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.
10 September 2020
Being creative as a brand is always a must—and staying creative during a pandemic, well, that’s even more of a must. With so many businesses taking a hit and modifying marketing plans, we’re impressed at those who’ve decided to take a somewhat different approach … as we like to call it, “the smile effect.” For instance, take Kraft Heinz’s lemonade brand, Country Time. The imaginative group launched a new campaign called “The Littlest Bailout Relief Fund” that will send stimulus checks at random to kids who had to close their summer lemonade stands due to the pandemic. Parents simply enter their kid’s name on a microsite for their chance to win a $100 commemorative check and prepaid gift card. As the voiceover says, “Now the smallest of small businesses are about to get some help.” Cue the smiles. Country Time isn’t the only brand focused on the littles. Great Parks of Hamilton County felt the tears from miles away when news broke that playgrounds and picnic areas were off-limits earlier this year. That didn’t stop them, however, from bringing the park (and fun educational content) to the kids. But it’s not just young ones who are feeling blue this summer. Anyone with PTO on their hands is lamenting canceled cross-country vacation plans. While staycations are likely the most popular option for the foreseeable future, Audible UK tapped into consumers’ pent-up yearning to get out and explore after months of quarantine. Thanks to a new 30-second spot mimicking the oh-so-familiar welcome and safety message airlines broadcast before takeoff, as well as vintage-style images recalling the golden age of flying, “Fly Audible” repositions the audio book seller as a travel company (and reminds us that books truly can take us anywhere). Head to Hogwarts or Mars … no matter which destination you choose, it will be somewhere other than your living room. Perhaps the most heart-tugging campaign comes by way of Heineken. Their “Ode to Close” commercial puts a spotlight on the closeness we miss—and the closeness we feel by being apart. It’s the perfect happy hour inspiration. Rather than being stale and stagnant, brands are facing the facts: in order to stay in the black, they’ve got to get inventive in 2020. Scrap the plans and knock consumers’ socks off with something totally new (and smile-worthy) instead. Not only will it build brand loyalty and morale in the midst of the pandemic, but it can boost profits, too. Let the creatives, marketers, product peeps, heck … even management … flex their innovative muscle. If we’re all stuck in this together, why not have a little fun? Your business (and consumers) will thank you With a big #smile, of course. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
28 July 2020
Author: Daniel Lally
There’s a saying among litigators that goes something like this: If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the law is on your side, pound the law. If neither is on your side, pound the table. The thing about that maxim is that it works equally well as a mocking review of almost any argument with which you disagree, or as pretty solid career advice for anyone who aspires to persuade people for a living. Like lawyers. Or advertisers. That’s because marketing strategy depends on having a conversation with your customers that is both relevant to them and highlights the specific benefits of your brand. In the late 1960s, major home appliances like washing machines had become harder for advertisers to differentiate. The performance and features offered by the big manufacturers were pretty comparable, particularly when it came to higher-end models. But one copywriter at Leo Burnett found a way to frame the purchasing decision in a way that ensured his client would definitely stand out. The insight pointed out the worst part of owning a major appliance was when it stopped working. Other, larger competitors pointed to their national networks of factory-trained repair technicians, but based on that insight, they were making the wrong case. And so, the Maytag Repairman came to be. With a single idea, Maytag changed the conversation from which machine was bigger or got whites brighter to which one you could actually depend on. Framed that way, Maytag would continue to chip away at the market share of its much larger competitors for another 35 years or so, when one of them finally gave in and bought the company. Combine a new insight with a creative idea and you’ve got a powerful force. These are the proverbial unicorns—those truly revolutionary products that are exactly what everybody wanted or needed and just didn’t know it until a new gizmo came along. This week in particular, air conditioning comes to mind. But if your brand has real competition, and your customers have real options, you’ll likely benefit from framing the discussion to the context that best suits your benefits. Which conversation you decide to have can make all the difference.
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.
