Use Your Restaurant Marketing to Drive Online Orders

online orders.jpgHow restaurants can drive additional transactions without actually getting butts in seats

While getting butts in seats is a goal of every restaurant, not all consumers are looking for a sit-down dining experience. Luckily, many restaurants now offer online ordering (OLO) as a dining option. Having a great OLO program can not only drive more transactions for your restaurant, but it can also tailor them to changing consumer needs and bring in new customers. Here are a few ways you can improve your restaurant’s OLO program.

Get the Word Out

Many restaurants don’t make it well known that you can order their food online. With the change of consumer habits, digitally advertising this offering can provide major benefits. There are two approaches you can take here: increase awareness and drive online sales.

First, make sure people know that you offer online ordering – use search link extensions to talk about online ordering, use standard banner ads, find influencers to blog about their OLO experience with your restaurant and more. The options are pretty endless, but the point is that you need to get the word out that you offer online ordering before people will start ordering online.

Once there is some awareness around your offering, use strategic advertising tactics to drive orders. One of the hardest parts of restaurant marketing is proving that it is working and that your efforts are getting butts in seats. OLO changes that because you can attribute orders to the creative, advertising channel and targeting strategy that helped drive that order.

Set Yourself Up for Success

It is important that consumers can easily order online or else you risk turning people away from your OLO program. Your website should mimic the in-store ordering experience and be easy for everyone to use whether they are digitally savvy or not.

Many restaurants are also turning to mobile apps to improve their OLO experience. In an increasingly mobile world, consumers are already well-versed in using apps. It’s important to remember that your mobile app should provide added value to the consumer (save their order for next time they want to make an order, for example) and not exist just because you think your restaurant needs an app.

Offer Delivery

Even though online ordering provides convenience to consumers, there are some people who are going to be looking for an even higher level of convenience through delivery. Currently, most OLO programs still require the consumer to pick up their order in the restaurant. Offering delivery can set you apart from your competitors, but keep in mind that it’s not a profitable option for all restaurants.

Recently, mobile ordering app developers OLO launched Dispatch, an offering that allows restaurants to take advantage of delivery service without taking on the burden of funding a delivery driver.

With Dispatch, restaurants can run their online ordering program exactly as it is today with the simple addition of a checkbox for delivery at checkout. The user then pays ahead, enters their delivery address, and is shown local delivery service providers. The restaurant wins because they can easily take advantage of delivery service through their current OLO site and the consumer wins because they can take advantage of delivery service from more of their favorite restaurants.

So, if you’re thinking about beginning an online ordering effort, or if you already have a program in place, there’s always room for optimization and improvement. Because, after all, butts in seats still count even if they’re at home.

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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How Much Does The Weather Effect Your Restaurant Marketing?

Weather and Marketing .jpg

How to tailor your marketing message to your local weather.

All marketers and business owners know that there are some factors that impact their business but are beyond their control. For restaurants, one such factor is weather. It may be out of your control, but I’m here to tell you that you can – and should – use weather data to inform your marketing decisions. Let’s get into how you can do this.

Start by mapping historical weather data against your restaurant’s sales and traffic data

The more granular you can get with this, the better. You are looking for patterns – maybe overall sales dip when it rains or snows, but alcohol sales increase.

A temperature increase of as little as two degrees could drive a major increase in lunch traffic. Maybe your restaurants in the northeastern U.S. are less sensitive to drops in temperature or big snows, while your Californian restaurants suffer even when it drizzles even the tiniest bit. It’s up to you to understand how the weather historically impacts your business in order to take advantage of it.

Leverage a weather-based digital advertising partner

There are several vendors offering weather-triggered advertising that can hook into your existing platforms via API.

Based on your findings from your historical analysis, you may reach the conclusion that in certain locations, you always lose sales when there is a snowstorm. It would be a good idea to reduce or completely stop ad spend during these times. This might seem overwhelming if you operate multiple restaurants in various locations, but it’s easy to manage through weather triggers that control your campaign budgets for you.

Develop weather-specific ad creative

Through your weather-triggered advertising partner, you can also serve digital ad creative that is relevant to the consumer’s local weather.

Feature your patio and great margaritas during bouts of sunny weather. Push comfort food menu items or offer buy one, get one for hot beverages during cold weather spells. If you already know that foot traffic to your restaurant will be down during poor weather, that’s a great time to focus your efforts on your online ordering or delivery options.

If one of your locations has just suffered from a natural disaster, leverage your email program to build more loyalty through a “kids eat free” promotion or by letting members know that you will be donating food and supplies to the local emergency aid station.

