We’ve discussed how to market your restaurant. Now, we’ve compiled a list of three restaurants (or restaurant groups) that we think are doing a really great job at marketing. In this article, we’ll talk about what these restaurants did right and how you can take inspiration from them for your own restaurant’s marketing strategy.
Dog Haus certainly isn’t in our dog house when it comes to restaurant marketing. In fact, the national burger and dog chain employs a number of effective marketing strategies.
What it does right:
Showcases its Personality
First, the restaurant infuses its cheeky personality into all of its copy. For example, its restaurant signs and hot dog dishes read, “The Absolute Würst,” a play on the German word for sausage. Clearly, Dog Haus is not implying that it’s hot dogs are the worst. Rather, it’s marketing the restaurant—and its culinary creations—as creative, fun, and unpretentious.
According to Toast, establishing your restaurant’s personality is essential.
[The personality of your brand, the way you speak and act, make up your restaurant identity and is what attracts and retains customers.
Start by describing your brand (as if it is a person) with three words (ie. Bold, Fun, Authentic) and then elaborate on each until you have a good understanding of the personality of the brand. Once you know this, the rest should be no problem; when knowing what type of “person” your brand is,” you should be able to easily figure out how they would speak to your customers.]
While we don’t know exactly how Dog Haus developed its personality—or that it would use “creative, fun, and unpretentious” to describe itself—we do know that its personality effectively attracts customers.
Next, the restaurant’s yearlong chef collaboration series incorporates three effective restaurant marketing strategies.
Forges Celebrity Partnerships
First off, the series takes advantage of celebrity partnerships. For 2018, Dog Haus recruited eight “Kick-Ass Chefs” to dream up special hot dog or shake creations that will be served in Dog Haus locations for two months. For example, in May and June, the restaurant served Top Chef season 2 winner Ilan Hall’s Huli-Huli chicken and pork sausage topped with sweet ginger glaze, pineapple and jalapeño relish, crispy fried onions, and scallions.
Hall promoted the dog on his personal Instagram and Twitter accounts, which have each amassed over ten thousand followers.
Dog Haus is currently serving James Beard award-winning chef Alex Seidel’s “Lambda Lambda Lambda” featuring a lamb and pork sausage, topped with tzatziki, feta, diced onions, tomato, and pickles, which Seidel promoted on his personal Instagram account.
According to Franchising USA, there are some definite perks to partnering with celebrities. Celebrities can introduce their fans to you and add an overall “wow factor” to your restaurant.
If you don’t have major celebrity chefs in your contact lists, consider reaching out to other local chefs or food bloggers. They’re somewhat of “celebrities” to target customers in your area, and all it would cost you is a meal on the house (and who wouldn’t want a restaurant dish named after them?)
Leverages Limited Time Offers
Second, by changing the special dog every two months, the series effectively uses limited time offers to increase sales. Studies show that applying urgency and scarcity to menu items can increase sales by as much as 332%!
Donates to Charity
Finally, the campaign is for charity. Every time a customer orders one of the LTOs, Dog Haus donates one dollar to No Kid Hungry.
Not only does contributing to charity benefit worthy organizations, it also benefits your restaurant’s bottom line. According to a 2012 study, 72% of consumers recommend a business that contributes to charity over one that doesn’t.
If you’re not interested in donating a portion of your proceeds to charity consider catering a local charity event (it’ll make you feel good and you’ll only pay for the cost of the food). If you don’t know of any upcoming charity events, Restaurant Engine recommends reaching out to your local chamber of commerce.
Domino’s has had a good year. In Q1 of 2018, the pizza chain outperformed its competitors and saw a 6.4% increase in same-store sales (which control for any new locations that opened during the quarter). Q2 resulted in the company’s 29th straight quarter of domestic same-store sales growth.
We would wager that Domino’s success is due in part to the successful marketing campaigns the brand has launched over the past decade.
What it does right:
We’ll start our exploration of Domino’s marketing techniques by taking you all the way back to 2010. Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” dominated the airways, Apple introduced the iPad, and “Domino’s Pizza was known as the poor man’s Pizza Hut.” Faced with negative reviews and claims that its crust tasted like cardboard and its sauce like ketchup, Domino’s launched its famous “Pizza Turnaround” campaign. In the self-deprecating campaign directed by marketing guru Russell Weiner, Domino’s released a series of honest ads that admitted to its pizza’s flaws—and even highlighted negative reviews like “worst pizza I ever had,” “the sauce tastes like ketchup,” and ‘the crust tastes like cardboard”—and detailed the process of creating their new and improved pizza recipe.
