We love eating out—some have even called it America’s new favorite pastime—but COVID-19 forced restaurant chains to regroup and reinvent themselves in ways they never imagined before.
Americans are now slowly returning to their old routines. Restaurant chains that adapted to pandemic-driven consumer demands have managed to survive and even thrive.
Building local awareness and increasing customer loyalty have always been central to the success of every individual restaurant and restaurant groups overall.
Here are 10 tips for keeping each of your restaurants – and your brand – relevant and enjoying consistent growth:
1. Collect data, define your target audience
Before launching any ad campaign or promotion, it’s crucial to first define your target
audience. To do this, you need to collect data about the location of your restaurant,
demographics, dining out/delivery preferences of the population, competition, and more.
Then you can craft your ads based on the data you collected.
2. Implement proactive digital marketing campaigns
If you’re running a restaurant chain, you likely have a state-of-the-art website, maybe even
an app. But allowing potential customers to discover your website via Google (passive
marketing) isn’t enough—you need to actively market your restaurant via search engine
optimization, social media, email campaigns, Google Ads, and more.
3. Encourage guests to leave positive reviews
Make it easy for customers to leave positive reviews by placing visible QR codes on the
tables or offering loyalty rewards. If you get a bad review for some unfathomable reason,
offering an apology coupled with a free meal can go a long way.
4. Give the people what they want: promos
Customers love promos: contests, freebies, buy one, get one free—you name it. If you can
come up with a promotion specific to your branch’s location, even better. For example, if
you’re based in Long Island, NY, offer a promo for Long Island ice teas. Get creative!
5. Refer-a-friend rewards
Online advertising is crucial, but word of mouth can also go a long way. Offer refer-a-friend
rewards or discounts so that people who come to your restaurant will benefit by
recommending it to a friend. If you’re offering free cash the next time they come to your
restaurant, you can bet there will be a next time.
6. Host events
If space permits, hosting events is a great way to create local awareness and generate loyal
customers. You can host live music by local bands, comedy, open mic, trivia, and sports
nights. Depending on your target audience, you can also have singles nights or family nights, themed nights, holiday nights, and more.
7. Audio branding
Audio branding is one of the newer trends in the restaurant industry, and it involves using
sound and music to create a connection between the restaurant and its customers.
According to Cloud Cover Media, restaurants can use audio branding to impact customers’
buying behavior, boost loyalty, and unify branches.
8. Offer deliveries/drive-thru
COVID restrictions caused dining out to plummet, but on the flip side, takeout orders
surged. Restaurant Hospitality predicts that even as COVID restrictions loosen, Americans
have gotten used to ordering takeout and won’t be stopping any time soon.
If your restaurant can’t afford to offer deliveries, another option is a drive-thru lane.
According to Business Insider, 70% of McDonald’s sales in top markets are from its drive-
thru lanes. While you may not be as big as McDonald’s, you can look at what it’s doing right
and scale it to your own business.
9. Create a loyalty program
Loyalty programs are where it’s at in the U.S. The key to customer loyalty is making them
feel special, and loyalty programs that offer personalized recommendations and rewards do
just that. Loyalty programs that are connected to apps are the best kind. According to Fast Casual, 57% of consumers use restaurant apps to order food. Moreover, there is high consumer demand for local chain restaurant apps—provided that these apps offer easy ordering, easy payment, loyalty rewards, and coupons.
10. Offer great service and delicious food
Simple, right? But really, every promotion and ad needs to be backed by a high-quality
product. In the case of restaurants, people want good food and good service. If you can
excel in these areas, patrons will naturally come back for more.
Dynamic Marketing is Crucial for the Survival of Restaurant Chains
COVID may have changed the restaurant industry, but Statista reports that the majority of
Americans are eager to return to dining out, if they haven’t already done so. By staying on
top of the latest trends and constantly adapting your marketing strategy to consumer
demands, you can maintain a thriving restaurant chain that attracts new customers and
retains its loyal consumer base.