Digital Marketing Checklist for Restaurant Owners

Congratulations – you’ve decided to start your own restaurant. Now that you are a restaurant owner, it is important to put time and effort into your digital marketing for your restaurant, as this is a key component of customer acquisition for restaurants. Digital marketing for restaurants is complicated, but it is an essential component to your overall success, in addition to providing excellent food and service.

We’ve written this checklist as a jumping-off point, to help you start thinking through some of the elementary components of digital marketing for your restaurant. You’ve likely started to brainstorm on each of these as you began thinking about opening your restaurant, but this checklist will help you flush out each in more detail to set you up for success.

1. Develop a Strategy

It isn’t enough to simply have social media accounts, send emails, and build a website. There must be a strategy behind these components in order to make them effective. A marketing strategy typically contains your company’s value proposition, key messaging about your brand, data on your target audience, and any other high-level elements that make sense to include, such as how you expect your employees to treat your customers. We also highly recommend including a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to help you clearly see areas where you can focus your marketing strategy in order to build a competitive advantage.

Once you’ve thought about your strategy, it is time to write it down. This is critical to get everyone on your team on the same page, as well as help you check in with yourself periodically regarding the strategy you’ve created. Once you’ve written your strategy, remember it is not set in stone. It can be readjusted and reevaluated as time passes and your business needs change.

A marketing strategy is critical because it connects all of the components of your marketing and keeps them in alignment.

A marketing strategy is critical because it connects all of the components of your marketing and keeps them in alignment. It is also a fundamental part of building a winning marketing strategy that will help you stand out against your competitors.

2. Understand How Much a Customer is Worth

Once you have a strategy in place, it can seem like the next logical step is to start choosing channels and launching all of your marketing efforts. However, before you start investing time and resources into specific marketing initiatives, you need to have a clear understanding of how much each customer is worth. This will help you have a very clear understanding of which marketing efforts make sense for your business and customer acquisition – and which ones don’t.

There are already thin margins within the hospitality industry, and many hospitality ventures fail. If you are offering a discount or promotion to customers to bring them in, and also losing a significant amount of profit from each customer due to overall marketing costs, you might not be getting anything, and that is obviously not sustainable for any business, but especially a new business.

Therefore, it is important to calculate how much profit your business generally receives from each customer. Then, you’ll need to figure up how much of that revenue you want to invest in your marketing efforts. One of the best parts of digital marketing instead of traditional marketing is that you can typically track how much you are spending per lead or per purchase, and have a very clear indication if something is working or not. If a margin for a particular channel is too high, it is also fairly easy to turn off that channel to avoid spending too much. You also have a lot of opportunities to test in digital marketing, which does not exist in traditional marketing.

3. Invest in Brand Identity

Now that you have a good indication of how much you can reasonably spend on marketing, the next steps are to invest in your brand identity. You will use the components of your brand identity to build all of your other marketing components, so it’s important to invest a good amount of your budget in this arena.

Restaurant branding is essential because it helps customers identify the type of restaurant that you are. It also helps you distinguish your restaurant from its competitors, and is a tool to help keep you in mind so that customers return.

Your restaurant’s brand identity includes your logo, your website, your interior and exterior designs, your signs and your menu design. This is one area that many restaurant owners outsource, especially in the beginning, so that they can be sure they are starting out as competitively as possible. Because your brand identity will be the foundation for all of your marketing, it is not something to take lightly or rush through.

Because your brand identity will be the foundation for all of your marketing, it is not something to take lightly or rush through.

Take a look at other similar businesses for inspiration on your own brand identity. This can also help you make sure that your brand identity ideas are aligning with your overall restaurant concept and the market you are entering.

4. Procure Photography

We eat with our eyes first. As a restaurant owner, you know your food’s presentation has to look good. But this concept actually starts well before your customer’s orders. In your advertising, on your website, on your social media channels, and anywhere else your potential customers interact with your brand – they will expect to see pictures of your food.

Just like the other components of your brand identity, you will want to make sure you invest in your photography. You will want to hire someone who specializes in food photography for restaurants, as it is considerably different than other types of photography. Depending on your budget, you may also consider hiring someone who is familiar with food staging for the photoshoot.

You’ll want to get pictures of multiple dishes – ideally, everything on your menu. Even if you do not have plans to use an item in your promotions right away, that may change later on and it will be much easier if you already have these photos ready to go.

In addition to the menu, you’ll also want to have plenty of pictures of the inside and outside of your restaurant.

5. Launch Your Website

Once you have your overall strategy, brand identity, and some amazing photography, you’re ready to dive into digital marketing efforts. The first major component of your digital marketing mix is your website. Most of your other efforts will connect to your website, and it will be the hub potential customers use to find out the answers to their questions and determine whether or not they will go to your business.

For restaurants, it is critical that your website is mobile-friendly. Most people who are researching where to eat are doing so on-the-go. If your website doesn’t load well or is not easy to navigate, you will lose potential customers.

For restaurants, it is critical that your website is mobile-friendly.

You’ll also want to make sure your website contains many great photos as well as your menu. Answering potential questions is also very important for your site. Your restaurant’s location, hours, and prices are all common inquiries your guests might have before deciding to come to your restaurant.

Depending on your type of restaurant, you may want to include information about whether or not you accept reservations and if private spaces are available for parties or groups. Think about the questions you typically have before visiting a new restaurant, and ask friends and acquaintances what they would want to know in advance – and put all of it on your website, in an easy-to-navigate format. You can also browse other restaurant websites to see what information they include and add anything to your own website that you might have missed.

6. Claim Social Media Channels

Once your website is set up, it is time to claim your social media accounts. Even if you do not plan to be incredibly active on a particular channel, you’ll want to set up an account so that you can be aware of any conversations happening about your business on that channel and also to avoid someone else taking an account you might want later.

The most popular channels for restaurants include Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Depending on your target demographic, you might also consider platforms like Snapchat or Twitter.

Again, you’ll want to set up these accounts on each channel, but then you will choose which channels make the most sense to update regularly in alignment with your overall strategy. There are multiple social media management tools that can help you manage multiple channels at once, and even schedule social media posts in advance.

Your food photography investment will be critical on social media – especially the more visually-focused platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.

7. Optimize Local SEO and Online Listings

Similar to social media, you’ll want to claim your restaurant, or add it, to any online listing platforms. One of the most important is Google My Business. This is the listing that pops up to the right when searching for a particular business. It includes information like your hours, what you serve, where your restaurant is located, and what the price point is.
This is a very attractive search placement for a business, and should not be ignored. It is very straightforward to create or claim a listing. Then simply follow Google’s prompts to ensure everything is filled out properly.

You can also add pictures of your restaurant to these listings to attract more attention and to give anyone searching a better idea of what to expect from your restaurant.

Additionally, it is important to optimize your website and social media channels for Local SEO. While that sounds like it could be a complex process – it is actually straightforward. It simply means including your location (City, State) in multiple places on your website and tagging the location on your social media channels. This will ensure your restaurant is included when people search for things like “restaurants in Miami, Florida.”

8. Prepare for Reviews – Good and Bad

When claiming online listings, you should also take management of your business on review sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and UrbanSpoon. If your business has not yet received any reviews and hasn’t been added to that website, you can add it yourself to encourage customers to start leaving feedback. Taking ownership of your business on these sites will allow you to add any information that may be missing, correct anything that isn’t right, and respond to any new reviews you receive.

And you should plan to respond to all of the reviews your restaurant receives. Being responsive to positive and negative reviews is one way to attract additional reviews. It is also a way to get in touch with customers who may have had a bad experience but were not able to adequately communicate that while they visited the restaurant.

Many restaurant owners are nervous about online reviews. They worry that unhappy customers may trash their business and keep new customers away. They are concerned that competing businesses will create “fake” negative reviews in order to damage their reputation. And they worry that satisfied customers may create negative reviews in order to take advantage of their business. While all of these concerns are valid and do occasionally happen – it is far more likely that they won’t.

You should develop a strategy to handle any reviews – especially the negative ones. We recommend that restaurant owners simply ask a negative reviewer to reach out to a specific phone number or email address to resolve the problem. If the person reaches out, try to make it up to them in a way that makes sense. “Fake” reviewers will likely not reach out to you directly, but you will appear to third-parties that you have made an effort to make things right – which is crucial in the hospitality industry.

Some restaurant owners fear that they will have trouble responding to reviews without being defensive. In these situations, it can be a good idea to assign review management to a marketing person or a manager. Provide the person who is responding to reviews with clear guidelines on how to handle specific situations, and then stay off the review sites!

9. Advertise Your Business

Once your website and social media channels are set up, it is time to start advertising your business. This is one place where it is absolutely critical that you understand the value of your customer. Social media advertising as well as paid search advertising, for example, will provide you with a very clear cost per lead metric. You’ll want to make sure that the cost per lead is appropriate for the overall value of the customer.

There are dozens of advertising options to consider, but for restaurants, we highly recommend Google Search and Facebook. For Google Search, you’ll want to make sure you appear at the top when people are searching for restaurants near your location. Facebook advertising has a lot of options that allow you to provide a notification when someone is near your business. You can also target people who live near your business in a highly-specific way, which makes Facebook a great platform for restaurant marketing.

It is critical that you test different ads

Once you set up advertising, it is critical that you test different ads. Test different pictures, ad types, copy, offers, and platforms. Discover what works well for your business and what doesn’t.

10. Consider Messenger Marketing

Facebook Messenger Marketing is one of the newer paid social media channels restaurant marketers are attempting to capitalize on. Messenger marketing is engaging on a highly-personalized level, making it one of the more effective channels, when used properly. There are multiple ways a restaurant can approach marketing through Messenger, but some of the more common include:

  • Showcasing your menu
  • Taking reservations
  • Loyalty programs
  • Offering discounts for birthdays or anniversaries

Depending on the goal you want to accomplish and your type of restaurant, you may want to invest in a Chatbot that can handle a majority of the inquiries and conversations for you.

Because Facebook Messenger Marketing is relatively new, there is a lot of areas to capitalize on for relatively low cost. It is definitely a channel restaurant marketers should be considering.

Additionally, there are a lot of other digital marketing efforts restaurant owners can take advantage of once they have tackled the basic concepts on this list. For example, there are delivery partnerships that can help restaurants get in front of new and younger audiences, depending on the type of restaurant and the target market. There are also other types of digital advertising to consider such as Instagram or Google Display. Restaurant owners can also set up remarketing efforts to encourage customer loyalty which includes combinations of social media marketing and email marketing efforts.

Hopefully, this checklist has provided you with a starting point for your digital marketing efforts. Marketing strategy involves a lot of components, which is why so many restaurant owners often choose to invest in a restaurant marketing consultant or restaurant marketing agency. It can be overwhelming, especially if you are just starting out in the restaurant industry or as a business owner. Even if you have managed the basic components on this list on your own, advancing to the next level and knowing how to achieve growth through digital marketing channels is another challenge that can be difficult for even the most seasoned restaurant owners.

Take your digital marketing efforts one-at-a-time, and stick to your foundational strategy. If you do need help, guidance, or support along the way, reach out to a restaurant marketing professional who can help.

6 Tips for a Winning Influencer Marketing Campaign for Your Hotel

In the last decade, the advertising of hotels and leisure has changed forever. The era of billboard advertising is rapidly coming to an end, and more than 2 billion internet users spend an hour and a half every day on social media, looking at their phones once every 12 minutes. The key to marketing success with ad-block also on the rise is to adapt to changes in consumer buying behavior.

Influencer advertising is rocketing in popularity due to these trends. However, if not done the right way, incorporating influencers into a successful marketing strategy may pose problems. These challenges are discovered at the execution level when assessing influencers, handling collaborations, and managing deliverables and at the operational page when it comes to duties, making deals, and securing complimentary room nights approvals. These can be addressed by owners and operators by educating their teams on how to deal with potential challenges.

1. Create Your Goals

Is your hotel’s goal to promote awareness or direct bookings in a particular market, bolster its Google ranking, or attract interesting content that can be reused on other marketing channels?

Each owner and operator wants to have an occupancy of 100 percent at all times, and ideally a directly booked. Achieving the best, most meaningful audience to the target market of your hotel — on the platforms on which they spend most of their time— is a logical place to start in achieving that goal. More than two-thirds of the time that a person spends on booking trips consists of the processes of thinking and planning. It is therefore essential to capture potential customers early, often before they even know they want to visit a venue, location or property. In “sales-speak,” this is near the beginning of the AIDA (Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action) funnel when regarding direct bookings.

You may also want to promote the property to produce alpha and achieve your IRR (Internal Rate of Return) goals after repositioning properties. Being able to promote your hotel’s rebranding or renovation quickly and cost-effectively helps to speed this up.

2. Set Clear Deliverables

Understand what your hotel needs from any partnerships and find a way to streamline the process.

No matter if RevPAR or EBITDA is your focus, leveraging unsold inventory to create a large, engaged community with the property can make a difference for both in the longer term. What owner or operator does not want great visibility?

3. Develop a Process for Receiving Requests

A process for incoming applications ensures that each application is received and processed in the same way. Consistency is a major thing that a brand can do to earn trust, and everything matters.

Consistency is a major thing that a brand can do to earn trust, and everything matters.

Having a simple online process to which all influencers are referred is the best way to approach it. The form should ask some obvious questions concerning the scale and demographic characteristics of the influencer’s followers, and why they believe they are suitable for your hotel.

This form is important for a few reasons:

  • First, it helps us to snuff out influencers who weren’t willing to fill in a few bits of information for consideration, which helps you avoid time-wasters.
  • Second, all requests go to the same place and can be handled systematically.
  • Third, it ensures that there is positive, professional and consistent interaction with every influencer that reaches out.
  • Finally, it assures that the influencer receives the correct information and makes tracking the entire process easier.

4. Set Aside “Room Off Nights” with Revenue Management

Not only do the most successful hoteliers utilize their unbooked rooms, but they also allocate some inventory as “room-off” so that the occupancy levels of their revenue management system are not affected. Consequently, addressing any potential conflict between key performance indicators (KPIs) for revenue management and KPIs for marketing and PR is also easy.

5. What’s the ROI?

Digital word-of-mouth can easily produce a return-on-investment average of $6 per $1 paid. Hotel owners and operators can receive full monitoring capabilities with the correct approach and remove the uncertainty from influencer relationships. At the minimum, you should be able to calculate new website visitors and record click-through rates

…Remove the uncertainty from influencer relationships

6. Relationship Building

Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere. This is nothing new, so with that in mind, collaborate with those who are most aligned with your property so that when influencers come back, the hotel can benefit from recall marketing in the future.

The overall message we want to highlight is that it’s necessary to put in place strategies, processes, methods, and agreements to build an influencer marketing campaign that is meaningful, reliable, and creates the right perceptions for your hotel’s brand.

Ultimately, the successful integration of an influencer marketing strategy focuses on a prolonged effort to target an engaged niche audience. Having already shown interest in the brand, the consumers that your hotel targets are key to any efforts towards increasing your online presence through social media.

Restaurant Marketing Ideas for 2020

The restaurant industry has historically been among one of the most competitive industries. In today’s digital marketing landscape, this has never been truer.

When advertising your restaurant online, you’re not just competing against other restaurants to get your ads in front of your potential customers. You’re competing against millions of brands that are targeting the exact same individual.

This article showcases 7 ways you can get in front of potential customers and keep your existing customers loyal in 2020.

1. Messenger Marketing

With modern technology, wearable devices, and a phone in every pocket, it should be a no-brainer that restaurant marketing tactics should evolve as well. The days of generic direct mail campaigns to the masses are gone. These types of marketing campaigns were very difficult to track, and would often result in wasted money.

Messenger marketing for restaurants is a great new way to engage with your audience, track their behavior and purchases, and bring in predictable revenue on a monthly basis. Using applications like ManyChat or MobileMonkey you can set up these campaigns for your own restaurant. They can be fairly complicated, however, so it may be worth working with a restaurant marketing consultant to get help.

Even a simple Messenger Marketing campaign generated over $16,000 in revenue for a restaurant over the course of 4 months.

2. Free Wi-Fi

If you aren’t offering Wi-Fi in your restaurant – or you are just freely giving it away – you are making a huge mistake.

Don’t charge your customers money for the Wi-Fi. Instead, they require them to sign up with their phone number and email address.

This is a fairly inexpensive way to boost your customer remarketing list – plus offering Wi-Fi is another perk for your customers. On your form, you can notify them that they’ll be opting into email communications automatically, but they are free to unsubscribe any time. Then you can send emails about sales, new menu items, and friendly reminders about how awesome your restaurant is.

You can also ask them if they would like to receive text messages from your brand.

3. Text Message Marketing

Text message marketing has been on the rise for a few years now, but brands are still trying to figure out how to use it to their advantage. The key with text message marketing is to hit your customers frequently enough that they keep you top of mind, but not so often that you become a nuisance.

There are also a lot of privacy laws that apply to this type of marketing, so it is critical that you get your customers’ permission (and a second opt-in) before you start utilizing this channel.

Once you have a customer list, you can advertise your sales or promotional menu items. There are a lot of third-party text messaging providers to choose from. Several of them are budget-friendly. Some of them may even integrate with your POS system. It is critical to shop around for the best bang for your buck with any technology platform – but that is especially true for text message marketing.

4. Push Notifications

If your restaurant has an app, you are likely already utilizing push notifications. However, if it doesn’t, or you aren’t, here are a few examples for when to use them:

  • When a customer is near your restaurant
  • When you have a sale or coupon code
  • When you release a new or promotional menu item
  • When they have not visited your restaurant in a specific amount of time

If you do not have an app and are not interested in creating one, you can set these up as browser notifications. Browser notifications are slightly less effective because they are designed for the desktop instead of mobile. However, if you’re mostly serving a lunch crowd – it could be worth sending a lunch reminder push notification out to your potential customers.

5. Delivery

Delivery is king in the restaurant industry at this time, and there are no indications that that is going to change in the next couple of years. Some restaurants are attempting to fight the inevitable, and it isn’t going well for them. Still, others are doing the bare minimum by simply pairing with a 3rd-party food delivery service but that may not be a great strategy either.

Delivery is king in the restaurant industry at this time

Yes, you should consider partnering with a food delivery service, but you must also make sure your food (or at least the food you allowed to be ordered through the service) is still delicious when it arrives. Too many restaurants are offering their entire menu without any modifications, and it is preventing their growth.

If the budget allows, it is also worth offering promotions or even purchasing ads through these delivery services so that your restaurant is sure to be seen. Many of the delivery services will remind customers of restaurants they have ordered from or browsed in the past so that extra marketing boost can help offset the cost of the service.

Several restaurants also offer promotions for new customers, such as free delivery. You’ll want to explore your promotional opportunities with each third-party vendor before settling on one specifically.

6. In-Store Kiosks

Several fast-food chains have started incorporating in-store kiosks already, and this is another trend we expect to see growth over time. Customers enjoy being able to customize their orders without having to talk to a person. They also help increase accessibility at your restaurant.

Additionally, in-store kiosks give you the opportunity to collect additional data that restaurant owners have not had access to before. For example, you can collect data about the most-viewed menu items, even if they aren’t ordered the most. That type of insight encourages you to change an ingredient in that menu item to make it more appealing.

Many in-store kiosks also partner with the POS for aggregate data about specific customers. This means you can personalize your marketing efforts in a new way. Imagine being able to send an email or text to a specific customer, advertising a discount on an item you already know they love.

Although the initial cost is high, there is also a decrease in labor costs associated with a kiosk. It is certainly something worth looking into this year.

7. Community Events

People are also placing higher importance on brands who do “good” and restaurants do not fall out of this category. While it’s great if you can source all local ingredients and recycle practically everything, that may not be realistic.

Another route to consider is utilizing brand activation ideas such as getting involved in local community events and sponsoring charity events. These can seem like losses, but they can do a lot to boost your reputation in your local community.

If you aren’t sure where to start, contact your local school systems and see if they are interested in doing a “Dine and Donate” event. Basically they pick a day and anyone who brings in a flyer for the event on that day (or mentions the promotion if you don’t really want to collect dozens of flyers) your restaurant would donate a percentage of the check to the organization.

While you certainly shouldn’t do this too often so that it isn’t sustainable, it can be a great way to get in front of new customers while building goodwill and a solid reputation in the community.

Things to Keep Doing

We’ve also put together a shortlist of items that you should already be doing by now. If you aren’t, make these marketing efforts urgent priorities. While you may not be able to incorporate all of them right away, you’ll certainly want to tackle a majority of them by the end of 2020.

Advertise Your Restaurant on Social Media

Yes, there are a lot of brands advertising on social media already. However, most social media advertising platforms do offer pretty specific targeting options, which means you have a good shot of getting in front of your customers.

Because competition is so high, social media advertising should not be your only marketing strategy. However, it definitely needs to be part of your restaurant marketing mix.

Facebook is the largest social media marketing platform – and for good reason. Facebook also has the most users. One of the best parts of Facebook advertising is the audience targeting options. You can choose customers based on their locations, and/or their demographics. If you have an idea of who your target market is, this can be invaluable.

You also have the option to target an audience based on their interests. That means if you’re a vegan restaurant, you can target users who have expressed interest in veganism. If you are a burger and fries place, you can target users who love a good sandwich.

Another great component of Facebook advertising specifically is that you also have the ability to create specialized ads when a potential customer is near your restaurant. This can mean if they are a few blocks away to within a certain zip code. This type of targeting is great because it can also help you get in front of potential customers who may just be visiting the area instead of only those who live nearby.

Local SEO for Your Restaurant

Make sure your website is optimized for local SEO. This means optimizing your website so that you always rank in localized searches. This means making sure you’ve completed your Google My Business profile, and embedding a map on your site. You’ll also want to include your city name and state in titles, headers, and meta-descriptions within your site. While this sounds like a complex strategy, once you understand the concept of local SEO, it can be fairly straightforward to implement.

Manage Feedback

Online reviews greatly influence decisions when it comes to choosing a new restaurant to go to. While you can’t/shouldn’t delete negative reviews, you can respond to the guest’s comments and try to make bad experiences better.

You should also respond to positive reviews. This will create a relationship between your brand and the customer, which may encourage them to share their experience with your restaurant with their friends and family. You can also consider services such as Ovation to help you easily capture and manage feedback from your customers.

Restaurant Loyalty Programs

If you don’t already have a loyalty program in place, get one. There are several options out there. You might look to see if your POS system has one already. If your POS system does not, there are several third-party vendors you can try. Most of them are pretty affordable – and it is easy to calculate your return on your investment once you start tracking your loyal customers.

Some examples of third-party loyalty programs include Preferred Patron, ReUp, and Upserve.

Discount Apps

There are several restaurant discount apps out there such as ChowNow or Restaurant.com. You might even consider running a promotion on Groupon. This is an excellent way to draw in new customers as well as to remind past customers to come in again.

Print Advertising & Coupons

For almost all industries, print and coupons seem to be dying off. The two industries where that doesn’t seem to be the case are restaurants and grocery stores. If you are already sending coupons out to local residents, continue doing so. In fact, there are now several services available where you can send specialized coupons or letters to those who have just moved into your city or within certain zip codes.

If you haven’t implemented this strategy already, consider it. There is likely a coupon circulation in your area designed for local restaurants to advertise in.

In Closing

If you are interested in any of these marketing tactics but aren’t exactly sure how to set them up or which ones to prioritize, consider hiring a restaurant marketing agency or restaurant consultant. Restaurant consultants have likely worked with several restaurants in your area. They are already familiar with how to best get in touch with your target market.

A restaurant consultant can help you create an overall marketing plan for your business. Some restauranteurs consider hiring a general marketing firm to handle the promotion of their restaurant. However, they quickly discover that marketing or PR firms can be too expensive for one single restaurant. Your consultant will either handle your marketing directly or come up with a promotion and brand strategy utilizing outsourced agencies that the consultant is familiar with and trusts.

This marketing strategy can include everything from the overall restaurant concept to web design and the social media strategy. You will discuss your current marketing efforts and any that you wish to include in the upcoming year, and your restaurant consultant will balance your budget along with the typical efficacy of each tactic before helping you decide on a perfect strategy. Hiring a restaurant consultant can be an excellent way to boost your brand quickly, without having to make any marketing mistakes in the process.

Holiday Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

When it comes to Marketing Your Restaurant during the Holiday season, it’s important to make a plan. It’s no secret that most restaurants see a substantial loss in attendance and revenue around the holiday season, especially in countries like the United States and Canada, which can result in a significant financial loss for your business.

Such problems can be attributed to the fact that, well, it is just plain cold outside during those months of the year. From mid-to-late September to early April, the weather outside is frightful, and most people do not like having to go out that front door unless they have too. Most of the time going out to eat at the nearest McDonalds or Wendys is not on that list of necessities.

Additionally, it is during these times (especially from November to December), that families will often go on vacation to various parts of the planet, often for multiple weeks at times, thus resulting in increased air-fare revenue, but a further decrease in restaurants revenue.

However, that does not mean it is game over. There are some restaurant marketing strategies and tactics that can be fun and engaging that will help make the holidays a little less painful. Let’s go over just a few of those ideas right now.

Top Restaurant Marketing Ideas for the Holiday Season

Offer the Patrons A Special Menu Item at a New Price

Often one of the easiest ways to get people into a restaurant is also a classic; setting a new price of a popular menu item at your restaurant for the holidays. By doing something like this, during this particular time frame, people will be more inclined to make the trip since they know that if they do not, they may miss out on the savings for the year.

Give Two Delicious Meals for The Price of One

This is another easy one, and very common to see restaurants offer during the holidays. Entice your customers with a two-for-one-deal. A special offer like this, providing additional savings can be just what you need to fill your restaurant during the holidays. It works well, but use this strategy sparingly; you don’t want your customers to get addicted to expecting deals all the time.

Offer A Different Kind Of Meal For The Holidays

Everyone loves a good holiday menu item. Subway’s Apple Pie Cookie, Sonic’s Pecan Pie Funnel, Starbuck’s Peppermint Bark Frappuccino. During the several short weeks of the holiday season, these restaurants often see great success because they provide their patrons with something not seen every other day. So, perhaps add a new holiday-themed menu for a change.

Start-Up A Charity Drive

The holidays are all about giving and goodwill to others, why not join in on that spirit and start up a charity drive? Perhaps for every ten dollars spent, three of those dollars will go to a local Children’s hospitals or non-profit. McDonald’s is one of the most famous for this, supporting families with sick children through their Ronald McDonald House Charity program.

Speaking of Charity, Money Is Not the Only Option to Donate

Many organizations will host annual food or clothing drives throughout the holiday months, bringing in as much food and clothes to donate to local charitable organizations. So, perhaps offering something similar can help boost sales. You may even consider giving away a free menu item if a customer donates to the cause. While it does sound like you might be losing money by this method, it also brings more people through your doors. So, not only do you get them into the building, but you also build up a positive reputation with the community.

Offer Special Pricing for Children’s Menus

Another excellent way to boost revenue and marketing is to lower pricing for children’s menus or just children in general. However, it is not uncommon for restaurants to offer some kind of “children under 4 eat free” promotion year-round. So, if you’re not already offering this deal, consider offering it during the holidays. It might be just the thing you need to convince more families to bring them along.

Change Your Tune

It is the holiday season, so you know as well as I do what is going to be blasting on radio stations: Christmas songs. If you are the kind of restaurant that likes to have music playing in the background, perhaps changing the station to one that is playing Christmas music can help. It is a small change, but one that costs nothing and can help boost the morale of both customers and employees.

Deck the Halls with Holiday Signage

It is extremely common for businesses to decorate their buildings with holiday colors and iconography. I know our local Churches sees an increase in attendance during the holidays because they set up various Christmas and holiday decorations; so, perhaps spruce up the windows and dining area with holiday imagery.

‘Tis The Season to Be Jolly

Perhaps allow the employees to wear festive clothing and colors for the holidays, instead of just that regular uniform? Red? White? Green? A mixture of all three? Why not? The holidays are a time to spread happiness, and by having your employees show and express themselves through their creativity (not to mention through the marketing), you can expect some people might just be coming back next week.

If You Are Willing to Go with The Extreme

Then perhaps redecorate the entire restaurant to be nothing but a winter theme? Maybe make the dining area Santa’s Workshop or a frozen wonderland? This goes exceptionally well with allowing staff to wear festive colors or outfits. (Though, in my experience, it is best not mandating the employees wear these colors if they prefer their standard uniform). Though, do take care not to go overboard too early.

Christmas Movietime!

Is to play appropriate Christmas movies and specials if you happen to have a TV or TVs in your restaurant. While it is uncommon for most eatery establishment to have them outside of sports bars, some family establishments still have one or two playing anything and everything at all times.

Perhaps Consider Going Digital

In the past twenty years, the internet has gone from this slow, clunky and unresponsive tool that required no one to be on the phone line to use, to now one of the most potent and intricate tools to ever be constructed. As such, sending out holiday-themed emails, offers, messages, notifications, and decking out your advertisement to model something more festive can be a nice gesture (especially if those who subscribe to your email listing get a coupon or savings with those deals).

Special Contests and Events

The holidays are about giving merriment and gifts to those around you, so why not offer gift cards to your customers for special events? Maybe a gift to your 100th customer of the holiday season? Alternatively, random “hey, you just won a free twenty-dollar gift card to (insert store name here), kind of prize. Alternatively, run contests and special events via your website or inside your place of business. Nothing drives up happiness (and sales), like getting a gift card just before Christmas. It is a fantastic gesture to make for both your employees and your customers, and everyone will be happy.

Add a Traditional Holiday Meal to the Menu

This one ties back to the third option listed above, but this time, go above and beyond the call of duty and maybe offer customers traditional Christmas dinners during the month of December. Dinners like ham and turkey, mass potatoes and stuffing, all that delicious yumminess and more. This alone can be an excellent marketing strategy for that final month of the year.

Pastries! Lots And Lots Of Pastries

This one may be tricky to do if you are not running a bakery, as this idea does benefit them more-so than traditional restaurants and fast-food joints, but that does not mean they are out of the picture. Most establishments offer some form of dessert, traditionally cookies and cake. Perhaps instead of traditional cookies, you can go with gingerbread cookies?

Host Community Events

The holidays are about family, friends and getting together with one another. Perhaps hire local artists to play at your restaurant or a community lot with you as a sponsor. This is one of the best marketing ideas I have to offer here.

Let Us Not Forget the Employees Themselves

The holidays can be stressful for men and women in the service industry, show them you appreciate their hard work and determination by throwing an after-work or Christmas party for your employees and their families. Another way is to make sure everyone goes home with a nice additional bonus. Whatever you choose to go with, make sure it comes from the heart because by making your employees happy, that will not only reflect on their performance during work hours, but word will spread about how kind and generous you are to both your employees, and to the customers, along with the general reception of it all.

Invite Mr. and Mrs. Claus

If you are running a restaurant that caters to families, perhaps see about asking one of your employees to dress up as Santa or Mrs. Claus and interact with the children. Or, if you can afford it hire a professional Claus for a special experience.

Maybe See About Cross-Promotion

Cross-promotions can be a fantastic marketing tool, just like everything else we have discussed in this list. Maybe see about teaming up with a local competitor to boost sales in various areas like goods and services, while also offering competitive prices. You can even combine this with giving back to charities or non-profits and do some good for your community.

Lastly, Have Fun with It

Christmas is a time for festivities, joy, and merriment. There are loads of methods to drumming up marketing support during the holidays because of the time and era we live in. The best tip I can give when trying to increase revenue via marketing is to make it all about the holidays and the people, while also having fun with it.

Christmas is such a beautiful and wonderful time of the year, and everyone deserves to be happy during these times. I hope this article gives you some thoughts and ideas on how to go about marketing during these times.

10 Ways To Increase Your Hotel’s Direct Bookings

When it comes to increasing your hotel’s direct bookings, things can get a little tricky, and there are hundreds of tactics you could try. However, for this article, we are going to go over 10 ideas you should try first.

These are some ideas that some of the top hospitality brands are using around the world to increase the number of travelers booking directly through their hotel.

I realize that increasing your hotel bookings can be somewhat tedious and time-consuming; however, with these tips, perhaps the journey will be slightly easier to handle. At least, that’s my hope. How about we get started, shall we?

Make Your Hotel’s Website More User-Friendly

We live in the digital age of technology. Every year, more and more advanced technologies emerge to provide convenience to our lives. As such, we often need to change and adapt our approach to customers, and that includes how we deliver our services and experiences to our customers.

As such, for our first suggestion to make, we suggest reexamining how your hotel’s website is structured, and perhaps change it to better accommodate mobile and tablet users.

Additionally, not only are people on their phones more frequently than ever before, but they are also on the move. As such, making sure your website is mobile/tablet-friendly is one of the first suggestions I would offer to increase bookings at your hotel.

You should also consider the accessibility of your website. This means your website is designed and developed in such a way that those with disabilities can still use them; easily learning about your hotel, navigating through your site, and, ultimately, booking their stay with you.

Leverage Social Media For Advertisement and Hotel Bookings

Social media is one of the biggest and most lucrative forms of advertisement to have blossomed within the last decade. Even as I write this, millions upon millions of people flock to websites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter every day.

As such, traditional advertising is slowly dying out in terms of profitability and reliability. Why pay thousands, if not millions of dollars for expensive TV ads and booking times when it can be far cheaper to advertise your hotel business through various social media websites.

Why pay thousands, if not millions of dollars for expensive TV ads and booking times when it can be far cheaper to advertise your hotel business through various social media websites.

Not only is social media advertising less expensive, but it offers an easy way for customers to directly interact with your hotel brand through a medium that is most familiar to them. In addition to this, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have massive audiences already built into the platforms, and people are more innately tied to these forms of communication now than ever before.

In my experience, people are willing to talk and interact with companies through social media accounts than any other types of communication because social media has become so user-friendly and simple to use. Because of this, enabling social media users to book directly via sites like Facebook might not be a bad addition to include, as well.

It’s no coincidence that I put this tactic alongside updates to your website; they are almost married to each other. If you can communicate with the modern-day patron through social media platforms, and have a wonderful and easy-to-use website for them to explore, you will certainly increase your direct booking rates.

Test Your Hotel’s Booking Process Yourself

Another idea to help raise your direct booking rates for your hotel is to check and see how smoothly the process is for your website. Test it yourself! Humans like it when things are simple and easy for them to handle; it is why most sites have a one-click purchase option now.

Humans like it when things are simple and easy for them to handle

As such, I know when I want to book a hotel, the last thing I want to see is menus and menus of tabs and rows going to different sites and or parts of the website. I cannot stress how annoying and frustrated I get when it takes me seemingly forever to make my hotel reservations after deciding on what hotel/brand I want to stay at for a trip.

I recommend reevaluating the process in which people have to go through to book their lodgings at your hotel. Maybe count the number of clicks the average customer needs to go through to secure their reservations, and then perhaps find a way to automate or lessen the amount of time it takes to see a reservation confirmation screen.

User Reviews, I Cannot Stress This One Enough, Allow Reviews

As much as we all fear the idea of people leaving a bad review on Yelp and dealing with the hassles of reputation management, it shows a lot about your character and as a company if you allow customers to leave direct reviews on your site. I cannot stress this one enough. That alone can mean a lot to customers.

Additionally, it not only shows a lot on your character if you have a means of letting people leave reviews on your website. It also means you have a direct method of gauging how people are taking to your hotel(s) right on the spot – saving them the time and energy of searching for that on other websites or listings.

Also, by allowing people to leave reviews on your website you have a means of showcasing real positive comments for other customers to see; meaning people visiting your site are more likely to give your business the time of day because they can see that other real people enjoyed staying with you.

Finally, when you allow customers to leave reviews, this opens the door for them to leave valued compliments and criticism that every business needs. That criticism will be important, especially leading into the next section regarding the handling of grievances.

Address and Remove Previous Customers Grievances

Another benefit that can come from on-site user reviews is finding out what it is that they did not like about your hotel, thus not only do they feel validated in letting you know what they may or may not like about your hotel, but it also gives you more concrete information on both them and your business. Just this simple addition can help boost your direct booking rates.

By tackling customers grievances, you help show not only to them but to all of your customers that you are not only willing to hear what they have to say about your business but also directly tend to those problems if necessary. People like to feel like their opinions matter giving them, yes sometimes their ideas can hurt to hear, especially when it comes to your business; but often their views and criticisms may be valid and worth evaluating.

People like to feel like their opinions matter giving them

By having a place where they can air out their grievances, such as a review or comment section, not only can they feel validated in leaving behind often just criticism about their experience at the hotel, they can then feel satisfied when their grievances are handled properly. Moreover, by seeing you handle their negative complaints with your hotel, (whatever that might be), this could encourage them to return for a night or two, maybe even with their friends and family.

At the end of the day, customer feedback is important and necessary. Embrace it, value it, address it, and move forward.

Make Your Hotel Sound and Appear Unique

Another idea I feel I should mention is something that I think every business owner tries to do with their business, and that is making it sound and look unique in comparison to the competitor down the street. This isn’t always easy, especially if you are working in an already over-saturated market. However, there are a number of things you can do to improve your position in the market.

One idea I have to share is to reward your customers for their patronage, perhaps give them discounts on future bookings and services due to their continued support to your place of business. Alternatively, another idea to offer VIP rewards for continued support, like discounts on hotel amenities.

There are ways to reward your customers for their continued support and dedication to your organization. Another idea I have is to allow individuals the luxury of bringing their dogs or cats with them via unique rooms or upscaled cost. Pet owners always appreciate it when hotels allow them to bring their pets with them.

I am positive there are more ways to make your hotel appear unique and offer tremendous value to your customers, so perhaps find those methods out there. Finding and providing those services to your patrons can be a tried-and-true way to increase your direct booking rates.

Focus On What You Can Offer Over Your Competitors

This ties back to the previous section on focusing on what you can offer your customers over your competition. Another way to entice people to spend their holidays at your hotel is via the location and the unique and singular properties it may be privy too over other sites.

For example, are you near a park or heavily trafficked area like a plaza? Then advertise that as a selling point, people like convenience, especially when traveling and on the road. So, if they know, they will be shopping or adventuring in an area, being there as a hotel can be a luxury for them, especially if they are traveling or passing by through parts unknown.

Let people know that after a long day of shopping and adventure that they have a nice cozy hotel room waiting for them not a mile away from them. Alternatively, maybe your hotel was once a historical landmark or site, and it has some artifacts dating back to an era long since past.

In all honesty, it took me a long time to learn why location matters when it comes to starting a business, and this is one of the reasons why. If you have any definite reason to advertise your particular hotel (especially if you are a small brand), then use it, my friends.

Make Sure Your Staff and Employees Are Happy and Content

Okay, the next topic I feel we should discuss is the overall happiness of your employees and why this ties directly into potential bookings for your hotel. Now, I am confident this is one of the first things that managers and business owners have to think about always when running a business, but it would be wrong of me not to make it a section onto itself.

When working in the service industry, especially with hotels, you want to make sure your guests are happy and content, that is how we get those fun five-star ratings on Yelp and other review sites. As such, making sure your staff is actually genuinely happy to be there clocking in those long hours, and not just tapping their foot against the ground trying to wait out the clock.

Additionally, by making sure your employees are happy, this will translate into your patrons being happy as well, mostly due to the fact that they are getting tremendous value from the service of your employees. Moreover, this has many benefits onto itself as we can see.

Furthermore, by allowing the word to spread about your fair treatment of your employees (and their terrific service towards their guests), that can potentially entice guests to book with your hotel as a result. So, it is a win-win situation when it comes to this topic. Your employees are your lifeblood, after all, so treating them right will in return, treat your guests right.