Maintain a “test and learn” mentality

As with any marketing initiative, it’s important to approach weather-based messaging with a desire to test new ideas and make changes based on your learnings.

About Gina Lee De Freitas

Gina Lee De Freitas has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
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Four Ways To Utilize Location-Based Restaurant Marketing More Effectively

Stores and Restaurants Building ExteriorsTaking advantage of location data to reach consumers and drive restaurant visits.

In today’s technology-driven world, more American adults than ever report owning a smartphone device (68% according to a recent Pew survey) and, depending on the settings of that device, technology companies around the world are collecting location data like it’s going out of style.

Marketers across multiple verticals are using that data to reach consumers more efficiently and more effectively. So the question is: how do restaurants take advantage of location data?

Reach “Near Me” Searchers

Today it is easier than ever to find nearby restaurants, gas stations, and retailers through searches performed on smartphones. According to Google, the restaurant industry is the most searched for industry on mobile browsers in part due to more consumers searching for keywords like “restaurants near me” and “restaurants nearby.”

Make it easy for your consumer to get important information such as your location and hours simply by showing up in their search results when they are within 5-10 miles of your restaurant.

Message Consumers Near Your Restaurant

On a typical day, how far are you willing to drive to get dinner? According to eMarketer, most diners are only willing to drive 5-10 miles to visit a QSR. Additionally, location-based ads have proven to lift casual dining visits by 10.4x.

Utilize your marketing dollars more efficiently by focusing your media on those consumers who are close to your restaurant to help influence their dining decisions. Don’t waste your time and media budget targeting someone who would have to spend an hour in the car just to get to your restaurant.

Take Advantage of the Rise of Mapping Apps

When was the last time you pulled out a map or atlas to figure out how to get somewhere? With smartphones such a major part of our daily lives, the same information is now available at your fingertips – and it’s more dynamic than ever! If there’s an accident on your normal route home from work, any mapping tool is going to give you a quicker way to get home. Over the last few years, these apps have been looking for ways to monetize their offering.

Waze is probably the best example of a company doing this well with their use of “mobile billboards” – so well in fact that Google Maps is working on launching its own version of a similar advertising platform. This is a great way to reach consumers when they are on-the-go and possibly looking for a lunch or dinner option.

Don’t Completely Ignore Diners Further Away from Your Restaurant

Those consumers who live further away from your restaurant shouldn’t be ignored but rather reached strategically. For example, if someone searches for your restaurant, make sure your information shows up regardless of their location. These consumers are obviously interested in your brand and could be more likely to drive further to visit your restaurant.

Set up your website to make it convenient for these users to get the information they’re looking for. Provide a location finder that shows exactly how far away the restaurant is located and if your menu differs across locations make sure you use the user’s current location to determine which menu should be shown.

With so many location-based targeting options available to restaurant marketers, now is the time to help bring your customers to your door a whole lot easier. Get on board now before they pass you by for the next restaurant down the street.

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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Unique Flavors Offer Interesting Content for Restaurant Marketing

Unique flavors.jpg

Adding unique flavors to your ordinary dishes are a great tactic for restaurant marketing.

The last few years have seen a substantial rise in menu items inspired bold heavy flavors like Sriracha and Thai Chili. Perhaps we blame The Food Network but foodies threw around the term ‘umami’ like it was going out of style.  Well, turns out, umami and those flavor-forward sauces are going out of style.

As diners become more educated about their food and are more adventurous about marrying creative flavors, Technomic has identified the following four ingredients as the new heroes of the menu. 

1 . Dark Cherries

Whether chopped in salads, pureed in vinaigrettes or muddled in cocktails, dark cherries offer a sweet, tart note that complements most any meal.  Reduced cherries served over a rosemary-marinated pork tenderloin is sure to please even the most discerning palette.

2. Prickly Pear

Once considered something that only appeared on Chopped, prickly pear is popping up on menus from ranging from casual dining to fine dining.  Prickly pear makes a fantastic mixer for margaritas and mojitos as well as sorbets and tarts.

3. Bitter Greens

Versatile, inexpensive and perceived as among the healthiest things you can put in your body, bitter greens are a huge trend in menu development.  Braised and served with malt vinegar or as an additional level of complexity to a sandwich or salad.

4. Hibiscus

If the previous three ingredients aren’t enough evidence that our taste buds have evolved, the rise in popularity of hibiscus flower is the ultimate proof.  As a flavoring agent in cocktails or for a light dessert, hibiscus allows for the ultimate creativity in menu development.