Domino’s candor paid off. Q4 profits in 2010 rose to $23.6 million, more than twice 2009’s number. Store sales were also up 1.4% in 2010. Over the next four years, Domino’s opened 1,800 new stores in 10 countries.
Evidently, transparency can boost restaurant revenue. In 2010, Entrepreneur’s Tracy Stapp Herold reported:
[The honesty of the commercials succeeded in capturing not only customers’ curiosity but their sympathy as well. There’s something quite appealing about a big company willing to admit to its mistakes and put in the effort to correct them—especially amidst the corporate scandals and big bailouts that dominate the news nowadays.]
Values Customer Feedback
Not only was Domino’s “Pizza Turnaround” campaign honest, it also called upon consumer feedback to inform its business decisions. Clearly, customers were excited to taste the new recipe to see if Domino’s listened to their complaints (continued sales growth indicated that it did).
Domino’s emphasis on customer suggestions holds strong today. Currently, the company is asking for customers to recommend delivery hotspots, popular places without specific addresses that Domino’s should add to its delivery map.
Gathering customer opinions is a smart restaurant marketing strategy. Not only does it show customers that you care, it also gives you valuable insight into how you can improve your product.
You should always respond to feedback, whether that means reworking your recipes like Domino’s did or simply responding to reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor.
Stevens et al.report that ignoring customer complaints is one of the worst things businesses can do. They say that, at a minimum, a timely, personalized apology should always be issued to minimize the impact of a complaint.
[When a customer receives a generic automated response from the firm, it gives them the impression that the firm does not value the customer. Many customers complain because they feel a need to be heard, and when an automated system is used—or even perceived to be used—they end up feeling like no one is truly listening.]
Launches Lighthearted Campaigns
Big Daddy’s and Duke’s
‘80s style diner Big Daddy’s and southern-influenced pub Duke’s are all over Instagram. In this day and age, that is a great way to be found online by new customers.
What they do right:
Reach Out to Influencers
Many restaurants that whip up “insta-worthy” concoctions are frequently tagged in Influencers’ posts. However, not all restaurants reach out to influencers directly to request that they post about their restaurants.
Branded Restaurants, the group behind the casual NYC eateries started reaching out to Influencers last year in order to increase brand awareness and drive restaurant sales.
Julie Zucker, the director of marketing and promotions for Branded Restaurants, talked about choosing the right Influencers for your restaurant.
[There are people who have millions of followers, and they’re not really the people that we’re looking for. We want Influencers who have around 10,000 followers or 20,000 followers. The idea is that we’d rather have somebody whose followers and the people they influence are in New York. That’s number one. Secondly, they’re all people that would, in fact, like you come to one of our restaurants.
We also want people that kind of fit in with our brands, we want people who are fun, and we want people who are colorful. We decided to institute an “Instagram account takeover program, in which we would have influencers come in, we’d give them a meal, and then, we’d have a manager log them into our Instagram account, and they would take a story for their visit and they would also take photos of their dishes.]
Use User Generated Content
The restaurants encourage the rest of their followers to post their pictures of their experiences as well. Big Daddy’s tells customers to post their pictures with the tag #bigdaddysnyc or #followthetot for a chance to be reposted by the restaurant.
Influencer marketing posting user-generated content are great ways to boost restaurant sales. I know that I check Instagram before deciding where to eat and research shows that I’m not alone. WordStream sites ‘foodie porn” as “arguably the very best way to promote your restaurant online.” As of July 20, there were 285,145,625 posts with tagged #food and 166,498,669 posts tagged #foodporn.
If you’re not located in a popular city like NYC and you can’t find any local Influencers, Medium suggests looking for local businesses that have standout social media presences and seeing if you can do some type of collaboration on your account. Another option is to ask the kids in your city if there is a particular person in the area with a mega Instagram following.
These restaurants used a wide variety of restaurant marketing techniques. They leveraged brand personality, celebrity partnerships, limited time offers, charitable contributions, transparency, customer feedback, lighthearted campaigns, Instagram Influencers, and user-generated content to grow their restaurant sales.
Whether you have 1,000 locations or just one, you can implement Dog Haus, Domino’s, Big Daddy’s and Luke’s marketing strategies on a scale that fits your restaurant and your marketing budget.