07 July 2021
Too many food service operators—particularly in casual restaurant formats, and specifically, the more premium casual restaurant concepts—misjudge the multiplier effect of a strong weekday lunch business. Sure, you can simplify the menu and turn over the tables a lot (sometimes) faster, but some operators still argue that even so, there’s not enough return to invest more when the tickets and the margins are often much less. So why should you invest in lunchtime traffic, even if ticket sizes are better later in the day? That reason alone is actually exactly why—because lunchtime guests are also more likely to visit your restaurant in the evening and on weekend … when they’ll spend even more. For guests, lunch is often about convenience. (For operators offering quality food service, that’s too often.) But consider this: When hanging out socially with family or friends, we all want a dining option that’s reliable and predictable. In short: familiar. Lunch guests also are more likely to bring new guests with them. The destination for a midday meal at work is usually the product of a negotiation, meaning it’s likely there’s one or more people in a party for whom your restaurant wasn’t previously in consideration. And because work lunches are social occasions, they’re a popular topic of conversation around the office, with coworkers asking where others are going, where they went, what they ordered and if they’d recommend it. Serving up a pleasant lunch experience also lets you leverage the social psychology of your guests to build your brand: People like to be the first in their network to discover a new experience, whether it’s a restaurant, a band or a joke. Being in the conversation is another step toward more effective restaurant marketing. So, how do you build the lunch business at your restaurant? Here a few common approaches we’ve worked with clients to implement over the years, with QSRs and casual and premium casual restaurants alike. Restaurant loyalty programs The mere mention of loyalty programs—whether you call them rewards clubs or SUBscriptions or what have you—make some operators’ eyes squint. Here’s a secret: Many restaurant guests feel the same way. But you can do better. First, don’t make your guests carry around a ragged old card when they’ve already got a perfectly good mobile device in their pockets. Go digital. Make it shareable, so they can brag to their friends that they’re eating for free (and WHERE). Most important, don’t make it an annuity program. If the reward is the incentive, make it attainable, even if it’s less than a complimentary meal. Offer discounts on sides or select beverages at a lower transaction count to keep guests engaged. Pass-along promotions You want them to talk about their positive lunch experience when they get back to the office, right? Give them something to share, like a certificate for an upgrade on a meal for two that’s valid within the next week or so. Give them something to offer their coworkers to come along next time. Bounce-back promotions Casual formats that serve alcohol have even more options. For example, while lunch for most people is a timed exercise, after-work drinks and appetizers usually are not. An incentive to return the same day with a party of four or more means an additional table, probably bigger ticket, and definitely more margin. It likely will take some experimentation, but a discount on the second appetizer is a great place to start the bidding. Online ordering Lunch guests during the workday are on a timer. They have a finite amount of time to get to your restaurant, appreciate the superior experience you deliver, run that errand and get back to their desks before the bell rings. You can put their mind at ease by taking their orders—and their payment—in advance digitally. By scheduling their meal time instead of their seating time, you not only save their time waiting for food prep, you save your time waiting for that table to turn over. Limited delivery Consider a delivery model that suits your specific menu and margins. Delivery has become an expectation in many segments, particularly following the madness of 2020, but there are strategies for restaurant delivery that can keep the hands of the Silicon Valley app bros out of your pocket. Set minimum order sizes and delivery areas to mimic catering offers, for example. Also consider limiting your delivery menu to those items you’re confident will travel well. Sampling Contact businesses in your area to offer sampler trays of your best catering menu items. Just do your research first. The person whose lunch you really want to pay for is the one who makes the catering decisions, not the guy who answers the phone. Depending on the particular company, that’s usually someone with a title like office manager, business manager or the admin to the CEO. Call first and schedule a day and time that’s best for them. Business card drawings Hey, I never said these would all be new, but you can make more of collecting business cards than a one-time giveaway. Rewarding your lucky winners with the social status of bringing two or three of their friends to your restaurant at lunch is obvious. But also track where those cards are coming from, month over month. If you see a rising number of visits from employees at a certain company, make sure you’re letting the person in charge of their catering orders or their business lunch scheduling know that your menu is the house favorite. The food service industry faces challenges today that most of us have never experienced. Rather than see that as a negative, view it as the best time get creative. Try different combinations and variations of these approaches. Soon, you’ll find the idea that works best not just for your guests, but for your business. Now, go finish your shift.
