Whether you’re launching a new restaurant or hoping to attract more customers to your established eatery, adding an ‘experiential’ element to your marketing plan is often the key to selling more burgers, tacos, pizza, or other popular items on your menu. With quick service restaurant (QSR) experiential marketing techniques, you can offer your customers something more than just food, creating a more memorable experience for diners.
Chances are, even if you have customers lining up outside your restaurant doors and don’t think you need to rely on experiential marketing measures to maintain or build on your customer base, you’re probably already employing some QSR experiential marketing techniques such as offering coupons, special product incentives, or giving away food samples. Here, we’ll talk about how to leverage some common QSR experiential marketing techniques along with some alternative ideas for driving more customers through your doors.
Mall food court restaurants are fortunate to have a built-in customer base at their locations, but some fast-food eateries seem to attract more hungry shoppers than others. For instance, at Southlake Mall in Northwest Indiana, Maki of Japan serves the best bourbon chicken you’re likely to find in Indiana, but many fans of the restaurant would never know that were it not for the eatery’s manager who stands unfailingly in front of the counter with a tray of bourbon chicken and toothpicks to entice customers. The result? Their kiosk line is never empty, and there isn’t a mall shopper in the region who doesn’t recognize that manager and his bourbon chicken.
Sampling is a tried-and-true way to attract customers to your eatery but also to entice them to order specific food products. But the benefits aren’t just increased sales. Sampling can help restaurants gain important feedback from customers, which gives them more insight into their target audience. Food samples also help build brand loyalty. Customers appreciate the opportunity to try samples so they don’t have to take a risk by ordering something they’re not familiar with. Your restaurant can create a positive, generous experience with a mere bite-size offering.
Food coupons are a traditional QSR experiential marketing technique that continue to work well. Discounts motivate people to purchase, which in turn, drives restaurant sales. With coupons, you have an opportunity to market specific menu items or provide a general cost-savings to customers who visit. There are numerous ways to feature coupons. Offer buy-one-get-one free deals on specific menu items or a free milkshake with the purchase of any sandwich.
Depending on where you offer your coupons, you can also attract new customers. Consider a social media marketing campaign that drives customers to your website to clip digital coupons. These days, many of your customers are relying on their smartphones to access coupons, so be sure that you are marketing them appropriately. If you cater to a younger demographic, for instance, its members are unlikely to carry paper coupons.
Set Up Community Partnerships
Community partnerships are an excellent way to market your restaurant and its food products. For decades, Pizza Hut has been associated with school reading programs. Kids who read so many books, for instance, earn a free personal pizza. Naturally, there isn’t enough for the family, so parents come in with the coupon and, ideally, wind up ordering regular-sized pizzas, breadsticks, wings, and other menu items.
Think about partnering with a school, library, or other community organization to offer your food products. Doing so earns your restaurant increased exposure–positive exposure. You can design marketing material and deliver it to nearby organizations, discussing your ideas and sharing your desire to partner with local groups. You can also consider becoming involved in the sponsorship of an event–The Little League championship games or a back-to-school event.
Introduce New Menu Items or Monthly Specialty Items
Sometimes customers get bored with food offerings at their favorite restaurants. You can create new, memorable dining experiences by offering new food items. For instance, if you sell burgers, create a burger-of-the-month program where you create a burger, maybe something with seasonal ingredients, that isn’t a fixture on your permanent menu. This can help you create a monthly buzz around your offerings in the restaurant but also on social media where you can easily market your specials.
Fortunately, you don’t have to create elaborate offerings–a new ice cream flavor or more gluten-free options; just offering something new allows you to tap into a powerful marketing angle. In short, you can nudge customers in your direction simply by informing them that you have something new to offer.
Unique Customer Experiences
In Chicago, Wieners Circle insults its customers. Yes, you read that correctly. Its incredibly busy staffers, cashiers in particular, hurl verbal abuse while peddling hot dogs, cheese fries, class Maxwell Street Polish sandwiches, shakes, and more. Especially witty staffers have been featured on National news programs, detailing how their insults offer a new customer dimension that seems to resonate with Chicagoans. Perhaps no hot dog restaurant is quite as famous in The Windy City as Wieners Circle.
Of course, that’s an extreme measure, but it might inspire you to create your own unique customer experiences designed to complement your restaurant ambience or menu offerings. For years, McDonalds featured Playland equipment for kids at its restaurants. Other eateries offer customers the opportunity to “build their own” pizzas, burgers, or ice cream sundaes. Interactive experiences are simply more memorable than static ones. Consider your target audience and develop a QSR experience designed with these customers in mind.
Many customers are using technology features to attract customers. For instance, you may have already placed an order for yourself or your family using a table-top device. Some restaurants are featuring new apps that allow customers to order or access the menu right from their smartphones. Panera features kiosks where customers can avoid busy lines at the register to place and pay for orders. Not every customer prefers the do-it-yourself tech options, but increasingly, many customers prefer them.
Have you considered how your restaurant could leverage technology to enhance its customers’ experience? Think about how Dominos allows customers to ‘track’ their pizza. Customers know when cooks are preparing it, when it’s baking, and when it’s cooling. It’s a small enough measure, but it gives customers a measure of control; they know when to expect their order. Some fast food chains and quick service restaurants are also offering special deals for customers who use tech features; for instance, they might save 20% off their order simply by placing it online.
Give Them a Show
The Great American Bagel Company features huge glass windows into their kitchen. Customers can enjoy a bagel sandwich while watching cooks mix the dough or finish off a new batch of bagels. Similarly, many restaurants feature food preparation as part of its brand identity. Watch chefs prepare sushi or sprinkle cheese on pizzas. These ‘shows’ prevent customers from feeling bored as they wait for their own meals to be prepared; it creates a positive experience, which is the cornerstone of good QSR experiential marketing.
Instagram-Worthy Food Posts
People love to post restaurant food items on social media. Each time they do, they do the job of marketing for you. The more picturesque the food, the more likely it’s going to wind up on Instagram or Facebook. You can attract customers by proving that, yes, indeed, your burrito is as big as somebody’s head. Remember, before people take a bite, they eat with their eyes. Market what’s most visually enticing on your menu. Give your customers a reason to snap their meals with their smartphones and share the photos online.
Offer Loyalty and Rewards Programs
When you show your appreciation for your customers, it matters to them. Many restaurants offer loyalty and rewards programs. Every 10th pizza ordered, for instance, is free. In the past, customers might have kept a punch card in their wallets or purses. Today, these programs can be run with digital apps. Keep in mind that it costs businesses less in terms of marketing dollars to retain customers than to attract new ones. Are you taking care of your customers? You can use your program to market special menu items or provide loyal customers with special offers designed just for them.
By employing QSR experiential marketing techniques, you can step up your marketing campaigns in ways that are sure to resonate with customers and potential customers. Naturally, you’ll want to carefully evaluate the costs associated with any measures you take, but the consensus is that these measures lead to improved ROI. So, just consider which strategies are most likely to work well for your establishment. Also, check out what your competitors are doing in terms of QSR experiential marketing too. Learn how other restaurants are providing customers with positive experiences that keep them coming back for more.
Let the Auctus Agency help your QSR with field and experiential solutions. Contact us now!