IS all about the food.  The goal is to drive people into your restaurant, and to increase the bottom line.  But instead of thinking about social media in terms of return on investment, it’s more important to think about it in terms of return on relationship.

Restaurant marketers can do this by offering curated content that aligns with their customers’ lifestyles.  Followers of an organic restaurant might be interested to see photos of the farms where the chefs get their produce, while fans of a quirky hot dog stand might be more interested in reading about who won the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest in Coney Island.  The key is to know your audience, and to know their interests to better cater to them.

[quote] Ready to get started?  Give us a call. [/quote]

People are visual creatures, so show them what you’re up to

A picture’s worth a thousand words, right?  Well, if not a thousand words, then at least a bunch of comments on Instagram.  After all, why do so many people use their expensive, high-resolution smartphone cameras to take photos of the pancakes they had for brunch?  It’s because images are better for capturing and parlaying an emotion, an impulse or a feeling.

While photos of food are great, it doesn’t have to stop there.  Just offering daily inspiration through a photo of a local mural, the kitchen team high-fiving or a couple of regulars sharing cocktails is enough to keep your followers and fans interested and engaged.

Listen to your followers

Social media offers great perspective to allow restaurant owners to hear what people are saying about their brands.  With Twitter Advanced Search, Monitter and Social Mention, there’s no reason not to listen in on the conversation.  (These are great resources to help keep an eye on your competitors as well.)

While a single customer service complaint may not be anything to be up in arms about, a string of similar responses may suggest you need to tweak something.  Show your followers you care by listening to them and answering their complaints.

Get creative

Your restaurant’s social media page is your page.  Try posting your favorite recipes, things you think your customers might enjoy, or even running a contest to encourage new subscribers and Twitter followers.   With technological advances expanding by leaps and bounds, there are thousands of ways that brands use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare and a variety of other platforms to help connect with larger audiences.

Just as chefs get creative with the meals they serve, a restaurant social media team can get creative with the content it serves up to its followers.  For more novel ideas on how to best expand your restaurant’s social media outreach, contact us today!