Use Your Restaurant Marketing to Stand Out Amongst Competition

Competition.jpgSet your brand apart from your competition by creating commercials that include more than just shots of food.

It’s not hard to miss the recycled ingredients of the usual CDR commercials: sizzling close-ups of slow-mo food porn, diverse groups of hysterical folks having the most fun they’ve had in 25 years and a touch of a super-caffeinated voice actor. But let’s dissect this recipe and look at exactly why it’s hurting CDR. Let’s also examine the standout fast casual star and why CDR should take notes.

To understand the formula, let’s play a quick game called Whose Commercial is This?


It’s a pretty tough game, right? For those keeping score that’s Applebee’s, Chili’s, Outback, TGI Fridays and Olive Garden.

And seasoned CDR advertisers could likely spot the subtle differences from these frames. Some might even stress the importance of this type of marketing. We know, for example, that showing images of food increases intent to visit scores. We understand that CDRs need to retain key customer segments, while attracting younger audiences. Ultimately, the challenge is that messaging has to have the widest appeal possible.

But these types of commercials raise a few problems…

For traditional TV marketing, it makes sense for spots to have the widest appeal possible, especially when the primary key performance indicator is reach. But in the world of digital and streaming devices, where surgical targeting is available, these ads make less sense. But over and over, we see TV spots recycled for digital and this is tanking more accountable KPIs like engagement, completion rates and online orders.

Some CDR leaders are beginning to understand the dilemma.

“Over time the category advertising, casual dining advertising in particular, started to blend and look very similar,” said Chili’s SVP/Chief Marketing Officer Krista Gibson in a recent AdAge interview. “Lots of shots of fresh ingredients and lots of shots of food. We just felt like our creative and our campaign wasn’t breaking through.”

As a result, Chili’s recently differentiated their hero campaign “Fresh is Happening Now” for “Chilin’ Since ’75,” a campaign that rides the feel-good wave of the ‘70s and moves away from food glamour shots.

Chipotle takes it a step further – their commercials don’t feature food at all. For the most part, they lean heavily on animation rather than film, and their digital content is built for digital only – not an overweight Frankenstein TV spot trying to fit into a well-targeted digital campaign.

Set your brand apart from competition by creating commercials that include more than just shots of food.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 17+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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