doesn’t take any creativity, is overused
and is not memorable. Straw Hat
Pizza, founded in California but now
located throughout the U.S., recently
incorporated visual marketing. The
company created wall murals that show
the brand’s unique 50-year history
and compelling brand elements in a
way that is now being used in their
new restaurants outside California.
The way to engage guests is to find
those unique stories and turn them into
communications through printed menus,
servers telling the stories, table tents or
even wall decor.
What’s the role of social media in
Duke: While social media practices play
a large role in promotion and marketing
strategies, you cannot solely rely on those
tools. The best and most effective practice
is integration. Some guests like visiting
social sites or receiving e-mails and text
messages, while others prefer traditional
methods such as print ads, direct mail or
television/radio advertising. Create mini
campaigns that encompass many forms of
media to get the most awareness possible
with different audiences.
Duke Marketing created a grand-opening
event for Togo’s in Upland, Calif., that pitted
members of the police force against local
firefighters in an eating contest featuring
Togo’s signature 8-foot-long sandwich.
Thoresen: Restaurant operators are
looking for ways to move away from
pricing promotions. In recent years,
value has been defined primarily by
lower price points and special deals.
By focusing on alternate ways to
provide greater experiential value
to customers, operators can create
more robust and more meaningful
associations with their brand.
Thoresen: Social media is changing
the rules when it comes to customer
engagement. The dynamic has shifted
from restaurants engaging customers to
customers engaging other customers. The
upside is powerful word-of-mouth marketing.
The downside, of course, is the intimacy
that those who are critical of a particular
restaurant have with other customers.
How can a restaurant measure/
gauge if customer engagement
strategies are working?
Duke: Operators should build
measurements into their plan to get
employees excited and motivated.
Clearly defining expectations and getting
employees to agree to them, and then
offering them an incentive for achieving
them, will garner the best results.
How important a role does a
restaurant’s staff play?
Thoresen: Customer engagement and
employee engagement are definitely
interconnected. Customer engagement
is driven, in part, by the service a patron
receives at a restaurant. The quality of
service is directly related to employee
engagement. Restaurants must invest
in staff through training and focus
on retention to build a reputation for
excellent service. This is a significant
challenge in an industry that is known
for high turnover.
What social media outlets are
available to the foodservice industry?
Thoresen: We’ve seen a lot of buzz around
sites like Foursquare and other location-based platforms. It’s critical to keep an eye
on how these develop moving forward. But
these smaller platforms are still “niche” in
nature. At present, restaurants should really
have a solid strategy around the majors—
Facebook and Twitter. There are a number
of tools, such as Tweetdeck, that provide
monitoring and tracking capabilities. The
key metrics are really the size and growth
of your respective social networks and the
number of conversations happening around
Thoresen: There’s a growing trend in
do-it-yourself surveying. Over the last five
years or so, platforms like Zoomerang
(by Market Tools) and SurveyMonkey
have opened up powerful data-collection
capabilities to the masses. Online
survey development and deployment
suites are affordable, flexible and easy
to use. What’s most important is what
they ask. In addition to asking about
overall experience, it’s important to ask
customers whether they plan to return.
Another insightful metric is whether or not
customers are willing to recommend the
restaurant to a friend.
ONLINE RESERVATION TOOLS
Customer engagement starts when a
guest makes a reservation, so a venue
must ensure that it has the capability to
take an online reservation when the guest
wants to make it. If it doesn’t, that person
may contact another restaurant.