07 April 2021
The best marketing strategy in the world can only have temporary results if it doesn’t account for the entire customer experience. Sure, our first job is to get people in the door, on the lot or to the website, but that’s just the beginning of the journey. I was lucky to learn this at my first and only job before I started my professional career. I was working at a high-end butcher shop in downtown Cincinnati where the clientele had expectations for their rack of lamb just as high as my current clients do for their multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns. How does a teenager become a butcher at such a place and what did I learn from my time working there? For the first question, ask my dad. For the second, I think it’s safe to say that I learned as much working as a butcher as I did in college. Scary, right? The most important lesson I learned there is that the customer experience is just as important as the product. This is easy to overlook while organizations focus on product and process, but it can be the most important part of your business plan. Marketing’s job isn’t over when the customer comes through the door. In some ways it’s just beginning. Think about it. One of the first lessons at the butcher shop was wrapping orders. At the time I didn’t understand why my father made such a big deal about it. Finally, he explained that the package that goes out the door is a big part of the customer experience. The way it feels in our guest’s hands, the way it looks that afternoon in the refrigerator. The appearance, the aroma, the reveal when he first unwraps his roast or chops to start cooking. All those moments are an opportunity to reinforce his decision to choose us. The challenge is to own as many of those moments as possible. Why is that customer in the market in the first place? It’s a butcher shop, so the simple answer is for food. But probably not because they’re hungry. Usually, our customers were preparing a meal to be shared with others, and likely somebody they wanted to impress. That changes the equation. It means they need more than just quality product. They want and expect our expertise beyond which cut is particularly good that day. We’d make suggestions for preparation and serving, selecting side dishes and other ideas for making their meal a success. We understood that we were playing a role in that special meal and it could very well be one of the most important occasions in our customer’s week … or career or relationship. And the customer experience isn’t complete until the dishes are cleared from the table. How you create an unforgettable customer experience will be specific to your business, products or services, and target audience. However, there are some things that all businesses can do to improve their customer experience. These may seem basic, but in our experience, they’re often overlooked. Ready? Here are our top two tips for creating an unforgettable customer experience. Plus, how St. Gregory can help you implement them. Customer Experience Tip 1: Be Convenient There are many different ways that customers might communicate with your business, including: Phone calls Face-to-face interactions Text messages Online chats Social media messages Website forms Emails Old fashioned snail mail How your customers (and potential customers) prefer to communicate with you about your products or services will depend on a lot of factors such as the urgency of their need and audience demographics like age. Do not force your customers to conform to your preferred methods of communication! Instead, take steps to identify which channels your customers prefer and make yourself available. When it comes to customer experience tip one, St. Gregory can help you identify those preferred communication channels by mining any existing website and marketing data, such as that from Google Analytics, and conducting consumer research. Pro tip: Keep in mind that some people may prefer no communication. Part of being convenient is making it easy for people to find the information they need without having to reach out to you and wait for a response. This can be achieved through website copy, blog posts, an online knowledge base, or chatbots. St. Gregory has experienced copywriters that can help craft search engine optimized and user-friendly copy that conveys necessary information. In addition, our web designers