Restaurants are an extremely competitive business, and attracting new customers is a consistent challenge. While diners tend to stick with restaurants they know are good, many also regularly search for new culinary experiences.
One of the best ways to attract new customers is to offer something of value to change their "normal" behavior and encourage them to try something new. While a discounted offer may encourage trial, it will not necessarily drive a repeat customer or brand loyalty. The more successful restaurants tend to combine value with a unique experience. Offering a value may incentivize a consumer to try a new restaurant, but it’s the unique dining experience that they will remember and talk about. And we know that word-of-mouth is the strongest form of marketing in any business.
When businesses focus on the experience, and not just value, they tend to win customers back, and those will likely bring family and friends.
Offering a unique dining experience means personalizing a customer’s time in the restaurant, and that begins with a story. Every business has one, and successful restaurant owners tell their story better than their competitors.
One of the best ways to demonstrate a restaurant’s special story is to showcase a key element in the business. One example is the "chef’s table" where patrons sit at a communal table in the kitchen or just outside of the kitchen and experience a few courses of the chef's favorite specialties. Having a chef share his or her vision, inspiration, or how he or she selects ingredients, is a much richer experience than just being served food at the restaurant. People like to be connected to their food and the person who prepares it, and so the experience of dining out is changing.
Another example of a unique dining experience is to pair food with a common social cause. Recently, LivingSocial partnered with World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit organization founded by celebrity chef José Andrés that focuses on solutions to hunger and poverty, to offer exclusive tickets to its annual Dine-N-Dash fundraising event. The event was a progressive dining experience that took participants on a tour of top Washington, DC restaurants preparing specialty dishes and signature cocktails. The event was not discounted. While participants paid full price, the event still sold out and was a huge success. This speaks to the desire for customers to do something different around, rather than discounting, their dining experience.
A well-designed marketing plan that includes both offline and online ideas also is important in attracting new customers for restaurants. With the number of available websites and mobile applications, today’s consumers have more information at their fingertips than at any other time. And pairing both mobile and social media tactics is key in attracting a savvier, socially experiential customer.
Some of the most effective online and social media campaigns include restaurants using hashtags to align an audience toward a common goal. This type of campaign can be tricky to manage, but when done right, can work very well. Using your best customers’ experiences to tell the story can be a powerful way to use "trusted source" content. An example of this would be to post a preferred hashtag in conspicuous locations throughout a planned event to direct people to share content during and after their experience at the event.
While more and more consumers are online to research and make buying decisions, successful restaurants do not abandon or neglect offline marketing. These channels also continue to play an important role in the marketing landscape. Some of the most successful restaurants have a mix of both: pairing TV, radio or print advertisements that direct customers to an online or social media outlet. The successful restaurant will make every effort to capture market share and data wherever they can.
For more information about working with LivingSocial, please contact Allan.Anderson@livingsocial.com.