The restaurant marketing game is tough even in the best of circumstances—dealing with leases, construction build-outs, hiring, and inventory management, among other things—and operating a restaurant during a pandemic only adds additional new challenges. 

Now, in the era of COVID-19, operators have to navigate new jurisdictional restrictions and consumer safety concerns while trying to keep the lights on. The last thing many operators may be thinking of is actually the one thing that may actually help save their business: how to bring in customers. Effective restaurant marketing helps you protect your investment and keep the lights on and doors open for your guests. 

Here are five creative marketing ideas that we have seen work especially well for some of our restaurant clients this year during the coronavirus pandemic:

Give you customers the gift of free WiFi

This idea is a true win-win: you provide free wireless internet access to your guests, and in exchange, you collect their email addresses for future marketing purposes

How does it work? When a customer wants to access your WiFi network, you can prompt them to enter their email address before allowing them to connect.

Zenerach, for example, collects your patrons’ email addresses when they log in to your in-store WiFi network, and then imports those contacts directly into your marketing database. There are no extra steps required—the software handles everything.

Set up automatically triggered emails

No restaurant marketing program is complete without some sort of email strategy, and a crucial first step is setting up email messages that are automatically triggered to be sent based on some sort of specific criteria.

For instance, an email triggered after the first time a guest logs onto your WiFi network thanking them for visiting your location is a great way to engage the guest from the beginning.

An additional example: acknowledging a guest’s special occasions. If you know a customer’s birthday, you can send them an email recognizing this important event, perhaps along with some sort of special offer or deal. This is a great way to stay engaged with your customers and let them know that you value their business.

Another idea is to automatically send a message to a “lost” or lapsed guest 30 days or so after their last visit to entice them to come back.

When you implement the Zenreach solution, you can set up Smart Emails to trigger based on any number of conditions that you can determine yourself. For instance, you can reward loyal customers—such as those who have come to your location multiple times a month for several months—with a free menu item of their choice or an exclusive perk.

Leverage contact information to understand your customers

In addition to using your guests’ email addresses to send them automatically-triggered messages, you can leverage their contact info to better understand who they are and what their visitation behavior is.

A user’s email address can be used to garner a great many demographic insights on who that person is, from their age, income level, and gender to what other types of businesses that person patronizes. You can then build a general profile of your own visitors: Are they mostly male? Female? Over 35? Under 35?.

Using Zenreach, you can also connect your POS system data to your CRM to gain a better understanding of which customers are the most valuable to you, based on a combination of visit frequency and how much a particular guest spends, on average, when they come to your establishment.  Wouldn’t you like to know who your most frequent guests are? And wouldn’t you like to know when they stop coming?

Particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that merchants are able to identify and connect with their most valuable consumers. If you have limited capacity in your store, you want to make sure that you focus on bringing in your loyal, high-value consumers, and not the low-ticket, one-and-done consumers. 

Because of Zenreach’s ability to determine the most frequent and high-value customers, we have been instrumental in aiding our merchant clients to bring those consumers back.

Retarget customers via email and display advertising

One of the most successful innovations in online advertising over the last 15 years has been retargeting—putting advertisements in front of consumers who have previously been to your website. For some online retailers, retargeting can generate up to 20% of their sales.  

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do that for offline restaurants?  Well, now you can.  

The key idea here is to use visitation behavior to guide how you talk to your customers. For many restaurants, there can be a remarkably high number of one-time only visitors. From our data, some restaurants can see as many as 60% of their guests come only once. 

Furthermore, getting that first-time visitor to come back two or three times can increase the lifetime value by not just 2 or 3 times, but by as much as 10x for some restaurateurs. Knowing the frequency with which a guest visits your restaurant means you can be more effective with your restaurant marketing messaging. 

Did someone come in once last month and hasn’t been back since? Perhaps you can entice them back with an offer. Has your twice-a-week regular been gone for a couple weeks? Send them a message telling them that you miss them.

While retargeting via email is a good and economical way to reach out to guests, the typical open rate on emails is only ~20%.  Retargeting using display advertising can increase your ability to reach your patrons significantly—typically by a factor of 2 to 5.

Prospect for new customers who look like your current ones

One of the most effective ways to get new customers through your doors is to market to those people who resemble the ones already patronizing your business.

Building a “lookalike” audience is simple using Zenreach due to the tremendous amount of data we are able to capture and aggregate on the people who have previously visited your establishment.

In addition to the people who have walked into your business, Zenreach has assembled a network of over 47 million other users, many of whom have shopping patterns and preferences that closely match the guests who already frequent your location. You can use our platform to directly target these ulta-primed prospects.

We have personally seen businesses thrive when they use the restaurant marketing ideas presented above. If you’d like to learn more about any of the strategies discussed in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact the Zenreach team to discuss: Email: hello@zenreach.com or Call: (800) 807-WiFi (9434)

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General Marketing Restaurants