Flexing your culinary muscle is a great way to show your restaurant’s personality. Have your team create a few recipes using some of these ingredients. Test the recipes out on your staff before ever serving it to a customer. Once your staff gives a dish the “thumbs up” create a Pinterest board. Post photos of your new creation and a brief overview of how to make it. Pinterest is a great place to showcase that your restaurant is a “thought leader” in the culinary space and drive people into your restaurant to try the new dish. Don’t worry about giving out a recipe to your customers, it shows that you are confident in your product and trust me their creation will never be quite as good as yours!

Test these ingredients out in your restaurant with limited-time offers, signature cocktails and happy hour specials. Trend-setting dishes are great fodder for social media, public relations outreach and digital media.

About Gina Lee De Freitas

Gina Lee De Freitas has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
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Drive Lunch Visits via Restaurant Marketing

Lunch.jpg

Restaurants can change the current consumer mindset around lunch to get more guests in-restaurant during the day.

It’s no surprise that casual dining restaurant sales have been suffering for the last few quarters.  However, a number of restaurants are reporting that dinner sales have remained steady and in some cases have increased year over year.  The downfall for sales seems to be coming from the lunch day-part for many Casual Dining Restaurants (CDRs), but can restaurant marketing make a difference?

There are many factors contributing to lower restaurant sales during lunch: consumers have less time to go out and eat lunch, many consumers are trying to save money by packing a lunch regularly, there’s more of a focus on healthy eating.  While it may be a tough road ahead for CDRs, here are some steps for positively impacting your lunch day-part.

Offer Quick Options

Just because your restaurant is in the CDR category doesn’t mean you can’t offer quick options, especially at lunchtime.  Today, many people don’t get a full lunch hour during the workday and can’t go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant.  Give these consumers the option to order online and pick up their order when it’s convenient for them.

While many professionals may not have a lot of time to eat out, it’s nice for them to get out of the office for a few minutes and pick up something quick and easy to eat.  For those who don’t even have time for a quick drive to your restaurant, think about offering delivery or partnering with a delivery service company to meet the needs of even the busiest workers.

Reevaluate Your Menu

Most CDRs have already picked up on the fact that most people don’t want to eat a heavy lunch during the work week.  Make sure your lunch menu focuses on lighter options such as salads and sandwiches.  Also, consider offering smaller portions of some of your popular dinner items.

A double burger and large serving of fries may not be appetizing to someone who will need to go back to the office for 5 more hours, but a single burger with a side salad could suffice for most guests.  Also, forget about apps and drinks as there just isn’t always enough time to fit those in during a lunch hour break.

Offer Significant Lunch Deals

Aside from saving time by not eating out for lunch, many people are also saving money by packing a lunch during the week.  It is obviously going to be very cost efficient to pack leftovers for lunch rather than to go out to eat and restaurants need to keep this in mind when setting lunch prices.

Consider offering a salad and sandwich combo for half the price you would charge at dinner or a bowl of soup for just a few dollars.  While you may not make as much of a profit with these prices, you’ll be more likely to get butts in seats during lunch and help improve the lunchtime deficit.

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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Your Employee’s Are The “Front Line” of Your Restaurant Marketing

front lines .jpgCatering to the customer is not the only contributing factor that makes a restaurant successful.

Restaurant marketing is easy when you have happy friendly employees featured in your advertising. Your employees are the backbone of your restaurant, in order to keep your restaurant up and running smoothly you need to make sure you are being responsible for how it is being run.

Starting with:

  1. Core values and mission: Share the values and mission that you have for the brand with your employees. Without a brand image to uphold your employees won’t be able to properly connect with some of the tasks they are given because they won’t understand why they are being assigned them. Give your employees purpose! Share your core values and mission daily with staff, preferably before each shift begins. Remember, your values and mission should be brief, fine-tuned, and achievable by employees.
  1. Strong leadership: Hire managers that believe in the employees that they manage. Without great management your lower level employee members will feel disengaged with the restaurant and will not recognize the growth potential within the company. Avoid “panic hiring” these types of employees can bring bad habits and usually relate least to the company. Take time to research the latest trends in the workforce to ensure you are using the best hiring techniques. Recruiting is a great way to make sure that you get the best talent without having to wait for them to come to you. Utilize job sites and LinkedIn to recruit top talent in the restaurant industry.
  1. Employee recognition: When an employee does something above and beyond, recognize them! They will feel proud and work hard to maintain this recognition! This technique can be anything from a free meal, putting their photo up in the office or sharing the story on social media. Other employee’s will seek this same recognition!

