Authored By: Shannon Chirone, VP of Marketing
Small restaurant chains are in luck in today’s landscape. We’re in a time of rapid change where anyone with the right tools can succeed. Whether you’re looking to add locations or reach more customers, knowing how to promote within your budget is important to keep your business afloat while also achieving larger goals.
You may not have the big budget and large marketing team of an enterprise restaurant chain, but you can still borrow their tactics to market your business.
Restaurant franchises of any size can master personalization and effectively reach their target audiences. We created this guide to help small franchises market like enterprise chains in today’s landscape. By the end, you’ll know:
- Comparable marketing methods that are not only cheaper, but also more effective today
- How the majority of consumers find and choose restaurants to visit — and what makes people travel out of state for food businesses that peak their interest
- How you can affordably personalize offers to specific customers
Here are 6 ways small restaurant franchises can market like the smartest and most advanced enterprise chains — within a budget and with limited resources.
6 Ways Small Restaurant Franchises Can Market Like Enterprise Chains
1. Big Brand Awareness Campaigns
Big brands: Build brand equity and recognition via wide-reaching commercial campaigns (extremely expensive to produce and air).
National TV ads can cost upwards of $115,000. Local TV ads typically cost between $5-$10 per 1,000 views (ads on streaming services like Hulu cost even more).
Here’s the thing: not only do traditional ads cost more, but they’re also not as effective as they used to be — and better, cheaper options exist.
People today don’t want to be marketed to (many people aren’t watching traditional television anyway). Consumers want to see real people like themselves, whom they trust, showcasing products and services they enjoy in an authentic way.
This is something you just can’t accomplish through a traditional TV ad.
Do this: Create casual, fun TikTok videos and work with influencers to increase reach in a more affordable way.
Find influencers to create user-generated content (UGC) to share on your social media platforms. Here are a few ways you can find UGC creators:
- Search your followers and see what influencers they follow. Look for the most-followed influencers, and check if they have a lot of engagement (likes, views, saves and shares). Also, make sure they’re genuine, meaning their personality shows through and they only promote products they use themselves.
- Use the Discover Page to search for hashtags, locations, and users to find influencers who can help your business. Tip: Search for the hashtag “ad” to find influencers who are already being sponsored by other companies.
- Look at the influencer’s bio and see if they have a UGC portfolio available. If not, ask for their portfolio with their insights and previous work.
You can also sponsor influencers to create content on their own accounts. Focus your content on TikTok — it’s the fastest-growing and least mature platform, meaning it has more opportunity and less competition. According to Finances Online:
- TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2021.
- 50% of users visit restaurants after seeing content on TikTok.
- People from out of state will travel exclusively to visit restaurants whose content they like on TikTok.
Influencers, too, have changed as a whole — being an influencer is no longer about huge followings or fitting a specific beauty standard. We’re in the age of the micro-influencer. These are everyday people with 1,000+ loyal followers.
Micro-influencers have a larger know, like, and trust factor, because — along with being likable and making followers feel like they know the influencers — they only promote brands they believe in and use themselves. All of this leads to a higher level of trust among their followers, which means if the influencers promote your restaurant, their followers are more likely to check you out. On top of that, posts on influencer accounts get more engagement than posts on brand accounts, so partnering with influencers can accomplish more than posting every day on your own account.
You can repurpose the content you create for TikTok on other platforms, like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, for additional reach.
Here are some ways restaurants can promote themselves on TikTok:
- Recipe content, which is in the top 10 most popular on TikTok
- Polls, challenges, and other interactive posts to increase engagement; this helps the TikTok algorithm promote your content more
- Giveaways, which encourage people to interact more
- Collaborations, which expand your reach to more people
- Following trends on TikTok like using trending audio
If your restaurant is local, you don’t need to pay a lot to get major influencers or celebrity endorsements. You only need to find local micro-influencers that people in your area follow for local recommendations.
2. Loyalty Programs And Ordering That Work Everywhere
Big brands: Have loyalty programs that work on all their channels, including app, website, and in-store.
Big brands have omnichannel loyalty programs that allow customers to have a seamless experience when switching between platforms like the brand’s website or social media. Omnichannel experiences are expected by customers and easier for restaurants. They streamline the ordering process across all channels, from in-store and website, to social media, apps, and even over the phone. They also allow people to order directly from the restaurant without using third-party delivery apps.
An example of omnichannel loyalty is Starbucks. Customers can access their accounts online, over the app, and everywhere else. You can even reload your rewards card while standing in line to order, and it will update immediately so you can pay with the app at the register.
Do this: Ditch limited, single-channel platforms that don’t offer omnichannel loyalty.