can help you make smart user experience decisions that will make your website more accessible to current and perspective customers. Customer Experience Tip 2: Learn and Grow Guess who knows what your customers really want … that’s right, your customers. In order to create that unforgettable customer experience, you have to listen to current, perspective, and yes, former customers. How you solicit this feedback may vary. Here are a few possible options: Customer experience surveys that are sent out after a product is purchased or after a service is provided. Polls sent out to social media audiences or email lists. Polls conducted at community events or community gathering places. Online reviews. Ask your customers and audiences for their opinion and feedback. Analyze the information you receive for opportunities. Then, and this is the most important part, use that knowledge to improve the customer experience! Feedback is useless if you don’t actually learn from it. At St. Gregory, our public relations specialists can help you design reputation management and community engagement plans that includes soliciting customer feedback and reviews. Bonus, not only will online reviews help you improve your customer experience, they can also help you make more sales. A study by the Spiegel Research Center showed that the “likelihood of a product getting purchased increases 270% when it gets five reviews.” Yes, 270%. That is not a typo. And notice that it’s just five reviews; the study did not specify positive versus negative reviews. While you do not want a bevy of bad reviews, a few will not sink your ship, so to speak. In fact, one or two bad reviews mixed in with a bunch of stellar reviews can actually make your business seem more credible. Speaking of negative reviews…. It can be hard to receive critical feedback, especially in a public setting such as Google or Facebook. However, remember, every complaint is an opportunity to provide an unforgettable customer experience. How you act in the face of negativity can be far more telling than how you act when everything is going perfectly. When you do receive a negative review, before responding, read our tips on how to handle negative reviews. St. Gregory is a full-service marketing agency. That means we can help with all of your marketing and customer experience needs including digital and traditional marketing, public relations and community engagement, reputation management, and creative needs like graphic design, video production, and content marketing. We’d love to talk to you about how to take your customer experience to a buzz-worthy level. For a free consultation on how we might be an asset to your business, contact us today.
25 June 2020
Marketing professionals are inundated with data. We have economic indicators, demographics, web analytics, SKU mixes, pivot tables to compare trendlines and dashboards to keep track of whatever random statistic the boss or the board is likely to ask about next. We’re confirmed believers in the science of marketing. The data revolution has given us access to consumers and business decision makers—not only where they collect information, but also when they’re ready to consider a purchase. Talking to the right person at the right time is only as effective as the message you deliver when you reach them. This is why there will never be too much creative talent in advertising. It has to be relevant, useful and all the other important marketing jargon we use every day, of course. But it also needs to play to the unconscious expectations of the buyer: What do they *really* want … aside from a new pair of sneakers or whatever? Why this style or this brand? If you own a car, why did you pick that particular make, model and trim package? (Not the reasons you tell your partner, but the other reasons?) Chances are it had as much to do with how you feel about driving it, being seen in it, or even telling people what kind of car you drive as it did with gas mileage or towing power. When Lee Iacocca launched the original Mustang at Ford in 1964, he had a novel suggestion for sales managers at their network of dealerships. Several days after the sale, he recommended calling the new car owner and asking them one simple question: “What do your friends think of your new Mustang?” Because it makes a difference. Subscribe to our blog to get updates when new posts are available.