Your employees are your lifeblood.

Ensure Your Hotel’s Website is Easily Found and Relevant

Through all of these additions and suggestions, there are plenty of ways of not only improving your image in the eyes of the public but also improve your chances of increasing your direct booking rates in comparison to your competitors around the state and or country.

Consider hiring an SEO specialist who is capable of understanding the search algorithms of search engines such as Google. Someone who knows the exact methods of getting more people to visit your website.

SEO specialists are the individuals you want when it comes to not only figuring out how your website will work but also provide general tips and tricks on getting people to discover your website, book a room, and then, of course, visit your hotel.

Understand That It Takes Time

As much as we may hate hearing that words “patience” and “determination,” seeing success and growth is not a one-night ordeal. It is not something that will happen immediately, especially when it comes to trying to increase your direct hotel booking rate in comparison to your other competitors.

However, it can happen with time and effort. All I can hope for is that this shortlist has provided some methods to help you achieve your ultimate goals when it comes to your hotel.

Conclusion

With that said, there are countless tactics and approaches you could use to increase your hotel’s direct booking rate. It’s up to you to find out which work best for your property. I hope this short article provided some tips and tricks on growing your hotel’s booking rates, and in return, bring even more lovely patrons to your place of business.

5 SEO Improvements for Your Restaurant

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization is a key component to any restaurant marketing effort aimed at helping your restaurant improve, expand, and evolve in today’s technology-driven world. SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, is the acronym for increasing the amount and quality of traffic to your business’ website through search engines like Google. SEO is a way for business owners to attract a specific demographic that is genuinely interested in your restaurant, instead of random internet users clicking your ad.

Why Is SEO Important for Your Restaurant?

SEO is a crucial part in growing your business because it is the key to getting a larger amount of traffic to your business site, in turn, bringing you more paying customers, and could mean never paying for regular advertisements again. Investing in search engine optimization will enable you to use locality, customer sentiment, as well as structured data to maximize your business growth. No matter how low your performance on search engines has been in the past, you have the opportunity to boost your popularity on search engines and other websites as much as you want through SEO.

In order to get the most benefits out of search engine optimization; one must understand how it works. Search engines like Google and Bing have something called a “crawler” that gathers information all around the internet about different content and brings that data back to the search engines. The engines then use this data through an algorithm to match up with certain searches, bringing more users to your website.

Search engine optimization may sound complicated, but it gets easier to understand over time. The results will speak for themselves. By following a few guidelines, you can help your business thrive through SEO.

Tip #1

Designing Your Website & Managing Content

One of the most important factors in today’s online world is a solid, well designed, maintained website that will catch eyes, and quality content and information to captivate and inform readers. First and foremost, if you have the budget, hire a reputable web design and development agency to get your website updated, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing to help your site give off a professional impression. If you don’t think you can afford to hire a professional, there are many online resources that you can use to help you create your own website design and outline from scratch for free or at a low cost, such as Squarespace.

Secondly, take the time to seek out a qualified individual to do content writing for your website, for things like FAQs, menus, a section about the restaurant and its story, and any other important information you want them to include that will captivate and inform customers visiting your site. After all, if you’re going to be investing in generating more traffic to your website, you should want the content to resonate with your visitors.

This will require a budget as well, since content creators’ time is very valuable. Be sure they are fluent in your language, have proficient writing and editing skills, and can come up with fresh, inviting writing to present on your website.

Tip #2

Sort Out Your Content Preferences & Strategize

In order to increase traffic to your restaurant’s website, you will have to pinpoint the location the majority of your customers will come from based on popular work locations or common tourist attractions. Doing this will enable you to narrow your audience and ensure the people visiting your site will actually have a genuine interest in it and won’t just click off immediately without giving it a read. You can use resources like Google Keyword Planner to plug in a specific geographic focus area.

After you’ve sorted out the ideal demographic based on your location, you will want to select which specific words or phrases are common among your target audience. You can pinpoint generic terms, such as “restaurant,” or pair them with a specific location, such as “New York City restaurants.” These would be considered “high-level restaurant terms,” simply meaning these are among the most common searches people may use on a search engine.

Aside from these high-level terms are “niche-specific terms,” which are more specific searches, but still broad in nature. These can include certain foods or atmospheres, such as “Chinese restaurants” or “family restaurants.” To get a good idea of examples you can use to get more clicks, you can use resources like Yelp and TripAdvisor and take a look at their search filters to get an idea of different categories people search for on those platforms.

Brand terms” are simply terms used for your specific brand, like your restaurant’s full name. These are terms you can begin to use once your business is well established and popular in the area. Be sure not to focus solely on these terms, and include more broad, general search terms to be sure your business gains traction and outranks other recommended restaurants on search engines.

Tip #3

Be Active and Present on Social Media

Social media is inarguably a massive part of business development and maintaining a customer base, Facebook is one of the most popular platforms for restaurants to interact with customers and keep them in the loop. One way to utilize social media for your business is to offer rewards or discounts for customers sharing posts from your restaurant’s page. This will help spread the word about your establishment while keeping customers engaged and excited about your business, especially if they get something out of it!

Regular posts and updates about your business will also keep customers in the loop while keeping your business relevant. The more they see from you, the more likely they are to pay your restaurant a visit. Be sure to announce any new menu items or merchandise, as well as any special events or discounts happening on your social platforms to inform your fans, and hopefully they will share and spread the word to others on the platform as well.

Tip #4

Encourage Feedback

The best way to keep your restaurant at the top of its game, as well as search results, is by having an extensive collection of positive reviews, ratings, and testimonials from customers. By having high-star reviews, users are more likely to click on your restaurant when looking at it against others. The more positive reviews you have, the better your customers will perceive your business, making them much more likely to spend money there.

Consider a rewards program or free coupon for customers leaving reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and more. This will be appealing to them as they will feel their opinion matters and will be heard. Not only this, but they will benefit from sharing their thoughts, and will be more likely to return to your establishment to do more business in the future.

Tip #5

Get Technological

Almost two-thirds of website traffic comes from mobile phones or tablets, according to Google Analytics. To use this to your business’ advantage, invest in making your website mobile device friendly, to ensure customers can access it from anywhere. This will eliminate frustrating buffering and wasted time, which could result in negative reviews from customers.

One step further would be investing in a mobile app for your business. This may be costly, but it gives customers an opportunity to browse menus, place online pickup orders, even be involved in a customer rewards program, should you choose to create one for your restaurant. This will help give customers a streamlined, positive experience with your business, just from using a convenient mobile app.

Tip #6

Whatever you do- Monitor What’s Going On

Any change you make can either harm or help your business, so you need to be aware of how the decisions you make are affecting your business. Begin by equipping your website with Google Analytics, which will help you keep track of your site traffic and give you an idea of how many people are being reached. You can also use tools like Unamo SEO, which will analyze your site, help you improve in certain areas, and will show you your site’s progress on a daily basis.

To go one step further, you can hire a content manager to analyze all this data. They can set up all these tools and platforms to keep track of your website’s progress and traffic and can make different adjustments as needed to make sure you’re getting the results you want. This will be another thing to factor into your budget, but if you aren’t a tech-savvy business owner, this may be a better option than trying to do it all yourself.

Conclusion

Search engine optimization may seem very complicated and hard to understand, but it is simpler than many may think. It is a key component to business expansion and can work wonders when it comes to getting your business the exposure it needs to reach its’ potential. By being active on social media, forming a good relationship with customers, and hiring help when you need it, you can easily take your business to the next level. Be sure to keep up with the times, keep your website up to date and mobile device friendly. Keep your business on the up and up by utilizing these SEO tips.

10 Brand Activation Ideas for Your Restaurant

As a restaurant owner, you are likely always looking for new ways to draw more people to your restaurant’s food and services. However, restaurant branding, and marketing can be more difficult than you think. Not only do you need to draw them, you also need to keep them coming back for more.

This is where brand activation comes in. Brand activation is key to getting consumers from simply browsing your menu to actually visiting your restaurant and eating your food.

In this article, we will discuss ten brand activation ideas to help drive more consumer action to your restaurant. If you want to find out how to elevate your restaurant’s marketing impact, keep on reading.

What Is Brand Activation?

Brand activation is a relatively new marketing idea. Essentially, it is the idea of motivating consumer action through a variety of experiences. In other words, it is about drawing attention to brands by creating unique interactions that result in long-term connections with consumers.

Brand activation typically occurs in the form of activation events.

Activation events are one-time, exclusive events that encourage consumers to interact with a brand, see a brand in a new way, and draw more in-store or in-restaurant activity. The key is that brand activation events have to be unique, memorable, and shareable.

It should be said that brand activation events or campaigns can utilize a variety of methods, such as:

  • Consumer promotions
  • Sampling campaigns
  • Shopper marketing
  • Digital campaigns
  • Experiential marketing

Whatever method you use is up to you and your circumstances. Just remember that the goal is to create a distinct experience that ups the notoriety of your company or restaurant.

1. Utilize Social Media

Social media is easily one of the most definitive aspects of our daily culture. As a matter of fact, 54% of social media users use social media to research products and interact with a brand. So, if your consumers are not talking about your restaurant or brand on social media, you are definitely not connecting with them well enough.

An easy way to generate some attention on social media is to get consumers to post about your brand. This could be anything from simply sharing a photo post about your food and reviews to sharing promotional content.

For example, Sonic did an experiential campaign at Coachella. They sold square-shaped milkshakes during the music festival that could only be purchased through Instagram.

Another great idea is to use social media to hold contests or giveaways.

Domino’s held a fun giveaway on Instagram called the Piece of the Pie Contest. Essentially, Domino’s fans or consumers had to take a photo that showed they are a super fan. The most elaborate photo won a grand prize of $10,000, but Domino’s gained more fan interaction than ever before.

Social media is a great avenue for boosting your brand’s followers and visibility. Fun, interactive social media campaigns are an exciting way to get more consumers to try your food.

2. Leverage Common Problems

The basis of selling any type of product, including food, is that you are solving some common problem or need. The same idea can apply to brand activation events for your restaurant.

