Customer habits influence the vast majority of restaurant operations. For operators, attracting new customers and ensuring they stay loyal is key to success – and that’s never been more important than in today’s post-pandemic landscape, when money from consumers is up for grabs, but that consumers’ needs are different from what they used to be.
Ryan Gromfin, author, speaker, chef, restaurateur and founder of The Restaurant Boss, has helped hundreds of operators grow and scale their businesses. Recently, Gromfin offered innovative marketing strategies to help operators grow their customer base in the “Reaching New Customers and Maximizing Marketing” webinar hosted by the National Restaurant Association Show. Here’s a look at four restaurant marketing best practices for ROI that he shared during the session.
Identify the ideal client
The reality of any customer base is that it is constantly changing, even for the most loyal customers. For example, a family’s child could change schools and the family would no longer pass a certain restaurant on their way home. This natural change in customer loyalty is called attrition, i.e. the natural loss of some customers. The idea, Gromfin says, is to make sure more customers start and keep coming rather than abandoning the restaurant.
Gromfin notes that identifying ideal customers is the first step to attracting them. Operators should imagine the demographics of their ideal customer, including their age, gender, income, marital status and education level, as well as more specific factors such as what magazines they read, what is their favorite social media platform and the TV shows he watches. . By identifying the ideal guest, operators can identify the best type of marketing to attract that demographic. For example, the marketing used to attract young families will be different from that used to attract business leaders.
By identifying who the ideal customer is, operators can better shape their marketing strategies and attract those customers, building a lasting relationship with them.
Understand customers and optimize marketing efforts
The next step is to refine the restaurant’s brand. Once the ideal customer has been identified, operators need to think about what their brand represents and the brand’s competitive advantage. Why should the ideal customer eat at this specific restaurant? Is it in a great location? Are the prices cheaper than in other restaurants? Is the food different from what other places offer?
Next, operators must identify 10 places their ideal customers frequent; this will help the restaurant determine who to partner with, where to advertise and more. For example, do customers hang out in the nearby gym or work out in the office building across the street? Either way, the more operators can identify their ideal customer base, the better.
Respond to consumer needs
Beyond identifying consumer interests, it’s critical for restaurants to meet customers where they are. For example, a year ago customers might not have considered the importance of curbside pickup, but these days they only frequent places that offer it. Likewise, operators need to think about what their menus look like online – with the increase in online ordering since the start of the pandemic, consumers are increasingly ordering with their eyes. Be sure to upload photos of menu items that look spectacular; food styling and professional photography are a must. Customers are now looking for specific items – the best cheeseburger, for example – rather than just looking for burgers.
And online reviews also influence where customers order from, so be sure to stay on top of what customers are saying about the restaurant and encourage customers to leave a review if they had a good experience. In other words, optimize everything from the menu and menu item images to the website and online order forms. Removing roadblocks means less chance for customers to get frustrated and click away.
Strategize, don’t advertise
Ensuring that current processes meet consumers where they are is crucial. Ensuring amenities such as delivery, curbside pickup, and even alcohol delivery are available whenever possible is a great way to ensure customers have a good experience with a brand. Rather than just advertising, operators need to strategize their marketing plans and create a funnel. With this method, operators create brand awareness, attract new customers, and “automatically uplift,” i.e., heavily target these potential new customers to ensure they become real customers. Unless the marketing campaign has a clearly defined goal, like attracting new customers, it won’t work.
To truly improve the guest experience, operators must first identify who their ideal guest is, and then exceed that guest’s expectations with every interaction. Finally, restaurants should develop strategic marketing campaigns rather than one-off advertisements to attract and retain customers more consciously.
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