The Potential of Voice-enabled Devices for Restaurant Marketers

Communication with voice assistant in a smart home

How devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo are changing the game for marketers.

Burger King has been getting a lot of press recently for their newest ad attempting to hijack Google Home devices. Now, as with anything buzzworthy there are those that liked it and those that hated it.

What I want to highlight instead is that this showed a new level of understanding of the current technology and consumer behavior climate. While it didn’t please all consumers, it definitely triggered a discussion of how brands can better integrate themselves into the Internet of Things (AKA IoT), specifically, voice-controlled devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo.

According to an eMarketer report from February 2017, while the U.S. consumer ownership of voice-enabled devices is still only about 10% between Amazon and Google Home – there is a 63% awareness of both products.

Additionally, we know from Amazon Echo’s huge holiday sales surge that there is increasing demand for these devices – in fact, eMarketer forecasts that by 2020 there will be 7 million Echoes shipped alone. I think it’s safe to say that you could easily double that to account for Google Home devices to get to 14 million voice-enabled devices sold and activated within the next three years. While still a relatively small percentage of the population, the growth rate is not to be ignored.

But how does that tie back to restaurant marketing? Well, just like how the advent of the smartphone changed how marketers needed to engage with their consumers in a mobile-first environment; Google Home and Amazon Echo require marketers to adapt again and start to think about how to engage through listening and responding with contextually relevant information.

Specifically, restaurants should take a page from Burger King and start to think about how they can better leverage this shift in consumer behavior – albeit with less of a controversial splash.

For starters, getting your online ordering ecosystem integrated with simple voice commands seems like a no-brainer. When you think about it, it is a behavior that is not so far-fetched from how we used to order food over the phone. And it also leans nicely into the convenience factor that typically drives online ordering in the first place. Being a first-mover restaurant brand in this area will certainly help to attract that younger Millennial audience that all restauranteurs are looking to hook, as well as provide another reason for your loyalists to ‘call’ on your restaurant again.

You may also want to move toward ‘quick menus’ – something that is easy for an Alexa or Google to read and tell a consumer as to what the top items are, so they don’t have to feel like they need to open up their computer or mobile phone to check. Thinking forward a bit, these types of integrations will also become critical as systems like Alexa become integrated into the cars themselves, and consumers want to order some dinner on their way home from work.

Ultimately, the potential of voice-enabled devices for restaurant marketers really is boundless at this point, and the door is open for brands to get in there and start doing it right.

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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Use Food Innovation to Drive Your Restaurant Marketing

Chef finishing her salad in culinary class

In order to thrive, restaurant leadership should be demanding food innovation.

According to Nation’s Restaurant News, restaurant executives are always blame events like elections for soft sales performance. However, Wells Fargo data tells us that consumer spending typically goes up during election years.

I travel quite a bit for work and as part of that travel, I dine out a lot. I can tell you that reservations are still a must, a wait should be expected and full restaurants are the norm. My focus group of one tells me that consumers are still dining out frequently.

So, what is the real problem? The real problem is the approach that drives executives to look for external forces to blame in the first place. They are so focused on making it through another board meeting or another analyst call that their real strategy is survival.

Survival as a strategy is the same as raising prices or cutting costs to drive short-term profits. The irony is that survival as a strategy will inevitably result in the exact opposite of the desired outcome. That’s because when survival is the focus, starting at the top, everyone else in the organization behaves the same way.

The menu innovation department stops innovating and instead delivers incrementally. So we see things like toppings or spice differences on old entrees. Service is no longer memorable. At best it’s forgettable bordering on regrettable. Even procurement does the same thing by beating up long-term vendors for savings instead of demanding higher quality or unique food components.

Finally, marketing has the impossible job of presenting the same old story in some new way. But wait, isn’t it marketing’s job to find or create something differentiated when it’s not that obvious? That answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

That is sometimes where really interesting advertising comes from. However, in a company where survival is the strategy how interesting do you think the advertising will actually be? You guessed it. It will be “safe,” “middle of the fairway” and “unobjectionable”. That’s because surviving is definitely not thriving.

In order to thrive, restaurant leadership should be demanding food innovation. The independents are doing it every day. A no-compromise approach to service and food quality should be table-stakes. Again, independents are doing it because they know their best, and sometimes only, marketing is the last meal experienced.