For example, when summer festival season hits, the heat can be a major downer on any person’s day. However, bring awareness to your own brand by supplying guests with refreshing drinks or a fun way to cool down.

Vitamin water put a clever spin on this idea by providing music festival guests with a fun misting station. With this quirky, interactive idea, consumers got to cool down and Vitaminwater was able to gain more exposure for their brand.

You should also consider getting a stand at your local farmer’s market. If your restaurant is offering new menu items, this is a great opportunity to offer samples and build up interest in your restaurant.

3. Create Fun & Unique Consumer Experiences

Like we mentioned above, the key to a successful brand activation campaign is that it is unique and cannot be easily replicated.

The events you create surrounding your restaurant have to be unexpected and something your customers have not experienced before.

One great way to create a unique restaurant branding experience is to make use of pop-up shops or cafes. Pop-ups are essentially temporary retail spaces that give companies an opportunity to sell their product in a completely personalized space. For restaurants, it is a great opportunity to present their food or service in a fun new way.

For example, Subway set up a pop-up outdoor salad bar. Subway’s goal was two-fold: encourage healthy eating and to promote their new Salad of the Day menu option. It was a smart way to promote their new menu while also playing on consumer’s desire for healthier and more readily available produce.

Another fun twist was Quaker’s pop-up breakfast vending machines. This unique play on the traditional pop-up shop featured a large vending machine with two workers dressed as robots doling out free breakfast. To make the experience even better, each oatmeal dish was specially prepared according to each consumer’s taste.

Remember, the key here is that you want consumers to activate or act on your brand. You want to create activities that will put the product in your consumers’ hands so they can get a well-rounded experience.

That also means ensuring that your event does not stagnate. For example, if you have a large event, try to intersperse smaller activities or experiences while people are waiting around. Try to aim for collaborative activities as it will encourage a more light-hearted, open environment at your event.

4. Make Learning About Your Company Fun

If you want more people to care about your brand, it is important that you share its roots. Sharing the who, what, why and how of your brand is important to help consumers connect with your brand’s values. However, instead of just trying to tell people about your brand, one of the best restaurant marketing ideas is to teach them more about your restaurant methods, such as cooking classes or recipe development.

A cool example is Haagen-Daz’s sensory dessert schools. Haagen-Daz set up their two-day dessert school to teach how sight, sound, and scent contributed to tasting ice cream. However, Haagen-Daz elevated the pop-up event with talks by major social media influencers and Haagen-Daz ice cream tester, Alison Gray.

Nespresso did the same with a sensorial coffee club pop-up. The Nespresso Connoisseur Club is a traveling culinary adventure, featuring taste tests and classes by Michelin starred chefs. It is an opportunity for Nespresso to share their brand in a new upscale light that is deeply immersive and informative.

Bringing consumers into the fold of what your brand does behind the scenes is a great way to establish a trusting relationship with them.

Not only do they get to learn about your specific restaurant and your products, but they also have a growing appreciation for your work.

5. Make Your Events VIP

A simple way to develop stronger relationships with consumers is to make your brand activation events exclusive. Now, it seems counterintuitive at first. By making an event exclusive to a specific group of consumers, you are obviously excluding other consumers.

However, making events VIP will help you develop stronger emotional connections with consumers. Those consumers who are a part of the exclusive group will feel more valued and will develop a stronger bond with your brand. This way they are more motivated to share your brand with other people.

Moreover, on a logistical note, making events exclusive is also a smart, budget-friendly idea. If you don’t have a huge marketing budget, all you can afford is a short-term branding event.

However, influencers and local media are more drawn to short-term events, especially if they are fresh and creative. This way the more tight-knit an event feels the more people want to be involved or in the know. And, as we said, the more exclusive an event is the more likely people feel the need to share it online.

6. Be Spontaneous

If you truly want to be remembered by consumers, do something memorable and completely unexpected. For example, Lipton Iced Tea completely took London by surprise when they stuck a 100-meter, bright yellow water slide in the middle of the morning commute.

The day-long event encouraged people to come out and bring their swimsuits and pool inflatables with them. And all throughout the even, Lipton employees handed out samples of a variety of Lipton products while also promoting the Daybreaker event series.

This is the time to think out of the box. The more creative you are the better because it will help you stand out from your competition.

From using slip and slides to using flashmobs, you don’t have to stick with a basic food service setting to promote your brand.

7. Utilize Technology

The heart of brand activation events is their face-to-face interaction that digital marketing can overlook. However, this does not mean you should completely discount technology. As a matter of fact, your restaurant branding events should be so memorable that your consumers can’t help but whip out their phones to share it.

If you are holding a pop-up shop, encourage attendees to share pictures, videos and to even make a hashtag. However, you can take your branding game to a whole new level by making social media an active part of the event. Take, for example, Marmite’s positivity recording pop-up cafes.

Marmite opened up a Twitter pop-up shop that used social media as a means of payment. When patrons would enter the shop, they would give their social media handle. The pop-up cafe then uses a “Love-O-Meter” to analyze tweets to see if they are sharing positive or negative messages online.

If you are identified as a positive, loving spirit, you are given a sample of a Marmite summer snack. This is a great twist on using the power of technology and social media. Here, technology and social media actively play a part in the success of the branding event.

You can even go simpler than that. If you are holding a cocktail party, provide a variety of photobooths and award the most creative photo at the end of the event.

You can host a food scavenger hunt and have participants hunt down food-related clues. When they find the answer, they can just snap a picture and send it via text.

Whatever method you choose, you can be sure that technology will help your brand interact with consumers in a fun, immersive way.

8. Get Your Team & Staff Involved

If you really want your brand to stick out, it is important to get your team on board with branding events. Due to their close relationship with your company and brand, they are easily one of your best promotional resources.

Try to get your team involved from the very beginning. Inform them of your idea and get their feedback. They might have some cool ideas that could improve your idea.

Bringing your team in on brand activation ideas is integral to having a successful and memorable event. First, well-informed staff will ensure that the whole event is flowing like a well-oiled machine. In turn, you can ensure all guests or consumers are getting the best experience.

Secondly, getting your team involved is a great way to have them brush up on their knowledge of the brand. Their ability to share the history and roots of the brand and cool, hidden details can help build brand loyalty with consumers. Moreover, it can build brand loyalty within the team itself.

9. Communicate Your Brand’s Values

A successful branding event gets consumers to understand and align with a brand’s values.

Shared values are the basis of establishing a strong bond with your consumers.

That being said, if you are struggling to think of brand event ideas, go back to your roots and build off of your values.

As one of the most value-driven brands, Ben & Jerry’s does this particularly well. During the Big Ice Screening Film Festival, Ben & Jerry’s established a bike-powered pop-up outdoor theatre.

For three days, consumers could engage in a multitude of childhood games and get food and drinks from a variety of stalls. However, the highlight of the event was Ben & Jerry’s effort to use renewable energy for the entire event.

The event had stationary bikes that were used to power the movie screen. In addition, they also employed green energy, hybrid power source provided by Firefly.

The entire event was really to promote Ben & Jerry’s newest ice cream flavor. However, it was further bolstered by the brand’s commitment to environmental causes.

Although elaborate, outlandish ideas are sure to draw attention to you, working off of your values is sure to keep people around. And committing to those values consistently only shows consumers that you are a reliable and dedicated company. In turn, people will only want to support and interact with your brand more.

10. Help Your Consumers Help Others

An excellent way to get your consumers to interact with your brand and to further promote your values is to help your consumers help others. More often than not, people see issues that they want to help with or change but do not know where to start.

This is a great opportunity for your company to step up to the plate and bridge the gap between important issues and potential solutions.

One great example of this is Skittles’ Holiday Candy Pawnshop Pop-up. The four-day branding event allowed consumers to bring in their unwanted items and trade them for candy. All of the collected items were then donated to a Goodwill ReUse center.

This could easily be replicated for your restaurant branding. Maybe during the holidays take canned food donations in exchange for a meal at your restaurant. Another great idea is to get the community involved in a huge potluck for the local homeless shelter.

Not only does your brand gain more visibility, but it also gains visibility for positive reasons. Moreover, this will make people more attracted to your brand because they know if they are supporting your brand, they are also supporting a good cause.

Conclusion

As technology and digital media continue to evolve, learning to market for your brand continues to grow more complicated. Fortunately, brand activation events give you an opportunity to get your brand on the front-lines without the risk of blending in with the competition.

Activation events allow you to repackage your products and share them in a whole new way. Moreover, activation events bring your in-store or in-restaurant traffic to new heights and allow you to build more meaningful relationships with your consumers.

So long as you focus on your audience and focus on making your experiences unique and shareable, brand activation events can help you ride the tide of changing trends.

8 Most Common Reasons Restaurants Close Within the First Year.

Every now and then, the concept of owning a restaurant can make you start up a new company while overlooking the actual responsibilities and issues that restaurant ownership entails. All too often, this leads to novice restaurant owners closing their doors in the first year.

You shouldn’t be one of them.

According to some studies, 60 percent of restaurants close or change ownership within the first year of operation, and 80 percent close within the first five years.

Restaurants fail for many reasons, ranging from health-related closures to constantly poor reviews. However, if you understand the most common factors that cause restaurants to fail, then you can identify warnings signs early, make better decisions, and hopefully not face a disaster.

A Terrible Location

You’ve heard it said: Location, location, location.

One of the greatest, if not the greatest, reasons a restaurant fails is a poor location. Low visibility, no easily accessible parking, and low foot traffic is a mix that makes turning a profit almost impossible.

Choosing the right spot can even compensate for many of the other shortcomings in this list, but a great location won’t ever compensate or excuse you from providing the basics of excellent service and great quality food.

A great location won’t ever compensate or excuse you from providing the basics of excellent service and great quality food.

If you are already operating in a bad location, there are strategies and things you can do to overcome that challenge. Here’s an article we’ve published that may give you some ideas: 7 Ways Your Restaurant Can Still Thrive Despite a Bad Location

Not Enough Capital to Operate

Based on the sort of restaurant you are planning to open, hundreds of thousands of dollars or more may be needed to cover payroll, suppliers, and other expenses until you turn a profit.