A restaurant is successful because of the employees that you hire to interact with your customers every day. Showcase your employees in video advertisements, on social media, Domino’s is a great example of this. Their video advertisements show real employee’s doing what they do best, their job!

Your employees are the first form of advertising that customers see. When an employee leaves after their shift and goes to the mall in their branded shirt or uniform customers are still identifying the brand with them. Make sure your employees know to bring a spare change of clothes or something that hides the brand name, customers are always watching!

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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How to Target College Students Through Restaurant Marketing

Chicken and Waffles

A signature item can put your restaurant on the map.

The top 10 most recognized restaurants in college towns are not chains, shocker. In college towns all over America, students are flocking to mom and pop restaurants vs. going to a major chain. Why? Because they offer a more authentic and memorable experience.

If you are a chain restaurant it may be time to make a few tweaks to make your menu to help your brand stand out to the future of America.

Students want to go to a restaurant that they can identify with. You usually don’t see groups of college students walking into an upscale steakhouse on a Tuesday evening, and that is because the atmosphere is all wrong for them and not to mention their pockets probably aren’t very deep.

Aside from the “college student” atmosphere, that usually consists of foosball tables, dart boards, and pool tables these mom and pop restaurants offer something that sets them apart from all the others, a fair priced signature item.

A signature item could be an oversized burger, a specialty side, or a root beer that’s recipe can be traced back to 1895. These items help create a framework for the overall theme of the restaurant.

Having a signature item also gives a restaurant a talking point. It is a “call to action” in a way, because it drives people to a restaurant for a reason.

If you want to drive traffic to your restaurant, think of this first:

  1. Do you already have a popular item on your menu?
  2. Are you in a city where a signature item could set your menu apart from your competitors?
  3. Do you have the resources to create marketing materials or buzz around this item?

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, you should begin discussing this option as a company and see if it aligns with your goals and values. If you answered “no” to all or any of these questions, do some experimenting. Bring in an expert chef to help provoke your chef’s thoughts on developing a signature item. Do some research in the area; what is driving people to your competitors?

College students won’t be the only customers you will tap into with this restaurant marketing method. You will see a variety of customers coming to your restaurant from singles, to families to see what all the “buzz” is about.

You never know where a signature item could take you. You could be lucky enough to end up on “Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives”, or be featured on a restaurant blog!

About Gina Lee De Freitas

Gina Lee De Freitas has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
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Restaurant Marketing: The Rise of Mobile Ordering

E-commerce

Technological advances are revolutionizing restaurant labor.

Let’s face it – advances in modern-day technology have changed our lives for the better. The world we live in is greatly obsessed with high-tech and modern connectivity, which makes it inevitable that the need for personalization will continue to be a driving and dominant force.

Whether it’s shopping, paying bills, posting pictures or chatting with friends, we’re fascinated by the need for personalization paired with our handheld devices. And the reason is simple – convenience.

With just the touch of a button, we have the ability to do many things without being physically present in a restaurant, grocery store or retailer. It’s also the reason why modern-day technology is revolutionizing consumer buying habits as a whole.

Technology advances alone have resulted in a massive shift for restaurant marketers, leading to innovations like mobile payment and automated ordering systems. While tech advancement brings excitement and opportunity, it also may soon eliminate particular roles within the restaurant.

However, more and more restaurant marketers are discovering the new advantages provided by technology are less about reducing staffing than they are about new opportunities to reallocate labor costs. As a result, they are instead evolving the needs and roles of their staff.

Now you can prioritize your attention on processing more orders. Reducing the amount of phone orders means employees will spend less time taking orders and more time preparing meals exactly how your customers want them.

There’s also been an explosion in the last few years with the development of third-party delivery and courier services (think services like GrubHub, Seamless and UberEats). Services like this allow restaurants to maximize efficiency while cutting costs by no longer needing to staff an in-house delivery team.

Rather than delivering orders to customers on one single route, delivery services allow restaurants to connect with third parties nearby who show up at your restaurant just as the meals are being finished. It’s a great thing when you think about how long a customer is typically waiting for their food to arrive.

Which all comes back to that one simple reason: convenience.

The main reason why dialing up a restaurant with your food order is on the way out is that online ordering has become so much more convenient for guests and restaurant operators alike.

