4 Things Restaurant Marketers Need to Know Now

As restaurants reopen to a new normal across America, the surge of the Delta variant has led some states to reinstate restrictions. Even though progress has slowed recently, it’s important to implement strategies now for when we move past this temporary slowdown. 

We have already seen in recent months the release of pent-up demand as consumers grow increasingly comfortable returning to onsite dining, creating a sales surge.  

  • Same-store revenues have been growing for 15 consecutive weeks as of the end of June 2021. Total sales are nearing February 2020 pre-pandemic sales volume. (Valassis.com)
  • Twenty-eight of the top casual dining chains are returning to pre-COVID-19 levels. If that trend continues, casual dining will rebound fully by summer’s end, according to foot traffic analysis from placer.ai.

While the increase in sales is significant, not all fast casual and casual dining chains are experiencing this type of recovery, and progress varies from state to state. The placer.ai data indicates that consumers may be frequenting more festive (and more expensive) restaurants to celebrate the new normal. The increase in spending could be a result of increased spending power due to consumers paying down debt during the pandemic, as well as stimulus checks and child tax credits.

For those fast casual and casual dining restaurants who haven’t experienced as much bounce back yet, there is still hope for things to turn around. The last weeks of summer along with return to school offer an opportunity for declining chains to rebound as well, according to placer.ai data. Now is the time for restaurants to position themselves with a winning recipe for customer acquisition.

 4 Ingredients for a Successful Restaurant Marketing Strategy in the New Normal

  1. Drive traffic back to restaurants

While takeout and delivery sustained many establishments through the pandemic, they are no substitute for the in-restaurant dining experience. Now is the time to entice fast casual and casual diners and drive traffic back to your restaurant locations. Strong offers with coupons are a proven way to do that.

Did you know?

  • Nearly one-third of diners are switchers who can be swayed with a coupon regardless of other factors.
  • If a restaurant is nearby, 70%would visit the restaurant with a coupon versus their favorite.
  • If consumers can’t find coupons to a brand they like, they are likely to stay home (even more true after COVID).
  • When deciding which restaurant to visit, 54% visit the restaurant to which they have coupons.
  1. Loyalty: Give diners a reason to come back again… and again

A strong loyalty program can drive repeat visits to your restaurant. Keep diners engaged with special offers targeted to them based on their purchase history with your restaurant.

  • Forty-seven percent of diners now use at least one loyalty program, according to a new report from Paytronix and PYMNTS.
  • The share of consumers using restaurant loyalty programs increased 12% between January and April 2020.
  • Nearly 60% of consumers who already use at least one loyalty program said they would spend more on food orders from other restaurants if they, too, had a loyalty program in place.

One challenge for loyalty adoption, however, could be keeping those digital customers engaged once dine-in returns to full capacity. But Paytronix’s report indicates there are plenty of benefits for such a rewards program to extend beyond apps and websites. The report shows the average sit-down restaurant customer who used rewards programs in 2020 spent $167 per month on food eaten on-site – that’s 92% more than dine-in customers who did not use a rewards program.

  1. Gain customers while blunting competitors

As customers return to restaurants and on-site dining is trending back up in casual dining and fast casual restaurants, targeting the best markets around your location and utilizing the power of frequency is a proven strategy to gain market share and blunt competitors.

  • Keep your brand top-of-mind by placing it in your customer or prospect’s mailbox to reinforce your brand and blunt competitors. Then extend your reach and response with digital ads on their smartphones and other electronic devices, targeted to the same households through our integrated solutions.
  • Whether you choose the impact postcard, wraps or a variety of insert options, we find optimal results come from replicating your online branding and design.
  • By reinforcing awareness developed online, we can help you drive the next action step of traffic to your store locations or website.
  • Go after your competition directly with an integrated campaign utilizing an aggressive offer to the consumers who do business with your competition to convert them over to you.
  1. Build a strong team as you build your brand

Restaurant employment continued to rise for the sixth consecutive month ending in June 2021. That’s an increase of more than 1 million jobs during the first half of 2021.

Yet even with record-high job openings, the restaurant industry is still 1.3 million jobs below pre-pandemic employment levels.

  • In a National Restaurant Association survey, 84% of respondents said current staffing is lower than before the pandemic.
  • “Labor shortage” was searched more in May 2021 than during any other month in Google’s history.

What does this mean for restaurants who need to build their teams?

  • Telling your “Culture Story” to recruit new talent is becoming equally as important as the messaging you use to attract new customers to your brand.
  • Data intelligence should be a key piece of your hiring strategy. Know where your most likely employees live, their buying habits and other key characteristics to target them effectively.

Leverage your marketing campaigns to build your brand and attract both diners and new employees who want to work with you. With our targeting capabilities, you can create a campaign with variable messaging to address multiple campaign touch points to achieve your goals.

A Multi-channel Marketing Recipe Drives More Diners

An integrated, multi-channel marketing strategy with multiple media touchpoints is proven to reach more consumers and drive response.

  • When print is paired with digital media, advertisers see as much as a 30% increase in response.
  • Print drives 11% purchase intent compared to only 4% with digital alone—that’s a 175% increase in purchase intent when anchoring your digital campaign with print!
  • 60% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase after seeing an ad in offline and online.
  • 69% of purchase influence is driven by print and digital media.

Read more strategies for pivoting your restaurant marketing campaigns to attract diners in a new normal in our previous blog post. For more restaurant insights, trends, and case studies, visit our resource page. Our goal is to inform your marketing strategy to drive success. If you’d like to talk through your approach and how partnering with Mspark could benefit your restaurant, reach out today.

Sources: valassis.com, placer.ai, restaurantdive.com, U.S. Dept. of Labor, Snagajob.com, IPC Cross-Border E-Commerce Shopper Survey 2017, Millward Brown Print Campaign Analysis, Data & Marketing Association