Keep in mind that your loan has to last through the grand opening day. Before you serve a single customer, don’t foolishly purchase brand new appliances and furniture for a restaurant. Buy only what you need and weigh the advantages of the equipment you are using. Do not put anyone on the payroll until as near as possible to the opening day.

Be very frugal with your starting loan; do not treat it as if you were just winning the lottery.

As your planning your restaurant, here is a free guide you can read to help you along the way. It covers everything from concept, to funding, legal setup, and grand opening. The Ultimate Guide: How to Start a Restaurant

Bad Customer Service

Poor customer service is a common reason for the closure of any restaurant. A reputation for poor service will spread like wildfire and sometimes it may seem irreparable. Even the finest three-starred restaurant would close down with poor service. Customer service is one of the essential pillars of operating a successful restaurant, and to remain open.

A reputation for poor service will spread like wildfire and sometimes it may seem irreparable.

In the early phases, asking for customer feedback ensures that you can work out the kinks before it’s too late.

Poorly Managed

When you’re searching for a general manager to help run your day-to-day operations, you’ll probably find someone with the most experience and excellent references –and an all around good vibe and cultural fit.

But even still, sometimes you may find a few months later that they’re not running the restaurant well. They may be alienating employees, taking long breaks, or even worse –stealing money or taking advantage of restaurant resources.

These day-to-day pressures of owning and operating a restaurant, combined with the difficulties in staffing restaurants and hospitality brands, can cause great harm to your staff and team culture if not addressed. You need to do regular check-ins with your management and team members to make sure they’re performing at their highest potential.

Poor Marketing & Advertising Efforts

Advertising and marketing are both essential to creating the reputation of a unique restaurant –especially as more and more chain restaurants open throughout the nation. Most people believe you need to pay exorbitant prices to attract customers, however, you can spread awareness at little to no expense to a targeted demographic with social media and word-of-mouth marketing.

Even more importantly, before you begin spending money on any marketing or advertising, you should make sure you have a clear game plan and strategy on what message you’ll be communicating with your customers.

Who are your customers? What do they care about? What makes your restaurant unique? Why should people care about your restaurant?

Do you have a purposeful and profitable brand strategy?

Answering all of these questions and more will help ensure you have a compelling brand story that attracts more customers. Do you have a purposeful and profitable brand strategy? Read more about our restaurant brand strategy process – BrandGPS™.

Ignoring or Evading Taxes

Federal and state taxes come with heavy penalties, charges, and other assorted fees when paid late, but when a restaurant faces tough times, on-time payments are often difficult. Many owners will completely avoid paying taxes and hope that they will get away scot-free.

It may happen once, but tax negligence ends almost always with heavy penalties, closures of businesses, or even jail time.

Being Too “Hands-Off”

To be a restaurant owner, this means that you need to work at your restaurant. Your job as an owner isn’t to just hang out, chat with customers, and become a famous restaurant owner in the process.

Great restaurant owners are often the first in the door and the last out at closing because the owner not only has the most to lose, but the most to gain. Unless the property is solely an investment or the proprietor lives outside the city, the person in charge should be there every day, discovering new solutions to increase profit margins, engage team members, and develop a profitable brand.

Not Properly Tracking Food Costs

The first step towards making a profit is to know how to correctly price your restaurant menu. Do you understand how to calculate your cost per-plate? The majority of owners don’t. For instance, you could try adding an expensive premium ingredient to a lower cost dish, to take full advantage of your per-plate cost and profit margin.

Several other modifications can help to bring the cost of food down without the same flavor. Sticking to the 30% food price golden rule will help you to maintain a healthy profit margin for all of your menu items.

Sticking to the 30% food price golden rule will help you to maintain a healthy profit margin for all of your menu items.

In Conclusion

Now you know the primary reasons why many restaurants fail. You have the chance to study your market and research new ideas – make sure that your concept really works.

Yet, if you never step out and try -you’ll never truly know what it means to be a restaurant owner.

Regardless of all of your planning, the restaurant may fail. But if you continually try to grow and learn while operating within the core functions of any successful restaurant (excellent food, service, and location) you will increase your chances of achievement.

On top of all this, developing a great concept, great name, and brand identity for your restaurant is the icing on the cake. These core foundational strategies will help you be more focused and intentional toward building a strong reputation for your restaurant – and a restaurant that’s set up to succeed.

Want to know more? Download our free E-Book: “7-Figure Restaurant

The Greatest Restaurant Grand Opening Ever

If you are getting ready to open up your new restaurant, you might think the hard part is over. You’ve considered the location. You have nailed down your concept. You have financed it, after weeks and weeks of applications, letters, meetings, and presentation of your ideas.

You have sent the menu to the graphic designers and they have sent back a menu that would make Gordon Ramsay hungry. The staff has been hired, from the host all the way to the chef.

You are ready, right? Not so.

This is not meant to discourage you or prevent you from feeling the well-deserved joy that you will experience as the doors open and customers with empty stomachs come by.

This is meant to make sure that you cross that finish line like a true champion-that is, by hosting a grand opening that will leave a positive impression on the minds of your customers and keep them coming back week after week.

Stay with us as we discuss various ways to start your business with a bang and keep it booming.

The Basic Steps

At long last, it is time to throw a fun party because it’s true: The really tough stuff is done. So, what are the basics of throwing a memorable grand opening? Let’s take a look.

1. Figure Out the Sort of Event You Want, And A Budget for It

When you think about all that has gone into starting this business up to this point, it can be extremely tempting to handle the opening of your establishment as just another day; a relatively minor thing.

However, having a well-mapped out restaurant grand opening is a huge part of your overall restaurant marketing strategy. The key to opening a restaurant with a bang is relatively easy; you are going to need to know how to get people in the door, and throwing a great party is a way to make it all happen.

However, this does not mean you have to go crazy and spend heaps of money as a way of holding a super grand opening. It is better overall that you do not do this, as there are going to be lots of other expenses that come your way once the business gets up and running.

There are lots of ways to get a restaurant grand opening going. You can actually roll out a “red carpet” to make guests feel like VIPs. You can set up a buffet of samples and then tempt customers with a special offer, like buying an entree and receiving a percentage off the second one.

You can also offer some refreshments or feature live music. You might also print up some coupons in the form of fliers that guests can use on a future visit.

Make yourself a comprehensive list of all the expenses needed for your opening and be sure the total cost is budget-friendly. Once you have thought about and priced fliers, music, decor, food and any giveaways or promo products, you can see if you need to modify your budget or celebration in any way, whether you are under budget or need to take it down a notch.

having a well-mapped out restaurant grand opening is a huge part of your overall restaurant marketing strategy.

2. Allow Ample Time for Yourself

Give yourself plenty of time to plan. A month to three months will be sufficient. You may wish to print up fliers, or invitations, depending on the type of establishment you are opening. You will need time to mail the invites/fliers to the local area, or at least time to hang them in public areas where everyone can see them.

Delegate tasks to your staff members, or the restaurant PR firm so that duties and deadlines are met and filled. Be sure that you keep track of everything you do, and how much money you spend. Use Excel spreadsheets or checklists so that nothing is overlooked. And be sure that you check in with all of your help so that everybody’s on the same page.

You may even consider doing a dry run. You might start doing business before the grand opening takes place so your employees know what to do, are well trained, and any little bugaboos or issues can be worked out ahead of time.

3. Know Your Target Audience

The art of launching a restaurant has many facets, and one of them is knowing the demographics of people you would most like to reach. Your restaurant’s grand opening needs to draw in your customer base, but also the restaurant supply companies you are working with as well as the local media. It is a chance for you to show off your new restaurant and enter your community with a bang.

Let the local media know that you are new in town. This is a great way to get some publicity, before and after the grand opening takes place. About three weeks before your grand opening is scheduled, contact your local media by phone. You can also mail out a press release if you like. (We will discuss shortly how to do well when using a press release).

If you can, ask a local celebrity like a popular radio host or the mayor to come in for a meal and drink, and also give him or her the honor of cutting the ribbon if you plan to do such a ceremony. Be sure that you also inform the media as well. This can result in photos being sent to the local newspaper or a social media site, along with a column about your new eatery.

Preparing for the media is just as important as planning your grand opening. Be sure that you have that press kit available-and this is not nearly as complicated as it sounds. You can simply pick up some pocket folders and include your business card, a copy of the menu and some questions and answers about your restaurant, and some other helpful facts about your business.

The art of launching a restaurant has many facets

4. Be Sure the Event Is Restaurant-Friendly

For a restaurant, you will want to do things like give away free samples of the food you are offering, as well as have menu copies available so customers always know what great meals you offer.

You might have a staff member offer to show guests around if you have varying areas of the restaurants. For instance, if you cater to families, show off the banquet rooms or areas designed for groups with little kids or babies.

If you are running an upscale establishment, show off your intimate table settings and bar areas. Your goal is to sell your establishment as the place your target demographic would like to be when it’s time to go out to eat.

5. Make Sure Your Expectations are Realistic

Remember, things don’t happen overnight. Your grand opening will be a great way to get your restaurant off on the right foot. But restaurant marketing must be a top priority as your business grows and expands.

Some great ways to keep the word going about your great eatery include:

  • Fun giveaways, like magnets with your phone number and a photo of your signature dish
  • Keychains (perhaps shaped like a food item you offer) or can koozies customers can use to advertise for you
  • Email newsletters or loyalty programs that keep customers coming back for good deals and specials
  • Praising and showing off your hardworking staff on social media
  • Asking grand opening attendees to tell a friend or family member about your place

Restaurant marketing must be a top priority as your business grows and expands.

Regarding Press Releases

Okay, so you have sent out some press releases to your local papers, magazines, Pennysaver, and other media outlets, like radio or television. But there have been no callbacks! What is going wrong? What can somebody do to increase their chances of being published?

First, do not assume that you have completely missed the boat on this one if you haven’t heard back from the people and outlets you have contacted. There have been stories published in some major newspapers and magazines long after the press releases have been sent in. However, we sometimes don’t have that much time to wait. Try again, revising your submission in such a way that appeals to the readers of the publication you seek to advertise in.

