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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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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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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Restaurant Marketing Means Going Beyond the Menu

menu.jpgFood is not the only thing that restaurants should be focusing on to make their establishment successful.

Typically, a restaurant concept revolves around a type of food that the creator thinks is innovative and missing from the plethora of dining options we have available today.  While food is, clearly, a key ingredient in the success of a restaurant, it is not the only thing that restauranteurs should be focused on.

Enticing guests to get their butts in your seats requires more than a stellar menu, you have to understand what drives that visit and what your strategy and focus will be in terms of differentiating yourself in the market.  And while you can’t be all things to all taste buds, you should consider each of these categories and then prioritize the top three that you want to focus on and really strive to stand out in those key areas.

Food & Beverage

Does your food taste good? (hopefully you think so)  Assuming yes, do you have a signature food and/or cocktail item?  If not, you should consider creating one.  I can’t tell you how many times I ‘crave’ a food item and will actually go out of my way to visit a restaurant just to scratch that itch.  That item should have some ‘secret sauce’ ingredient or process that is not easily replicated so that guests know that they can only come to you if they want it.

Not only does this approach differentiate you in the market, but it also drives that repeat purchase which is so critical to lasting success in this industry.

People

This refers to both the guests that you attract as well as the staff you have on site.

Part of your guests experience is who they are sharing tables with.  If you are going for the ever-popular millennial crowd then you need to seed your restaurant with things that attract that audience – outside of the food.

Part of this is the staff that you hire in, their friends will visit them while they are working, and they will then bring their friends with.  The staff are who set the tone for your valuable repeat visitors as well, so creating the employee culture that spills in to customer service is an invaluable strategy.

Ambience

Related to the above category, the type of ambience that you create at your location will drive the types of guests that you attract.  If you are interested in the sports crowd, then ensure that you have the channels and screens that you know sports fans like.  Conversely, if you know that you want to go after the families with children, then perhaps restricting or removing screens from your restaurant is the better option.

Also, consider commissioning local artists for your wall art – this gives a local flair to your location as well as ties you closer to the community, encouraging trial from guests that you might not normally be able to reach depending on your location or food style.

Novelty

If you’re new to the block, that’s a pretty easy sell for folks to want to check you out.  But remember, first impressions are critical – this is the point where you could be gaining a lifetime guest, so don’t mess it up.  Because this is a vital time period in a restaurant’s life, be strategic with your approach.  Do soft openings, give out VIP passes – make a splash in your new hood so that the novelty effect lasts as long as possible.

Convenience

Location, location, location – not much to say here that you don’t already know.  But when you are picking where to put your restaurant roots down, consider traffic patterns and what types of guests are likely to find your location convenient.  Additionally, if you’re in an urban area with limited space – parking is a true consideration for those that want to eat out.  I have definitely moved away from a location because our party was too big and we did not want to ‘deal’ with parking – that’s money lost.

Price/Value

Finally, put your economist hat on and review the price and value of your food offerings.  If there are fun and different ways to surprise and delight by adding value for your guests (free bread, bottomless soda, free chips and queso), then do it!  But buyers beware, if you don’t want to only be a price/promotion-driven restaurant, then this should probably not be your primary focus as there is always someone out there with a cheaper and faster way to do, what you do.

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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