The Ideal Interrelationship of Restaurant Marketing and Operations

Business Team Meeting Strategy Marketing Cafe ConceptWhen it comes to restaurant management, there’s an inherent disconnect between operations and marketing.

Although their end goals are the same, the different paths they may travel to reach that destination can end up putting both factions on a rocky road. At a basic level, marketing and operations function in a circle.

For promotions, marketing creates a campaign to attract guests; operations executes the campaign and provides feedback/results to marketing. For Limited Time Offers (LTOs), the cycle is reversed with operations creating the LTO that marketing is then tasked with promoting. Considering the cyclical nature of this process, along with the natural overlap and dependence on each other for success, marketing and Operations must see each other as allies, not enemies.

To be completely aligned, operations and marketing should do their very best to understand the challenges faced by the other department. Operations teams are built to innovate and deliver good, scalable, consistent food and dining experiences, while marketing is always looking for something unique to offer new and existing guests.

Operations are tuned in to the here and now (i.e. guest feedback, current food costs, menu mix). Marketing, on the other hand, lives in the future; in a world of “what if?” When the two mindsets work in tandem, magic is possible.

Marketing has access to information that can shape operational decisions in meaningful ways, ultimately creating a better overall experience for consumers. The best marketers can detect trends in areas such as taste preferences, social chatter, and industry growth, and inform operations so that they can quickly adjust menus or server training based on that information.

Furthermore, monitoring should be a collaborative exercise between marketing and operations to ensure that the most important and meaningful metrics are gathered. Flavor partialities, protein penchants, healthy vs. indulgent proclivities, and even basic lunch or dinner preferences, can be measured over time to identify trend shifts and proactively solve potential problems before they occur.

If your restaurant already encourages an open dialogue between operations and marketing, your guests likely recognize that you offer a consistent experience with interesting menu options.

If your Operations and Marketing departments are not in regular communication, it’s time to start opening those lines and building bridges now. A marketing initiative should never leave the department without being vetted for operational feasibility.  Conversely, operations should strive to keep marketing informed of the most current information and feedback, whether negative or positive.

When marketing and operations work together, it not only makes for a more harmonious work environment, but a more satisfying experience for guests.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 18+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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Target Millennials With Your Modern Day Restaurant Marketing

millennials .jpgIn a world where Millennials rule, efficient methods of restaurant marketing must cater to a more educated and stimulated audience.

Millennials are driven by creativity and the desire for a personalized experience; look at their Instagram feed and you’ll see the reflection of their ‘unique selves’.

Being the ‘special unicorns’ that they are – a term coined by the Huffington Post in 2013 – Millennial expectations often exceed reality: they feel entitled to quality experiences. Due to this, restaurants need to be constantly putting their best foot forward in terms of appearance and reputation. This all starts internally, within the very walls of the restaurant itself. ”Cleanliness is next to Godliness” has never been more true when looking at the following list of reasons that disparage repeat restaurant visits from these ‘special unicorns’.

Based on a survey conducted by Harris Poll of 2,034 U.S. Millennials, the top five factors that turned diners away from a restaurant were:

  • Dirty surfaces
  • Unpleasant/foul smelling orders
  • Unkempt/dirty restrooms
  • Slippery/dirty floors
  • Entryway/exterior cleanliness

It seems a bit rudimentary that a restaurant would host a clean dining environment, however this is made even more important considering that Millennials love to ‘gram’ their food. With expectations already set for a quality experience, clean dining is monumentally important. Additionally, the décor must also feed into the overall dining experience. By creating an environment that is out of the ordinary, a restaurant can turn dining into an event.

Further, the dimensionality of the dining experience by incentivizing guests to engage with the restaurant through photos. Create a hashtag, repost pictures taken by diners and encourage creativity through individualized recognition on the restaurant’s owned Instagram. Certainly, these ‘special unicorns’ will not be able to resist a restaurant marketing tactic such as this – a tactic that embraces, plays to, recognizes and encourages their creativity and uniqueness.

Creativity can be further played to by capturing the process of day-to-day activities done in the front of house/back of house arenas. Share the experience of the work and passion that goes into the restaurant – share the things guests never get to see and create a real human connection out of the work that is constantly done.