If you’re a local or smaller franchise restaurant, you don’t have to miss out on omnichannel loyalty programs. Get rid of single-channel platforms and instead choose a platform that lets you go omnichannel without needing your own marketing team. The only way to take your revenue back from third-party apps is to offer the same capability with an equally seamless experience for the consumer.
Omnichannel is a step up from multi-channel. Instead of separate, unconnected services on various channels, it creates a seamless and consistently branded experience across all channels.
Here’s why it’s worth focusing on an omnichannel loyalty program:
- Creating loyal guests is more cost-effective than pursuing new customers (it costs 5 times more to attract new customers).
- Omnichannel loyalty programs let you reward guests for all actions (for instance, promoting you on social media), not just spending. It creates a stronger emotional connection, which has been correlated with a 27% increase in spending.
- 74% of customers choose brands that have good loyalty programs over ones that don’t.
Platforms like HungerRush help restaurants operate across channels and incorporate online ordering systems, without needing a tech wizard on your staff. How? By…
- Automatically syncing your POS with digital ordering avenues
- Offering AI-functioning text ordering capability and reminders that send based on customer habits
- Incorporating central menu configuration, which lets you make updates in one place and automatically syncs across all platforms
3. Personalized Promotions And Offers
Big brands: Run giant promotions and offers that are the same everywhere, then send those generic campaigns to everyone on their email and text lists.
Major and national brands have the budget to create giant promotions and offers that are instantly available to all customers everywhere. The promotions show up in ads as well as in emails and texts to customers who have signed up for their lists.
These brands see a return on this strategy, but there is a more affordable approach available to smaller, localized brands — and it’s more effective.
Do this: Use AI and personalization to automatically read your customers’ order history, understand preferences and behaviors, and test offers and promotions at an individual level.
Today, restaurants of any level can incorporate machine learning to personalize offers to specific customers. They do this by integrating POS, ordering apps, and more to keep track of customer purchase patterns across any apps or places where customers interact with the restaurant or make a purchase. Then, they automatically send promotions based on factors like what customers usually order and the time they normally order.
Beyond offering customers their usual order, AI can automatically test offers at an individual level to see what works for each customer — and then personalize offers and communication even further.
OrderAI, a HungerRush product, does exactly this for customers who have opted into text marketing. Customers can even place an order by text without ever having to switch to an app or website. AI can also be used for orders placed over the phone.
4. Hosting And Sponsoring Events
Big brands: Sponsor and host major events to get national media attention.
Big brands host major events, sponsor sports teams, and use other similar marketing tactics — for example, Coca-Cola and the Olympics. When a major brand’s logo shows up as a sponsor of an event people love, that automatically creates a positive association in people’s minds.
Sponsoring events is helpful for brands of all sizes, because it’s a non-intrusive way to gain trust and increase brand visibility.
Do this: Focus on local events to sponsor and host, and use methods other than direct cash if necessary.
With other types of advertising, you need permission from customers to send offers and communication. Sponsorships and events enable you to catch new customers’ attention and increase your credibility.
Here’s how to sponsor local events:
- Look for events that have an audience of people in your target market. Find local sports teams, charity events, and so on.
- Ask to sponsor the event and have your logo visible, while also offering an incentive, like a discount for customers’ next visit or online purchase.
- Sponsor events by covering a percentage of the event cost or pledging a percentage of your own sales surrounding the event.
- Help promote the event through interviewing with a local TV station or advertising in-store and on your website and social media.
Sponsorships provide a lot of reach because people interested in the event will be sure to see your logo.
Smaller restaurant franchises can also host community, business, and charity events at their own locations — or offer their space as a venue for celebrations like birthdays and engagements. Since people look for spaces to have get-togethers that include food, this is a great way to find new customers. To make hosting easier, dedicate a space for these groups that can be partitioned off when needed.
Here are some other ideas for events:
- Open mic nights and live music
- Trivia nights
- Holiday events with costume contests or themed menus and decor
Know your budget and audience beforehand and market to them on social media, in-store, and on your website. Another idea is to sell tickets in advance of the event — and you can also have contests on social media for people who share your event.
With both of these tactics, you’ll gain increased positive perception from people who associate your brand with the event and with the other sponsors (who may be more well known).
As a bonus, event sponsorship provides opportunities to encourage guests to tag you on social media, gaining some free advertising and maybe even some customer loyalty.
5. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Big brands: Consistently post SEO content on blogs and buy paid ads for targeted keywords.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a key tool for companies who want to show up in Google searches. Big brands can afford to pay for SEO experts and teams, as well as ads on specific keywords so people will find them. Here’s why these businesses invest in SEO:
- 49% of marketers say that SEO accounts for the best ROI of any marketing.
