Just as it’s helpful to have multifunctional products in the kitchen, brand messaging is strengthened when it’s multifaceted, too. Today’s restaurant customers aren’t looking for a personal touch just when it comes to their food, but in the marketing messages they receive as well, noted presenters at Winsight’s Restaurant Trends & Directions conference in Chicago this week. Here’s how some operators are moving beyond the one-size-fits-all marketing approach.
1. Marketing isn’t just the job of marketers
Operators stressed engaging the full staff when it comes to marketing, from the store level to corporate employees. An operator’s biggest advocate is its workers, said Andrea Von Utter, chief marketing officer of Tavistock Restaurant Collection. Larry Rusinko, CMO of Farmer Boys, echoed that sentiment. Engaging the front of house when promoting a product is key, Rusinko says, because “if your staff isn’t behind it, they aren’t going to move it.”
On the corporate side, Matt Olsen, senior manager of digital marketing for Firehouse Subs, emphasized making sure that marketing and tech departments remain intertwined. As marketing continues to evolve and include more digital components, a faulty app or website could derail a promotion.
2. Consider the next-gen comment card
To stop negative feedback before it makes its way to social media, some operators are creating direct (and early) lines of communication for unsatisfied customers.
Taco Mac, a 30-unit chain based in the Southeast, has established an in-store program that enables guests to text the president of the brand, whose number and information is displayed on the restaurant’s tables. Diners receive a response in real time, and if a situation needs addressing, a call will be made to the restaurant while the customers in question are still on-site. Aside from recovering situations that would otherwise escalate, it’s also a way to garner actionable feedback, both positive and negative. Emily Beesley, senior director of marketing for Taco Mac, said 70% of the texts the brand receives through the program are positive.
3. Add a dash of romance
It’s important to create brand value through connection, said Rachel Kalt, creative director at The Culinary Edge, noting that much of the popularity around Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte isn’t a result of the product itself, but the love and story around it. Farmer Boys’ Rusinko called it "romancing" the product story, which includes putting a focus on where an item comes from and the unique qualities it has. Fast casual Halal Guys applies this practice to its brand story when entering new markets; it promotes the origin of the chain, highlighting its humble start as a food cart on the streets of New York City, to differentiate from the competition.