Through utilizing Instagram, restaurants can capture Millennials in real time with authentic content, while also playing to their creativity and sense of special uniqueness. Restaurants are able to further employ individualized attention to their guests through the platform of Instagram by encouraging guests to photograph their experience with the intention of reposting their photo.

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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The 3 Mistakes You Made With Your Healthy Kids Menu and How Your Restaurant Marketing Can Fix Them

Little girl in restaurantIf your healthy kids’ menu is a flop, here’s how you can fix it.

It’s time to admit that the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell Program isn’t working as well as we had all hoped.

Plenty of national concepts signed up for the program, and many made a sincere effort to address the problem. But a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine suggests that industry efforts in this area have been largely ineffective.

Researchers reported that years after the program’s inception, participating restaurants have made almost no progress reducing calories, saturated fat or sodium.

But why isn’t your restaurant’s healthy kids’ menu working? A few reasons, but we can help you fix it:

  1. Instead of creating new dishes, you tried to fix existing ones.

It’s a lot easier to drop a few ingredients and reduce the portion size in an existing dish than create a new one. The only problem is that when you reduce the fat and seasonings and the size of your dish, you also reduce the flavor and popularity. We recommend designing your new menu items from scratch. It’s better to introduce a new flavor profile than offer an old one with half the flavor.

  1. You surrounded your healthy menu items with unhealthy choices.

Most restaurants have only added a few healthy kids’ dishes to their menus. So when parents and their kids look over the menu, the healthy menu options are either hard to find or, even worse, hard to like. Rather than bury them in the middle of your kids’ menu, lead with the healthy items and call them out with appetizing food photography and descriptions.

  1. You forgot who your audience was.

Most healthy kids’ menu items look like they were designed for nutritionists, not kids. You can change that by getting input not only from your nutritionist but also the moms and dads and kids you need to please. Our experience is kids like colorful food with simple ingredients. They also want it to be fun to look at and eat.

These are just a few of the ways we are helping our clients get their kids’ menu back into shape. What are you doing to improve the popularity of yours? Please write and tell us about it.

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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How Restaurant Marketing Can Suppress Negative Google Results

feedback conceptSearch engine optimization tactics will help restaurant owners escape negative reviews.

PR nightmares can happen to any business, at any time, but their negative effects don’t have to last forever. If someone Googles your brand, there’s no reason why a negative story needs to become a permanent mantelpiece on the first page of Google. While consistently terrible PR might be a symptom of bad business practices, a few errant gaffes can certainly be mitigated with great search engine optimization (SEO).

  1. Utilize an always-on approach for any branded terms related to your restaurant. This is a surefire tactic to always showing up first in result pages. Additionally, owning the paid search section of Google’s results page ensures other brands can’t conquest potential customers.
  1. Wikipedia articles typically always rank on the first page for a brand. There are even firms that specialize solely in developing Wikipedia articles, getting them approved and keeping them approved. With a domain authority of 100, it’s not likely Wikipedia articles will fall out of Google’s good graces any time soon. Please note that for restaurants that opt out of a specialized Wikipedia firm and write and submit an article in-house, it’s important to become familiar with Wikipedia’s stringent article guidelines and acceptance policies.
  1. Interlink all social accounts (Facebook should have links to Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, etc. and vice versa). Companies that utilize this strategy have success showing actual tweets in search result pages, rather than a Twitter profile alone.
  1. Feature well-optimized menus on partner websites like Allmenus.com or Opentable.com, in order for Google to add individual menu items to the search engine result page within their knowledge graph.
  1. Key executives should have personal websites that mention and link to the brand website. Not only will this strategy rank executive websites for brand-related search terms, it’s also a good way to earn additional links and increase domain authority. This tactic is high-effort, but the payoff is worthwhile. Also, ensure these websites are developed on separate servers to avoid link-network penalties from Google.
  1. Set your restaurant up with Yext or another local listing management platform. For a company with just a few locations, the prices are pretty reasonable. This strategy will earn long-tail rankings on sites like Foursquare, Yelp, etc.
  1. Execute duplicate suppression across social and review accounts. For example, a company may have two Glassdoor accounts with negative reviews on both accounts. By combining these duplicate accounts, you limit the amount of times this result can show up in a search engine.

Of course, restaurants should do everything they can to limit the source of negative press. But for unintended blunders, the above tactics will act as defensive measures to suppress negative Google search results.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 18+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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Learn Why This Food Is Dominating Restaurant Marketing

Homemade Spicy Shrimp TacosIt’s No Wonder Tacos are Popping Up on Every Menu

Admittedly, Mexican cuisine is not new to fast casual. Not even close. In fact, the burrito is arguably what started the whole thing. But, tacos, specifically, are a hot trend that restaurant brands of all types and sizes are capitalizing on.

And there are a few chief reasons why tacos are such a popular item as both the overarching theme of a menu and simply as a new item.

Versatility: Tacos come in all shapes and sizes. From flour or corn tortillas to naan bread and more, tacos are the ideal vehicle for any number of delicious flavors. And, because they are made to order, they can easily be customized, thus offering easy adds and substitutions for guests without creating an operational nightmare.

Anything Goes: As our palates evolve to include a multitude of international flavors, restaurants struggle to keep up with current trends whilst remaining true to their brand. Tacos are an authentic catch-all where everything is an acceptable interpretation. Brands can easily offer a taco with Mexican, Asian and/or Indian flavors without seeming trite or that they are trying too hard.

No Veto: Because tacos are so customizable and often follow the latest food trends, there’s always something for everyone. This eliminates the ever-powerful veto vote when dining with friends or family. From vegan to carnivorous, Mexican to barbeque, tacos allow everyone to enjoy their meal without infringing on the preferences of others.

A New Go-To: We’ve all been with a significant other or family member when the response to “What you do you feel like eating?” is “I don’t care.” Rather than allowing that statement to send you into a tailspin, allow tacos to be your life raft. The diner trying to make healthy choices and the diner in the mood for something indulgent are both satisfied. Finally, there’s a menu item that can keep the peace.

Innovation: Tacos allow restaurants to flex their culinary muscle without asking your guests to stray too far from their comfort zone. Tacos are a great option for limited time offers, as a mechanism to test new flavor profiles and as a way to attract new guests.

Whether you’re handling restaurant marketing for a Mexican restaurant, a comfort food establishment or an Asian bistro, tacos are a great way to appeal to the masses and try something new while staying within the acceptable range of innovation. After all, who hasn’t thrown a bunch of ingredients together at the end of a shift to create an impromptu taco? You’re already doing it; share it with your guests.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 18+ 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 Online Restaurant Marketing Can Help Build Lasting Customer Relationships

Cafeteria Good Food Critic Review Tablet Technology ConceptUse social media and online marketing to connect with your customers.

When people hear the word ‘restaurant marketing,’ words like BOGO, table tents and Happy Hour specials start to come to mind. While all of those things are great tools for encouraging your guests to dine with you, they are a one-to-many vehicle for communication.

Here are some really easy and quick ways to start building a personal relationship with your guests:

  1. Social Platforms – Are you present on the usual suspects such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat?

Social is so rich with information on your guests and what they like and don’t like about your restaurant and the general zeitgeist. Think about surprising and delighting some of your best influencers with their favorite menu item (which you would know because you are paying attention). That guest will be yours for years to come and encourage others to come with.

Try reposting and tagging photos that your customers are sharing of your food. This will show that you are paying attention and appreciate their business.

  1. Email Marketing – Sure, some have shunned their inboxes for short-form texts, but according to eMarketer there are still over 240MM email users with median ROIs of 122% – the inbox is not dead, folks. 

The great thing about email is that your guest has raised their hand and said they want to engage with you on a deeper level. The last thing you want to do is screw that up by offering generic newsletter updates and offers only.

Get personal here – this is an area where your guests are OK with you looking at the data and providing a custom experience. Does your guest prefer beer or hard liquor? Do they have kids, if yes, how old are they? What is their kid’s favorite menu item? Don’t know? Well, there is still time to start down that journey with your guests.

  1. Content Marketing – Today, advertising and marketing is all about exchanging value with your guests. Bring them in to your world by sharing stories and they will likely share some back.

Showcase your staff and their stories – the ‘why’ behind their passion for working at your restaurant. Talk about the chef and the cooks and what excites them about food. Make the experience with your restaurant more than transactional and your guests will view it as a relationship not easily replaced by the cheaper and more convenient competition down the street.

In the current age of digital and social media, one-to-one conversations are happening and if you aren’t already taking advantage of this change in consumer behavior then your competition has probably snuck in and started doing it for you.

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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