In the ever-changing landscape of the restaurant industry, consumer demand for personalization and experience-oriented dining continues to dominate. There are several ways restaurants can cater to this trend regardless of their size or budget. From developing unique programming or an event series that resonates with guests, to tapping into technology-driven loyalty programs or social media initiatives, here are four tactics that restaurants can utilize to captivate consumer attention and drive sales.
Build unique event and happy-hour programming
While not a revolutionary solution, effective happy-hour programming continues to drive sales for restaurants and bars. According to Modern Restaurant Management, data reveals that bars with happy-hour programs have an average increase in revenue of 26 percent during happy hours. The key to successful programming is to identify the slower time periods of business and develop a menu of options that’s easy to execute and relatively inexpensive in terms of cost. Depending on the concept, simply having a limited menu of discounted items may be the best solution as guests can also order full-priced items from the regular menu, further adding to overall sales revenue.
Beyond discounts and offers, hosting special events is an impactful way to generate excitement and boost traffic. Chef and restaurant collaborations continue to spark interest among diners, as well as pop-up events. From food trucks and chef takeovers to more lifestyle-oriented events such as a flower-arranging seminar or jewelry-making workshop, there are endless opportunities to target and delight your desired demographic and audience.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Mar. '23 Food & Beverage PR Magazine
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Engage with guests on social media
Tapping into social media is an effective and low-cost way to enhance customer interactions and engagements. Simply re-posting your guests’ Instagram stories is a beneficial way to engage and to generate new content for your page. In addition, putting together contests and giveaways with prizes like gift cards, swag or branded merchandise is a valuable tactic for increasing traffic and interactions on your page. These initiatives will also create guest loyalty.
Furthermore, utilizing social media as a way to reveal off-menu items or a secret offering is an impactful way to further engage with your following. This makes followers feel like they’re “in the know” with your company and brand and again further drives customer retention.
Instagram reels and Tiktok videos are important aspects of social media, so remember to pay attention to them. As the platform algorithms favor the use of these newer formats, restaurant brands are finding it very beneficial to take advantage of them. However, the creation of videos and reels are typically more time and labor-intensive, so it might be the most efficient to employ your social media or PR agency for assistance or look into user-generated options.
Create impactful influencer marketing programs
Over the years, influencer marketing has evolved into a powerful promotional tool. Beyond generating additional exposure for the brand or restaurant, influencer marketing can help promote a new campaign. As an example, our agency worked with a destination marketing organization to promote a new passport program that encourages locals and visitors to support their local dining scene. We tapped influencers local to the area to serve as ambassadors for the program. This initiative helped demonstrate how the passport works with step-by-step instructions featured in the influencers’ stories and reels explaining how to check in, earn points and redeem prizes. Beyond explaining how the campaign works, the influencer marketing program also highlighted the participating restaurants themselves, showcasing featured menu items, the overall atmosphere, the chef team and more.
Influencer marketing is especially beneficial for reaching younger market segments. According to Business Wire, 39 percent of Gen Z diners say they’ve tried a new restaurant based solely on the recommendation of an online influencer. Gen Z’s number, influence and spending power continue to grow by the day, creating a significant opportunity to invest in marketing to this demographic.
When putting together any influencer program, it’s very important to properly vet influencer partners to ensure their audience aligns and that their engagement rate is strong. Furthermore, it’s important to establish clear parameters for what the restaurant is willing to provide and what the influencer will provide in turn. At our agency, we’ve found it beneficial to outline contracts for all influencer marketing initiatives so that all parties are held accountable for what they have agreed to provide.
Establish a technology-driven guest loyalty program
Guest loyalty programs are not only a great way to keep your diners coming back, but they will also keep your customers happy. There are a variety of ways to create this program depending on your concept. For one option, diners can earn loyalty points redeemable for discounts or free items, or the restaurant can offer a more tiered approach. As an example, with a customer ranking-based loyalty program customers can leverage specific program benefits based on the tier they're placed in.
Given the fact that many online ordering apps take large percentages of restaurants’ to-go and delivery profits, it could be beneficial to invest in the technology needed to create a dedicated online ordering platform. Incentivize diners with discounts and rewards to encourage the use of your platform over your competitors. With today’s technology options, there are so many new ways to track your customers’ spending habits and create opportunities aligned with their behaviors.
In the highly competitive restaurant industry, employing effective PR and marketing tactics is a critical key to success. By tapping into social media trends, hosting unique events and providing loyalty offerings, restaurants can leverage endless opportunities to create a wonderful experience and build a loyal fan base.
Lacey Outten is an Associate VP at Hemsworth Communications, a nationally ranked PR and social media agency with three divisions: Food, Wine & Spirits; Travel & Tourism; and Franchising/Business Services. For more information, visit www.hemsworthcommunications.com.