It has become a business management cliché that it costs more to attract a new customer than to keep an old customer happy. But that doesn’t negate the fact that in order to grow and succeed, brands need frequent infusions of new customers who discover the restaurant, visit it, love it, come back for more and spread the word.
So how can quick service brands attract new customers successfully and profitably? In the age of social media and digital experiences, nothing less? We spoke with experts from various chains to find out how they are leveraging their marketing efforts.
1. Change channel
Loyalty is good, but not when a restaurant’s loyalty to a particular marketing channel prevents it from using more effective channels. Businesses that look to the future and the past, experiment with new platforms, and turn traditional consumer hangouts into whole new marketing channels are the ones that catch both eyes and customers.
Social media has long been a leader for brands that want to market themselves, especially if they’re on a budget. Facebook posts, Instagram stories, and tweets are free, and some social platforms allow businesses to promote or boost their posts or accounts to reach more people.
“Facebook is the # 1 tool we use to set ourselves apart,” says Bill Hart, co-founder of Bubbakoo’s Burritos, which has 24 locations in New Jersey and eight more to come in New Jersey and New York. “When we focus on something that is local or something that everyone is engaged in, our messages get double the exposure, if not triple. So when we do giveaways like ‘spread the word for a free gift card, “we’ll boost the post and get 30,000-40,000 views. It gets the word out organically just through people sharing and talking with their friends.”
While social media is practically de rigueur today, some brands are also turning to platforms that have similar qualities to social media but which are not strictly speaking marketing channels: review sites. “Our team is focused on the reviews we receive through Yelp, Facebook and Google Business,” says Charity Faith, chief of staff at SkinnyFATS, a restaurant that offers “healthy” and “happy” menu options and has five locations with three others on the way. “While we may not win all the guests, we certainly try by addressing their concerns and being sincere in our efforts to resolve service faults and consistency issues quickly. Quick tracking and responding to comments on popular review sites can turn even negative reviews into an opportunity to win over diners looking for a new place to eat.
All of this doesn’t mean that brands should abandon traditional marketing and advertising channels for digital. For example, Bubbakoo’s adds TV commercials to its list of marketing channels. “We’re hoping to expand a bit more and reach people who might not be on Facebook, or who might be on Facebook but watch TV instead of their phones,” Hart said. “There’s a reason big brands have been on TV for years. We want to be there for years, so we want to follow suit.
Like many businesses, restaurant consulting firm Goliath Consulting Group spends a lot of time digitally, from Google ads to geo-location ads on social media, but it also makes sure to integrate traditional advertising for customers as well. For example, billboards have been around for eons because they work, so Goliath uses them.
“Billboard space is much more competitive today than it used to be because people know the power of placing a billboard near a restaurant,” said President Jay Bandy. This is especially true for restaurants that are not easily visible from the street.
Brands that have a large following and a matching budget may find that the best strategy is to use various channels to reach different demographics through their preferred media. “Broadcasting on TV is definitely the best way to get brand awareness and a try,” says Jennifer Chasteen, vice president of strategy and brand activation at Church’s Chicken, which has over 900 locations across the states. -United. “And we’ve seen that digital channels continue to gain importance, especially as delivery and catering become areas of growth. For Church’s, we use an integrated approach across all marketing channels, from TV and radio to print, social and digital. It really allows us to reach customers with the right message at the right time.
2. Get the timing right
By talking about the right message at the right time, a marketing calendar helps limited-service chains and their franchisees plan promotions that make the best use of their data and resources; identify the best times to do, for example, a boosted Facebook post or a Valpak promotion; and even schedule content on social networks.
A long lead time gives operators time to think about their marketing and promotions, and then they analyze the details as deadlines approach, adjusting content and timing as needed. “The way we do it is that the first quarter of the marketing calendar is detailed,” says Bandy. “The second quarter is a little less granular, and the third and fourth quarters are just the big stuff.”
For example, PJ’s Coffee, a New Orleans-based chain with 105 branches in eight states, sets its marketing schedule about a year in advance; Church’s Chicken does the same 18 months in advance. Both brands finalize their calendars five or six months after each promotion launch. “It really helps us assess consumer trends and buying behaviors in our markets, as well as making sure our products are really costing a lot,” says Reid Nolte, vice president of branding at PJ’s Coffee.
Wondering what to put on these calendars to attract new customers? National holidays and changing seasons are a staple of marketing calendars everywhere, but associating with a vacation that resonates with location or brand values helps it stand out from any competition that jump on “Pumpkin Spice for Fall” and “BOGO for July 4th”.