07 May 2020
In every category, there’s a baseline level of competence that customers expect. But long-term brand success depends on the consumer preferring not just your product, but the experience of doing business with you. If the food is perfect, but the atmosphere is unattractive, diners won’t come back. If your service is efficient but your technicians are sloppy, nobody wants them back in their home. If your product is a great value but the cashier is rude, shoppers will take their business somewhere else. Exceeding those expectations is what fosters long-term customer loyalty. And that’s harder than ever in a socially distanced world. It’s not like front-line employees aren’t already going above and beyond the call. But even a slight added value in the customer experience can make a difference. You may have noticed this in action already. Some restaurants not traditionally in the carryout business have been forced to earn their chops in a hurry and it’s clear who gets it. It’s impossible to replicate a fine dining experience in a drive-thru window, no matter how well prepared and packaged the food is. But by making the experience of picking up the order more pleasant, or adding a small surprise to the unpacking at home, brands are giving their customers another reason to come back. And, ideally, even a positive story to share. In-home service providers naturally are taking extra precautions to protect their providers and the families they serve. Some of these changes are obvious, but not all. By making the extra time and effort apparent—sharing a checklist or sending a pre-call email, for example—brands can gain the lasting trust of homeowners that builds repeat business and referrals. One of the greatest business casualties of COVID-19 social distancing may be the one asset that’s hardest to replace. Even for businesses who continue to operate during stay-at-home orders, the customer experience has been changed dramatically. This is a tremendous opportunity for brands to invest in experience, while brands that miss the opportunity could be nudged toward commoditization. Or worse. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
29 April 2020
If you’re from the do-more-with-less school of marketing, what a time to be alive for you. But for brands who need to stay engaged with their audiences despite social distancing and restrictions on the size of gatherings, the last few weeks have been a time to get creative. Absent the ability to pull together photo or video shoots, many marketers have been forced to rely on existing assets or (horrors!) stock images and video. But some organizations have turned to their people and members of their own audiences for new content that’s both fresh and relevant. And when the content and execution matches brand identity, the shared experiences can be not just impressive, but inspiring. An example of that is the Parks @ Home campaign from our friends (and clients) at Great Parks of Hamilton County. The parks remain open, but with picnic areas, playground equipment and especially restrooms off-limits, it can be challenging for families with young children to enjoy a visit, even on a beautiful spring day. With the help of the Great Parks pros, they’ve created online experiences, educational content, learning activities and enriching games to engage kids and their parents. http://stgregory.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20_0442_GREATPARKS_FAMILIES_15_HD.mp4 Most notably, it presents an opportunity for members of their audience to connect with each other through the program, with shared activities and exercises that foster conversation and build lasting engagement. Great Parks has some distinct advantages and they’ve created a way to leverage those assets to keep their audiences engaged during social distancing. Brands who do likewise will see it pay off once we get back to something closer to normal. What’s your brand’s advantage?
04 December 2019
Any plan for identifying, targeting and attracting customers to your brand almost always involves some sort of analysis of the customer journey. It’s the path from the Zero Moment of Truth, through something like a Sales Funnel, and leading ultimately to the Last Three Feet. Then we’re done, right? Everybody high-five and start filling out the awards submissions. The reality is that last moment of truth is not where the marketer’s job ends—it’s just where it starts over. With some notable exceptions—burial plots come immediately to mind—most of the brands and clients we serve are hoping for something more than a one-off transaction. So, what can we do to keep those customers coming back for more? First, be certain that the earliest customer experience is not only more than they expect, but clearly what they expect. Advertising messages that confuse your audience or imply a different kind of experience will leave guests confused, disappointed or worse. That means that a clear definition of who the product or service is for has to be baked into your strategy. This requires an analysis that goes beyond demographics or psychographics and gets to what customer need that initial purchase meets. It’s fair to say that the MegaMart and the art gallery have very different customer profiles, but patrons of the arts still, on occasion, need batteries or shoelaces. Second, anticipate that there still will be customers who walk away confused, disappointed or worse. Whether it’s because of an operations issue or a disconnect in your messaging doesn’t matter—it’s still marketing’s problem to address. There once was a saying that a satisfied customer tells two people, but a dissatisfied one tells 12. That’s still mostly true, but through social media that unhappy customer could reach 12 dozen or 12,000 in a matter of hours. Have a plan for responding to these situations that in a way that reinforces your accurate brand story and reinforces your commitment to meeting and exceeding expectations. Third—and this where the journey starts over at the beginning—your marketing plan needs to remind all those happy (or at least satisfied) customers about the best parts of their experience invite them back. Many mass-market retailers and food service establishments solicit comments at the cash register or create rewarded surveys. For high-value purchases or those that are less frequent, consider a personal contact to ask about the experience—good or bad—and even to ask for referrals. With so many options for any service or product in the market, brands need to make sure that every step the customer takes with you is on the right path. The first transaction is just the beginning of the relationship. And the beginning of a new journey.