03 June 2020
Author: Natalie Shawver
Over the past three months, we’ve seen the world change drastically. We’re wearing masks in public, helping our children round out their school year virtually and becoming accustomed to the “new normal” of social distancing—in almost every capacity. Brands and businesses have exhibited sheer determination and utter brilliant displays of nimbleness—and frankly, we’re impressed. So impressed, in fact, that we’re hoping much of it sticks around. Whether it’s contactless Pizza Hut deliveries or curbside pickups from Kohl’s, social interaction has shifted. No longer do we have to physically engage with someone behind a register for our goods and services. Send a text, wait in your car and the item will be deposited into your trunk. Wave goodbye to the retail associate and be on your way. Easy peasy. Businesses have proven, again and again, that they can put the customer first throughout the recent COVID-19 crisis. Amping up email marketing with “don’t worry, we’ll come to you!” messages and social media updates (new hours, specials or dedicated shopping times for at-risk individuals) are what we’ve come to expect. Quick virtual chats with our doctors means less time twiddling our thumbs in waiting rooms. Online grocery orders with a specific pickup time have become the highlight of our weekly to-do list. Librarians bringing books to our vehicles instead of making us search the hold shelf ourselves … glorious. So the question becomes, what remains? Does the general public expect this no-touch-minimal-interaction to be a thing forever? Perhaps. There’s no denying much of the recent purchase process modifications has given us our time back—but it’s also shifted our focus back to the basics. Consumers have a need; companies rise to meet it. The days of someone filling up our gas tank are long gone … or are they? What about milkmen delivering straight to your door? Hmmm … seems eerily familiar. Has the pandemic simply made us return to the level of service we (or our grandparents) once were accustomed to? The time when the customer’s needs came first—and that made for happier, more loyal, more satisfied customers … which therefore meant more business? Maybe. The touchpoints may be slightly different, but the journey remains the same. Hermits, germaphobes, clock-watchers and the like aren’t complaining about this added layer of instant gratification we seem to be living in. Amazon may have been ahead of its time with Prime, but the rest of the world bent over backward to stay in business and think outside the box. Kudos to operations teams everywhere. Our economy has stayed afloat thanks to your inventive and ingenious ways. And bravo to all those making it come to life. We’re saluting you with our mobile Starbucks order while we run weekend errands without ever stepping foot inside a store. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
20 April 2020
Operating during Coronavirus is as new for your customers as it is for all of us. Every opportunity counts, while your consumers are changing their behavior simultaneously online and in real life. As these shifts continue, our reaction time as marketers is even shorter. This presents opportunities for your brand—as well as your competitor’s—to capture their attention through your digital content. And your customers want to hear from you. In fact, Kantar found that only eight percent of consumers think companies should stop advertising during the outbreak. Be present This is not the time to go dark—either in your social media channels or your website content. Consumer behavior has changed considerably on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Traffic is up, but visits are more kinetic. It’s as if our collective attention spans have gotten even shorter as we process a flood of new information. Maintaining a brand presence between customer touchpoints is always important and relevant and useful information will keep your brand in the consciousness of both consumers and search engines. Be helpful That relevant information should include ways your organization can help in these unusual times. Have you changed operating hours or procedures to serve your customers and protect them and your staff? Tell us about it. Are you pausing operations but scheduling service for the future? Let us know how your biggest fans can get to the head of the line. Do you have a product or service that is particularly useful during quarantine? By all means, tell us more! Be clear Sharing details about doing business with your brand is really only helpful if it’s relevant to the customer. You’re changing your hours to sanitize your vehicles? Lay out how that affects the customer. Having inventory issues? Communicate exactly what is in-stock, what’s not and when you expect that to change. Phone lines jammed? Share that immediately through every other channel at your disposal. People understand these are unusual times for you, too, and they’re willing to be patient when they have a clear understanding. Be consistent Don’t fall into the trap of communicating with your customers once and calling it a day. Update at least as frequently as you did during normal times. Remember, a good part of your content will be pushed down people’s news feeds by the latest news, along with graduation pictures from 1997. Stay active to stay relevant. Be a connector A major theme in much of the consumer-generated content right now is staying connected. People are feeling isolated and are eager for human contact. If possible, demonstrate how your brand brings people together by acknowledging your online community and inviting them to join with your company—and each other—in some community effort. Salute local amateur athletes who lost their spring sports season. Repost the community theater’s rehearsal video. Recognize local students or civic organizations for community service. Be grateful Remember to thank your customers—and your casual followers—for remaining with your brand through this situation. Thank them for their efforts and their sacrifice to stay healthy and help to shorten the duration. Most important, thank your employees—the line staff, technicians, phone center representatives, all of them—who one way or another are facing new challenges right now. Also remember your vendors. A little appreciation, even when you’re the one writing the checks—can go a long way to keeping your supply chain running smoothly now and when we get back to something approaching normal. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
19 February 2020
Author: Daniel Lally
Despite an era of digital connectivity and easy access to information, there’s still no substitute for real-life experience. We all want to see the elephant for ourselves. Or the dual-outboard 900-horsepower pontoon boat as the case may be. That’s what we saw a couple of weeks ago as our Client Renfro Productions raised the curtain on their new edition of the Ford Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show. A consumer show for outdoor enthusiasts presents the easy paradox of requiring attendees to be indoors and surrounded by tens of thousands of other people who also prefer solitude and open spaces. And yet they came. For 63 years now, this show has curated the top experts and equipment for fishing, hunting, boating, powersports, adventure travel and more from across North America. But just as important, it brings together enthusiasts, giving them the opportunity to share their knowledge, experiences and secrets. Despite all the technology, people will always want to be around people like them. We are naturally attracted to others with a shared experience (family holiday gatherings excepted). That makes the crowds of other outdoor enthusiasts a feature. Every year around Labor Day, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, tens of thousands of people who share a different sort of common identity come together to build a city that lasts only eight days. Artists, performers, self-expressionists, individualists and myriad other non-conformists travel hundreds or even thousands of miles just to spend a week with their own tribe. Most (ahem) of what they do in the desert could just as easily be done at home. And yet they come. To belong to something they feel a part of. Like people do.
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.