cross the restaurant industry, brands are saying goodbye to transactions and hello to customers. This shift impacts every department, but especially the marketing department. With the rapid adoption of technology, restaurant marketers now have a variety of powerful tools at their disposal to help attract and retain guests for life.
New access to customer lifetime value insights and marketing automation rooted in guest behavior are enabling restaurant marketers to tailor messaging to individual preferences, order history, location, and beyond. By acting on Marketing Intelligence, restaurant brands of all types are seeing more direct orders, higher visit frequency, and a boost in sentiment.
In order to keep up with the shifting landscape, team leaders must challenge the old ways of thinking, from loyalty strategies to mass marketing, and implement a more modern tech stack.
In this webinar, we sat down with Katie Bartlett, Director of Brand Management at Sonny’s BBQ, and Emily Hargreaves, Digital Strategy and Analytics at First Watch, to discuss how leading brands are disrupting the traditional channels and strategies of restaurant marketing with a data-first and automation-centric approach.
Click the play button below to watch the entire conversation from FWD, Wisely’s Spring Release Event, on demand.
Rethinking traditional restaurant marketing strategies
Long gone are the days when mass limited-time offers, annual marketing calendars, and set-it-and-forget-it field marketing tactics were enough to keep a restaurant brand competitive. The pandemic quickly proved that restaurant marketers have to be nimble and think outside the box in order to attract and retain customers.
“We have to constantly push ourselves to be more transparent and meet guests where they are,” said Bartlett. “We all saw with COVID that their needs were changing more rapidly than most of us could keep up with. It’s really important to meet them with technology and messaging that’s catered to them and personalized.”
With more customer touchpoints and tools to harness guest data than ever before, brands like Sonny’s BBQ have had to focus on ways that they’re uniquely positioned to help guests navigate their new normal—from safety concerns, to family meal solutions, to the monotony of being stuck at home—all while maintaining a consistent brand experience.
Hargreaves shared how First Watch had to throw out its traditional marketing playbook and embrace technology in order to better understand and cater to the needs of its customers.
“As a traditional restaurant marketer, you tend to focus on what you’ve always done, communicating what’s available, and then just kind of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best,” said Hargreaves. “Partners like Wisely and other digital platform partners like Olo, for instance, have really allowed us to remove ourselves slightly from just the four-wall emotional experience and think smartly about how can we use the numbers that people are actually driving into our restaurant to make smart decisions about where to invest and how to interact.”
The key to securing buy-in from operators on restaurant marketing initiatives
Given that restaurant marketers and operators tend to measure success differently, marketing teams often have to prove the value of new initiatives—like digital advertising, automation, and using Marketing Intelligence to personalize the guest experience—to other departments.
According to Hargreaves, it starts with educating your cross-functional partners on why you’re taking a new approach and remaining action-oriented. At First Watch, that process involved identifying Customer Lifetime Value—a true driver and contributor to the overall P&L—as a shared company metric that everyone could rally behind.
“Customer Lifetime Value is very top of mind because it captures, to a certain extent, experience,” said Hargreaves. “If you're coming back week over week, that’s reflected in your Customer Lifetime Value. It obviously reflects the efficacy of marketing campaigns. Are you acquiring a healthy cohort? Are you acquiring the one-and-done customers who just want a discount?”
At Sonny’s BBQ, building trust with operators and franchisees has been key to securing buy-in on marketing content and promotions. By finding out what is important to operators and showing them tangible examples of successful marketing campaigns—along with the entire customer journey—Bartlett and her team have helped connect the dots on ROI.
While at times technology adoption has been an uphill battle, Bartlett says she has no regrets.
“Everything we've rolled out, we look back and we're like, thank God we did that when we did,” said Bartlett. “Thank God we have all this knowledge and all these learnings because we're just getting more ahead of the curve.”
What’s next for restaurant marketing?
Brands that can utilize Marketing Intelligence within their restaurant marketing strategy will produce higher frequency, loyalty, and profit. At Sonny’s BBQ, that means moving away from large, blanket limited-time offers and moving toward hyper-relevant, personalized guest communications that are triggered by behavior.
“We’re not just putting a digital ad out there and hoping that it's successful,” said Bartlett. “There's a huge ecosystem that you have to be thinking about, and they all kind of play together.”
In order to be successful, Bartlett says her team breaks down initiatives into phases and treats marketing like a working hypothesis, where failure is an inevitable—and valuable—part of the process.
While it’s admittedly easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis when faced with a large guest data set, Hargreaves offers some valuable advice: “Focus on what's going to move the business and just zero in on that specific item for at least six months, and then see what it does to your P&L and ultimately to your marketing spend.”
In the immediate future, Hargreaves and Bartlett shared that the marketing teams at both brands plan to take a content-centered approach in order to tell compelling stories about their brands’ key differentiators—from the culinary team, to the food, and beyond.
Top photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels