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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Reaching Non-Millennials through Restaurant Marketing

Senior Couples out for LunchHow taking a different approach to each generation can help your overall restaurant marketing strategy.

For the last few years, the growing trend among all advertisers has been to resonate with the coveted audience of Millennials. Whether it means focusing on advertising channels where Millennials are active, creating messaging focused on the Millennial lifestyle or highlighting attributes that Millennials find appealing, we’ve all seen examples of brands trying to reach this audience as effectively as possible.

That begs the question though, “What about the rest of the population?” While Millennials make up over a quarter of the U.S. population, that leaves 75% of Americans being somewhat neglected by many advertisers. Luckily restaurant marketers don’t have to completely change their current strategy to reach the rest of the population.

Why you shouldn’t neglect non-Millennials

Recently, Millennials have finally taken over Baby Boomers as the largest adult generation in the United States. There are still large differences in spending power between the two generations and even more differences when you also compare them to members of Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980). Both Gen Xers and Boomers spend more overall each year than Millennials (who actually spend more on dining out). Now, while Millennials spend a larger portion on eating out than any other generation, there are more dollars to vie for among Gen Xers and Boomers.

Generation Z and why they matter

Another generation to take into consideration is Generation Z (the post-Millennial generation), many of whom are still in school and don’t have much spending power at all yet. However, it’s important to remember that they are the children of Gen Xers (or older Millennials) and are still very impressionable given their young age. Since they aren’t spending their own money, making connections with their parents will have a major impact on their future spending habits. It is expected that Gen Z will be even larger than Millennials in years to come and there is no doubt that marketers will shift their focus to them next.

What to do now

Once you have accepted the fact that ignoring non-Millennials isn’t a great marketing strategy, there are a few options for what to do next. For one, you can use these insights to inform your overall media plan. Gen Xers and Boomers watch more TV and listen to more terrestrial radio, and if your focus has been on Millennials, you’ve likely been focusing on reaching them via mobile devices. This just so happens to be a great way to reach Gen Xers too, as monthly smartphone usage is comparable between the two generations, although Millennials watch more video on their smartphones.

Messaging is another great way to differentiate between different generations. Millennials will want to hear about your unique flavorings (think ingredients like Sriracha) and want to know where their food is coming from. On the other hand, your Gen X customers may be more interested in your classic offerings like burgers but are still willing to try something new. Taking a good look at your CRM data can help you determine what is working for each generation and then you can take next steps from there on how to resonate best with each one.

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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The Benefits of Touting a Good Happy Hour

CelebrationHappy Hour is the key to drawing in consumers and their meticulously allocated dining budgets.

Economic stressors are ever-present, and the fact remains that we are in an age where pennies are counted and budgets are consistently balanced. When consumers finally do decide to venture out for a meal it is either in celebration, or because it is reasonably priced. For the former, it is easy to capitalize on the spend that inherently accompanies celebratory dining, but for the latter, Happy Hour is important because it brings in customers that might not be able to afford normal menu prices.

The Benefits of Happy Hour:

For a restaurant, happy hour is a necessity. Happy hour gives a brand the opportunity to showcase the best of their craft, in smaller portions, at a price that is immensely compelling to consumers. The opportunity to snag a repeat customer is tremendous during a happy hour – consumers feel they are getting a deal while the overall expense to the restaurant is nominal.

Consumers are more likely to experience a variety of offerings during happy hour. The cheap small plate option allows them to try more of the total array of offerings, creating a memorable and lasting impact. By showcasing a wide variety of options during happy hour, consumers are likely to keep the restaurant in their consideration set when they are looking to spend more of their budget on celebration type situations.

Marketing Your Happy Hour:

When it comes to advertising your happy hour, focusing on social media outlets is the most effective method. Happy hour is truly a social occasion and generally occurs during the last couple of hours of the work day through the beginning of the dinner rush – 4-7 or so.

By utilizing social media to convey the message you are playing into the inherent fun of happy hour itself. And speaking from personal experience, the best happy hours in town are usually the ones that are the best-kept secrets of locals. One way to do that is to create a feeling of inclusion by using social media to create organic-looking posts. Ultimately, this adds to the mystique and overall lackadaisical feel apparent in happy hours.

At the end of the day, happy hour promotions may seem to be undesirable, but they truly present an opportunity for a restaurant to present a wide array of offerings for consumers to experience. When consumers experience multiple items on a restaurant’s menu, their likelihood to consider the restaurant again is exponentially increased.

A happy hour menu is a gateway to a larger spend from consumers that might not otherwise come into the restaurant. Happy hour is a time to focus on the spirit of the restaurant and to utilize a laidback atmosphere to draw people in. By utilizing social media to advertise it, the spirit of fun and inclusion helps to play to the approachability of the 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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