Team Member Acquisition and Retention Is Single Most Important Marketing Investment

Restaurant manager in a commercial kitchenTurn your employees into your marketing staff in the trenches every single day

Restaurant marketing is often measured by its ability to drive restaurant traffic via promotions, advertising, media coverage and limited-time offers. But it’s the guest experience that keeps a consumer returning – or not.

Think of employees more as marketing, not operations: Because many restaurants structure their workforce more as an output of operations, employees at the restaurant level have little, if any, access to marketing. Restaurants should flip the script making restaurant employees fill more of a marketing function. This not only draws an immediate line between marketing efforts and the important roles crew members play day to day, but it also requires everyone to learn and understand the desired outcome of each marketing investment.

Make employees your biggest marketing investment: Finding good employees is a common plight in the restaurant business. Given the time and energy necessary to find a solid employee, you should strive to treat them well – very well. Consider offering benefits, social gatherings outside of work hours and career growth opportunities. If you see management potential, make it known, then develop a career path to show interest in their professional future.

Encourage feedback from the trenches: Despite marketing’s best efforts, they can’t really understand how a promotion will play out at the restaurant level. Every additional detail or step of a marketing program multiplies the necessary level of effort for the restaurant. For this reason, empower your team members by providing explicit marketing materials, including Q&As and a destination for internal and customer questions. Following the promotion or campaign, poll restaurant staff and use that feedback to inform future programs.

Offer bonuses through marketing: If operations is where restaurant staff salaries must live, consider offering a bonus for the restaurant, or restaurants, with the highest adoption of your marketing programs – and route that bonus through marketing. In the end, the bonus will pay for itself several-fold, while making that staff a fan of the corporate marketing team. It’s a win-win.

Follow through: Whether fully integrating restaurant staff into the marketing department or simply incentivizing the staff to encourage customer engagement, marketing must be consistent to allow the process to resonate. Don’t just poll crewmembers once; do it after every promotion. Don’t just offer a bonus once; make it a constant offering. This is the best way to encourage staff to have a long-term impact on the efficacy of marketing.

When it’s all said and done, the server, crew member or manager who customers interact with must pay off the marketing tools and tactics. If it falls short at any point along the adoption journey, customers may feel burdened and thus will be discouraged from future visits. And worse, those customers may deter others from visiting as well.

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 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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Charities are a Win/Win for Restaurant Marketing

volunteer.jpgMake Charitable Contributions Work Hard for Your Brand

I love that the restaurant industry has adopted giving back as a standard practice. Just today, I read that SONIC, the number one drive-thru brand in the country, donated $1MM to fund 2,315 public schools through DonorsChoose.org.

As you develop your cause-related marketing program, here are a few things to learn from restaurants that have done a nice job promoting their community involvement.

Be Authentic: When choosing an organization to partner with, make certain to select a cause that not only makes sense to your target audience but to your employees as well.

If you’re a family restaurant, like SONIC, consider something around children or education. If the majority of your restaurants are in urban settings, addressing access to food is a nice option. Whether you choose a specific charity or a theme, make a decision and stick to it. And then, pull it through all of your internal and external marketing materials.

Go Narrow and Deep: A common mistake made by companies across all industries, not just the restaurant industry, is the desire to solve all the world’s problems.

But realistically, that’s just not possible. So, rather than donate small amounts to a handful of charities, choose ONE organization and create a meaningful partnership that will have a lasting impact. This is not only helpful for the charity but it allows your restaurant to own a solution.

Make it Easy: Develop an overall strategy with supporting tactics that are easy to understand for employees and customers.

Matching contributions, dedicating a day of sales or simply a social call to action are all easy to understand and, perhaps more importantly, simple to execute. When your internal team and external customers know how to plug in, they become more interested and thus are more likely to participate.

Choose Your Words Carefully: A local restaurant here in Boulder ran a promotion where an entire day’s profits went to a local food bank. My immediate thought was, “Wow, that’s generous.” But when digging a little deeper, it turns out that it’s only 20% of sales as the other 80% cover operating costs. Smarter messaging means full credit for your donation.

Be Realistic about PR Expectations: The general consensus for newsworthy contributions is $1MM for national press and $25K for local press. That’s not to say that if you have a very unique promotion or a sympathetic reporter, you can’t place a few stories. But, just be mindful to approach your outreach with reasonable goals.

With these best practices in mind, adopt a cause, conduct an internal launch, create in-restaurant collateral and promote it via social media and newsletters to encourage participation. Once the campaign ends, close the loop by sharing the success.

At the end of the day, charitable giving is not meant to serve your restaurant’s bottom line. But, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get credit for your contribution.

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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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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