Orders are more accurate, transactions happen quicker and payment is always upfront. And being able to save information like past orders, favorite items and credit card information means your customers will appreciate the ease and efficiency and continue to order from your mobile app. These things combine to increase revenue, and who doesn’t like that?

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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Use Restaurant Marketing to Keep Your Customers Up-To-Date on Menu Changes

menu of the day.jpg

Your guests need to know when you make edits to your drink menu and food menu.

Is your craft beer selection changing by the hour or even faster? Are you hosting special events on a regular basis?

Then it’s time to keep your customers and fans up-to-date with exactly what’s going on at any given time. Nothing kills sales quicker than a group of friends showing up expecting a hard-to-find beer on tap only to find out the keg was kicked days before. Or a couple coming in on a date for a unique and seasonal menu item…and finding out you sold out of it yesterday.

Luckily, you’ve got a wide variety of technology options at your fingertips to inform, boost sales and (hopefully) make everyone happy all at the same time.

Let’s start with your food menu. Are you running a daily special? Maybe your chef finds something incredibly fresh and seasonal at your farmers’ market and wants to use it tonight. No problem. Hit up your usual social channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) with a quick post and an enticing image. Then, once it sells out, send out another quick post.

When it comes to something like your craft beer menu, the options open up even more. With apps and websites like Untappd, BeerMenus and TapHunter, you can create an account then easily post and update your menu on the fly. As kegs kick or as bottles and cans sell out and you put new ones on, send out an update! That way, you don’t have upset customers walking in then walking right back out when that keg of Zombie Dust they were expecting to find is gone.

Another way to maximize your beer sales through technology. Social media, of course. Hosting a tap takeover? Getting in the only keg of a super rare beer in your area? Create a Facebook event, tweet about it regularly in the days and weeks leading up to the day/night, Instagram the keg collar, add some paid support on Facebook in the form of sponsored posts, etc.

As each beer sells out during your event, post updates both in the event itself, as well as on your normal social channels.

Plus, every time you host any other special event, make sure you create a Facebook event then encourage your followers on Facebook to RSVP to the event. Post the event on your page when you initially create it, then once a week post a reminder for those who may not have seen it originally. And when you have updates for the event, post them in the event itself so anyone who has indicated they are going or interested will see the posts pop up in their Facebook notifications.

Keeping up with things as they happen may take some time and a little effort, but you are sure to see positivity in your bottom line in no time.

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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Consumer Reviews Influence Your Restaurant Marketing Efforts

Businessman hand giving five star rating, Feedback concept

Unique customer reviews are the best way to the top of positive search results.

No one wants to display a review from the jerk who says your water sucks. But Google’s new review guidelines are asking you to do just that: display both positive and negative reviews. And that’s not the worst thing. There’s also an entirely new set of review guidelines restaurants need to follow if they want to maintain their rankings.

By now restaurant industry experts understand the importance of reviews. They increase traffic, online orders and overall loyalty to a brand. It’s no surprise review aggregators – scrapers that collect reviews across the web – are a desirable solution to add reviews to your website.

That’s why nearly half of Fortune 500 companies work with partners like BazaarVoice who, in part, help curate customer reviews for businesses. But until recently, the way reviews affect Google rankings haven’t been clear (outside of the mantra of “reviews + website = good”). But that’s changed.

Here’s the best way to utilize reviews without compromising rankings, according to Google’s updated review guidelines. All of these steps should be understood through the “Google lens,” the basic SEO philosophy that everything an SEO expert does should provide a better experience for users.

Consider what you’re about to read Google’s three commandments (for reviews). Do it or therefore spend eternity in page-two SERP ranking hell.

1.  Thou shalt not use third party reviews. Reviews drive sales because users think they’re getting content that’s unique and truthful, not something cherry-picked from another website by your marketing intern. Google recommends only using reviews that come directly from your site. That means you can’t scrape other sites like Yelp or OpenTable for reviews. They need to come directly from your site.

2. This one’s tough, but Google says it’s important to facilitate an environment where positive and negative reviews are possible. And it makes sense, right? There’s something untrustworthy about anything with unanimous approval.

3. If a local franchise has great service, that service doesn’t apply to every restaurant this company owns. As a result, reviews from multiple-location restaurants only count for the specific location they were written about. So in my case, thank you Chick-fil-A of Longmont, CO for always having chicken sandwiches that are unstoppable.

These new rules from Google are key to their philosophy and my philosophy.

When it comes to restaurant marketing and SEO, always operate under the Google lens: what’s good for the user brings positive search results.

About Gina Lee De Freitas

Gina Lee De Freitas has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
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