- 53% of customers research products via online search.
- Google is searched 81,000 times per second.
- There are around 1.72 billion websites on the internet today.
SEO is the best way for restaurants to beat out the competition. Showing up at the top of Google search results ensures that the business not only gets found, but also gains authority and credibility.
Think SEO is just for restaurants with big budgets? Think again.
Do this: Focus on local SEO and geo-targeted ads.
You don’t need to master national SEO, you only need to be found by your target market — which, for local restaurants, can be done through Google My Business. Google My Business is how you are found on both Google Maps and through text or voice search. Local SEO costs for a Google My Business analysis and recommendations can be as low as $300 (as opposed to $1,000+ for national SEO) depending on your needs. Here’s why local SEO is worthwhile for small restaurant franchises to prioritize:
- 46% of all Google searches are for local businesses.
- Businesses on Google My Business that have four or more stars outrank others by around 11%.
- When people search on their smartphones for local businesses, 76% of them will visit the business within a day.
- Of all local online searches, 28% end with a purchase.
- For local searches, 32.8% of all searchers visit, which accounts for visits to 1.5 billion businesses each month.
- 78% of people buy, either in-store or online, after searching locally.
Just registering your business on Google will drive a lot of traffic to you. It’s the easiest and cheapest way to get found online.
Big brands: Have built-in customer feedback portals and polls on their website, social media, and more, and are constantly asking for customer feedback.
Customer service is one of the most important aspects of the restaurant industry — in fact, 7 out of 10 customers report spending more at businesses that offer better service.
The best way to know if customer service is top-notch is to get feedback from customers. However, 42% of businesses aren’t listening to their customers, and therefore aren’t aware of how they can improve to gain more business and loyalty.
Big brands know that customer service is the way to please customers, and that customer feedback helps gain loyalty and recommendations (since word-of-mouth is still the best promotion tactic). These big brands have the budget to invest in customer service through things like hiring staff to answer questions by phone and online chat, and providing customer service training for employees.
You might not have the resources to dedicate staffing to phone and online chat service, but you can still pay attention to customer feedback. It starts by seeking reviews.
Do this: Get reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and more — and reply to as many as possible. Focus on customer service throughout your business, and build community on Facebook and other social media platforms.
34% of consumers search online on a daily basis to discover local businesses — and the vast majority of consumers pay attention to reviews: 94% of consumers report that they’re more likely to visit a business with positive reviews, while 92% are less likely to visit if there are negative reviews.
This means you need to:
- Encourage your customers (especially the loyal ones) to review you online.
- Pay attention to what customers are saying in their reviews — and respond.
There are two main places to cultivate your reviews: Review sites like Yelp and social media.
Review sites: You’ll need to follow up on reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor. Yelp pages show up in the top five Google search results for 92% of searches that have the city and business type included in the search. Encourage customers to leave reviews and make sure to respond to reviews so people can see you care.
Social media: Most restaurants in the U.S. have Facebook pages, as well as Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Facebook is where many people search for local businesses, and this type of activity increased by 23% in 2020. Restaurants on Facebook receive the fifth highest average engagements per post from consumers of all categories.
Along with Facebook reviews and ratings, you can use various platforms to poll your customers or receive feedback through comments, direct messages, or tagged posts. You can also share reviews on your pages by posting quotes or videos from customers sharing their experience, or ratings from sites like TripAdvisor.
Small restaurant franchises need a Facebook page as well as Instagram, because people are drawn to restaurants with a strong Instagram page. 30% of millennials will not go to restaurants if their Instagram isn’t good, not to mention social shares of food photos by consumers. You can work on creating a strong Instagram page by hiring local photographers, using influencers (as mentioned earlier), or by learning how to take great photos yourself (or even finding talented staff to help out).
In addition, Instagram gets more engagement on posts than Facebook and Twitter. You can also invest in Instagram ads if you have the budget: 50% of Instagram users report using restaurants they discovered from ads on the platform.
Start Marketing Like An Enterprise Chain Today
Small restaurants have more opportunities than ever to be found by new customers, increase customer loyalty, and grow their business. Digital platforms are relatively new options that have been around long enough to be relied on by many businesses already.
OrderAI serves as HungerRush’s answer for small restaurants looking to increase their customer service offerings in an omnichannel way. Reaching customers where they are has never been easier.
Try a demo with us to see how OrderAI works with your restaurant.
The post 6 Ways Small Restaurant Franchises Can Market Like Enterprise Chains appeared first on HungerRush.