Marketing needs to be taking risks. If it doesn’t make the organization a little bit uncomfortable, it’s unlikely anyone will pay much attention to it. I, for one, wouldn’t mind seeing advertising dollars repurposed to driving true menu innovation in the near term.

If you are delivering a superior experience, consumers will find a way to spend money with you.

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 Utilize Restaurant Marketing to Gather Customer Information

Friends at the local pub

 Show your customers a clear benefit for giving you their information.

“What’s in it for me?”

That’s the question your customers will ask themselves when you ask them for their personal information. There is a value exchange that needs to happen in order for a customer to give up their personal information – and that value needs to be made clear immediately.

With new technology like tabletop ordering and no-wait apps now available, customers can enter their personal information in exchange for benefits like awards points, flexibility of reservation and not having to wait for a server. In each case, the value exchange needs to be transparent. Customers need to immediately understand that they’ll get access to these benefits or programs in exchange for their information.

Once your customers are willing to give you their valuable information, what do you do with it? First, there is a great opportunity to mine the data and identify customer segmentations.

Analyze the data and identify the commonalities to understand who your key customer segmentations are and what their profiles/personas look like. Start to identify what the lifetime value of your customer is and which groups have the opportunity for a higher yield or an increased check value.

The data can tell you so many stories about what your customers look like and what is important to them – showing you key areas of opportunity from menu items to services.

In addition to the information you can learn about your guests from the personal details that have been shared, there is also an opportunity to customize communication. Leveraging the information your customers have provided, you can now create customized messaging across multiple channels –  from the welcome menu on the tabletop ordering device to their rewards email.

There is a great opportunity to tailor the messaging to speak directly to the consumer’s behaviors. For example, if you know that a guest always orders dessert, offer a discounted app to increase check size. Or, if they usually order a kid’s meal, offer a free kid’s meal with the purchase of two entrees. On the same hand, you could also promote a new game to play on the tabletop device.

You can leverage this information without tabletop technology as well by customizing email messaging or targeting the consumer with customized creative on social or in digital advertising – enticing them to come back for repeat visits. Now that you know what your most loyal guests look like, you can leverage that information to build look-a-like targets, find more of them through digital marketing and encourage them to come try your restaurant.

The data can be the key to unlocking the right communication strategy with current guests or building audiences to bring in new guests. It also allows you to have a more personalized communication to drive consideration and repeat visitation.

Once the guests share their information, they are opening a whole new world of insights for you on their behaviors as well as a peak into who else you could be inviting to come join you for their next meal!

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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Big Data’s Role in Restaurant Marketing


Leverage big data and analytics to help increase your revenue.

Big data. Analytics. These are terms that nearly everyone in business has heard of, yet most have only a vague understanding of their power and value.

Restaurants that adopt better data practices will be surprised at how much there is to learn about their consumers, operational processes, pricing and more. This is a meaty concept, so today I’ll cover what big data is and some examples of how other restaurants have successfully leveraged it.

You already have big data

Google defines big data as “extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.” This sounds complicated, and it is, but the good news is that restaurants actually generate a ton of data every single day.

The most obvious place to look is your POS system, which houses information on what menu items you’re selling, what they cost, promotion redemptions and who is visiting your restaurant. Your CRM tool has detailed personal information on members. Your accounting department has financial data such as costs, revenue and profit. Your supply inventory and supply prices are data, too. So are employee schedules, wages and tips. If you’re not storing information like this yet, now is the time to start!

How can all of that help restaurants drive revenue?

The possibilities for driving ROI through an investment in big data and analytics are truly endless, so let’s focus on two interesting examples that may give you some ideas for your own business.

One QSR monitors its drive-thru line in real time and leverages the data to change what menu items are featured on the digital menu. This allows them to maximize drive-thru revenue. If the line is long, the menu shows items that are easy and quick to prepare. If the line is short, the menu highlights more expensive items that aren’t as quick to prepare but boost revenue and profit.

Another restaurant analyzed the demographics and psychographics of their high-value customers, and use that data to choose the location for a new restaurant. They found a location with a high density of people who were similar to their best customers. The revenue impact of the decision outweighed the cost of the analytics investment by 10x.

These examples only scratch the surface, but they should give you an idea of the doors big data can open for your restaurant!

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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