When you send out a press release, consider who you are sending it to, and how newsworthy it is. The editors of your local paper have to publish things that appeal to their readers. Therefore, you want to make sure your press release appeals to the people in your local area. Be sure you read and revise your press release over before sending it so that it conveys interest to the editors of your local publications.

Do your best, and perhaps have your PR specialist go over it. They can help you be unique and appealing with the way your release is presented. Don’t use buzz words or try to sound like something you’re not; most editors usually edit the release so that it fits the target audience. Make your headline attention-grabbing so that the editor stays hooked and doesn’t simply put your release at the bottom of the pile.

Make your release sound more like news than anything. Promotion is what editors find most annoying; your goal is to make your release sound like useful info, entertainment, or relevant news.

Remember, keep on keeping on. One publication may want nothing to do with your establishment, but another one will take joy in publishing your story. Editors are always seeking some news. Just keep it short, sweet and to the point while still telling why your restaurant is important and valuable to the community.

Make your release sound more like news than anything. Promotion is what editors find most annoying.

Generate Some Hype

One important aspect of any restaurant start-up event is getting people ready for your establishment. Get them amped and excited to come down and give it a try!

In this portion, we are going to talk about how you can use some marketing strategies to get the word out and get people excited about your restaurant.

  • Keep an eye on your presence when it comes to social media. Social media is a huge deal in today’s world. Sure, you can slip some menus under the door and mail out some coupons, but that’s not enough. Restaurants that have a strong social media presence tend to do well. Start up a Facebook page before you open that shows off your planned Grand Opening festivities, menu, and photos of meals you plan on serving. You can even use your Facebook page as a place to share savings opportunities, promote news and let people know your hours. You can also use this as a place to promote the positive press your company gets!
  • Promote visual content with Instagram. Show off the front of your establishment so people will know what to look for when they come looking for it. If you are a steakhouse, upload photos of the meat cooking on the grill or the fields from which your beef grazes. If you specialize in family dining, upload photos of families who happily celebrated birthdays or special events at your establishments, thanking them for their business. Make hashtags fun again-you can use old favorites like #TBT or create some of your own. Photos of food, employees working hard and more will appeal to customers.
  • Keep Your Menu Easy to Navigate & Functional. Do not make it hard for users to locate your menu. Publish one that is easy to read, accurate, and current. Be sure you include what dishes are good for those with dietary restrictions: gluten free, vegan/vegetarian, diabetics. Customers today NEED to access menus online, or they will take their business elsewhere.

Get People Inside

The whole town will not be able to make it to your grand opening, unfortunately. So, what can you do to get people in the door once they have time to come down?

This section ties in with our previous discussion of generating some hype. This portion is all about enticing the customers into your establishment.

  • Invest in Photography. Photos are what your clientele sees before they even set foot in your restaurant. Your website should feature top-notch photos of your food, settings, and bar area. Try to hire a food photographer if you can, and, combined with your fun Instagram photos, put them all over social media and in your fliers/commercials to get people excited about what you sell.
  • Have Regular Events. This is dependent upon your restaurant. You might bring in live music, have a wine tasting event where you collaborate with a local winery, or bring in a face painter or balloon artist for families with kids. You can even host events that correlate with big movie releases or concerts and invite people to dress up as their favorite character or wear a band t-shirt to get a percentage off their bill.
  • Be the Hangout Spot. Is there a major sports event coming up? Be sure you can broadcast it and offer drink and appetizer specials in honor of the occasion. A lot of people like to go out and share the joy of sports with friends and they don’t have to be in charge of cleanup. Large groups of people will eat, drink and linger while they watch the event for a few hours.

Encourage Repeat Business

Great food and amazing service from your staff are the key drivers in making sure your customers keep coming back. But what are some other methods you can use once your grand opening is over?

  • Keep the Menu Fresh. Fresh foods are loved by diners everywhere, but for this scenario, we mean keeping it changing. Restaurants always offer daily specials, and this makes the experience exciting for customers. You might even have the chef make up some samples and distribute them to diners, imploring them to try. You can then let them know it will be served next week, so be sure to stop by again. Ask your chefs what their specialty is. If your chef perfectly replicates his Italian grandmother’s lasagna, for instance, make sure it appears as a special one of the nights and you advertise on social media.
  • Have a reward system in place. Everyone and we mean everyone, loves a good deal. Giving away a free item once in a while is a good way to bring diners back. Families and couples alike always look for ways to save money. Cards that can be stamped toward a free meal or appetizer are surefire winners. Email lists are a great and unobtrusive way to offer customers deals and get them coming back for more. Send these out before special days like Super Bowl Sunday or Mother’s Day so that they can plan to come to your restaurant and celebrate. You might offer a free dessert or 50% off the purchase of a second meal on these special occasions.

Summing It Up

Keeping your restaurant at the forefront of everybody’s mind is going to be tough, but you can absolutely do it. Plan ahead, budget accordingly, and of course, have confidence in your staff, food, and ability to provide excellent service. Your community will be enjoying your eatery for decades!

Longitude is a hospitality branding and concept development agency. For questions, please reach out to Jeremy Wells at jeremy@longitudebranding.com.

A Failed Experiment? How the “The Payless Experiment” by Payless Missed the Mark

In a recent publicity stunt, Payless Shoes created a faux-luxury shoe brand, “Palessi,” and hosted a fake grand opening event where they invited fashionistas straight off the streets of Santa Monica Boulevard, and tricked them into buying $20 shoes for $600+. This was cleverly named, “The Payless Experiment.” Unfortunately, I think this experiment failed.

History of Payless

This isn’t the first attempt for a budget-focused brand to try and defend the value they offer. And it comes as no surprise that Payless is attempting to gain new customers in light of their recently filing for bankruptcy, and closing 1,000 stores.

Payless was once the place to shop for discount shoes. But has failed to bring in a steady stream of customers.

These things didn’t happen last year just because consumers suddenly decided to heed the fashion advice of hipsters on Instagram. Payless, like many other brick-and-mortar stores, fell victim to the takeover of online shopping retailers such as Amazon, Zappos, and the like.

These things didn’t happen last year just because consumers suddenly decided to heed the fashion advice of hipsters on Instagram

However, the misfortune of their decline isn’t only due to outside influences and competition. I would also say that it’s the result of missing the opportunity to make a pivot in the right direction, at the right time, with the right strategy. This is evident in the fact that their stores typically feel like an eye doctor’s office, their logo looks like a computer company from 2003, and more recently – “The Payless Experiment.”

What’s the Purpose?

There is a certain desperate feeling that I sensed as I watched this 30-second commercial. Almost like a last-ditch effort to patch a sinking ship. With the captain at the helm, ordering his seamen to patch holes in the hull with duct tape.

Prank videos like these can be funny, and good for a little laugh every now and then, but if you look deeper, it’s actually sort of disturbing to get a glimpse into how little Payless seems to know about consumers. I think the way they produced this video could almost come across as insulting to their customers.

At its core, this video was using projection as a defense mechanism.

Projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world. A common form of projection occurs when an individual, threatened by his own angry feelings, accuses another of harboring hostile thoughts.

So in the case of “The Payless Experiment,” the argument could be made that those at the helm of Payless have unwanted feelings about how their brand is perceived in the market. Rightfully so in light of their bankruptcy and store closings. As a result, they feel threatened. Because of this feeling, they accuse fashionistas, “high-fashion” consumers, and basically anyone who doesn’t want a $20 pair of shoes from Payless of being dumb for how they decide to spend their money.

Like it or not, people purchase products and services based on how it makes them feel, how it connects to their core values, and how they believe it will solve their problems. This is a basic principle of branding. So, of course, it should come as no surprise that someone shopping on Santa Monica Boulevard wants to experience the feeling of buying the latest designer shoe straight from a runway in LA, and they’re willing to spend $500+ on a pair of shoes. On the flip side, someone shopping on a tight budget would want to experience the great feeling of spending $20 with a BOGO deal and getting two pairs of shoes for the price of one.

Neither one is wrong.

This video demonizes the first group, while inadvertently insulting the second group. There’s no need to defend shoppers who shop on budget alone, and there’s no benefit to demonizing luxury consumers who will pay premiums for a different experience. Bottom line, this video is unnecessary.

Lack of Brand Awareness

As mentioned above, this video alienates both their target customers as well as consumers who would never be seen dead at Payless. So it’s a lose-lose for Payless. The truth of the matter, so it seems, is that Payless either 1: doesn’t understand who their actual customers are or 2: doesn’t know how to attract their new desired demographic. Or it could be both.

This experiment doesn’t support their own stated position either. Their market position is literally in their name, “Payless.” Pay. Less.

Anyone who shops at their stores is concerned about one thing, and one thing alone – price.

However, with this video, Payless took a different approach it seems. Focusing primarily on style and quality, the main message seems to drive home the idea that Payless has high-end shoes that rival any expensive designer shoe quality and style. A message that likely doesn’t resonate with, nor matters, to the consumer who enjoy shopping at Payless.

If they are trying to attract a new audience of high-fashion shoppers this experiment has failed. Payless trying to seduce a luxury shopper is just not realistic. This shows a lack of self-awareness on behalf of Payless and the marketing team involved.

This experiment also failed if they were attempting to attract a younger, Instagram, millennial audience. Millennials are one of the biggest demographics of coupon cutters, and penny pinchers in the world. The budget for this video would have been better spent on ads targeting millennials with crazy good deals, and BOGO offers or investing into a better brand strategy.

Conclusion

It’s vital for any brand, no matter the size, to know their customers, know what makes them unique, and be comfortable in your skin. This is the purpose of a brand strategy, and “The Payless Experiment” is a prime example of what can go wrong if you don’t have a strong foundation in place.

This stunt only goes to show that Payless isn’t happy with their perceptions, and is attempting to change that. However, the approach they took with this stunt I think at best had no-impact, or at worse, a negative impact. The only redeeming factor is that it’s received a lot of publicity, and as the saying goes – any publicity is good publicity.


 

Do you agree or disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts. Email me directly at jeremy@longitudebranding.com

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