In the ever-changing landscape of the restaurant industry, consumer demand for personalization and experience-oriented dining continues to dominate. An approach to public relations that has gained traction in recent years is experiential public relations, which is all about giving people a firsthand experience of your brand, product or service, rather than simply telling them about it through traditional methods like press releases or media coverage. By creating experiences that are tailored to specific audiences, restaurants can ensure they are reaching the right people with the right message.
By providing an immersive experience, companies can create a sense of excitement and engagement that traditional public relations methods often struggle to achieve. There are several ways restaurants can cater to this trend regardless of their size or budget. From developing unique programming or an event series that resonates with guests, to tapping into technology-driven loyalty programs or social media initiatives, here are four tactics that restaurants can utilize to captivate consumer attention and drive sales.
- Build Unique Event and Happy Hour Programming
While not a revolutionary solution, effective happy hour programming continues to drive sales for restaurants and bars. According to Modern Restaurant Management, data reveals that bars with happy-hour programs have an average increase in revenue of 26% during happy hours. The key to successful programming is to identify the slower time periods of business and develop a menu of options that are easy to execute and are relatively inexpensive in terms of cost. Depending on the concept, simply offering a limited menu of discounted items may be the best solution as guests can also order full-priced items from the regular menu, further adding to overall sales revenue.
Beyond discounts and offers, hosting special events is an impactful way to generate excitement and boost traffic. Chef and restaurant collaborations continue to spark interest among diners, as well as pop-up events. From food trucks and chef takeovers to more lifestyle-oriented events, such as a flower arranging seminar or jewelry making workshop, there are endless opportunities to target and delight your desired demographic and audience.
- Create Impactful Influencer Marketing Programs
Over the years, influencer marketing has evolved as a powerful promotional tool. Beyond generating additional exposure for the brand or restaurant, influencer marketing can help promote a new campaign. As an example, our agency worked with a destination marketing organization to promote a new passport program that encourages locals and visitors to support their local dining scene. We tapped influencers local to the area to serve as ambassadors for the program. This initiative helped demonstrate how the passport works with step-by-step instructions featured in the influencers’ stories and reels explaining how to check-in, earn points and redeem prizes. Beyond explaining how the campaign works, the influencer marketing program also highlighted the participating restaurants themselves, showcasing featured menu items, the overall atmosphere, the chef team and more.
Influencer marketing is especially beneficial for reaching younger market segments. According to BusinessWire.com, 39% of Generation Z diners say they have tried a new restaurant based solely on the recommendation of an online influencer. Gen Z’s population, influence and spending power continues to grow by the day, creating a significant opportunity to invest in marketing to this demographic.
When putting together any influencer program, it is crucial to properly vet influencer partners to ensure their audience aligns with yours and their engagement rate is strong. Furthermore, it is important to establish clear parameters for what the restaurant is willing to provide and what the influencer will provide in turn. At our agency, we have found it beneficial to outline contracts for all influencer marketing initiatives, so that all parties are held accountable for what they have agreed to provide.
- Engage with Guests on Social Media
Tapping into social media is an effective and low-cost way to enhance customer interactions and engagements. Simply re-posting your guests’ Instagram stories is a beneficial way to both engage and generate new content for your page. In addition, putting together contests and giveaways with prizes like gift cards, swag or branded merchandise is a valuable tactic for increasing traffic and interactions on your page. These initiatives will also create guest loyalty.
Furthermore, utilizing social media to reveal off-menu items or a secret offering is an impactful way to further engage with your following. This makes followers feel like they are “in-the-know” with your company and brand, further driving customer retention.
Instagram reels and TikTok videos are an important aspect of social media to pay attention to. As the platform algorithms favor the use of these newer formats, restaurant brands are finding it very beneficial to take advantage of them. However, the creation of videos and reels are typically more time and labor intensive, so it might be the most efficient to employ your social media or PR agency for assistance or look into user-generated options.
- Establish a Technology-Driven Guest Loyalty Program
Guest loyalty programs are not only a great way to keep your diners coming back, but they will also keep your customers happy. There are a variety of ways to create this program depending on your concept. For one option, diners can earn loyalty points redeemable for discounts or free items, or the restaurant can offer a more tiered approach. As an example, with a customer-ranking-based loyalty program, customers can leverage specific program benefits based off the tier they are placed in.
As many of the online ordering apps take large percentages of restaurants’ to-go and delivery profits, it may be beneficial to invest in the technology needed to create a dedicated online ordering platform. Incentivize diners with discounts and rewards to encourage use of your platform over your competitors. With today’s technology options, there are so many new ways to track your customers’ spending habits and create opportunities aligned with their behaviors.
In the highly competitive restaurant industry, employing effective PR and marketing tactics is a critical key to success. By tapping into social media trends, hosting unique events and providing loyalty offerings, restaurants can leverage endless opportunities to create a wonderful experience and build a loyal fan base. It’s important to remember that experiential public relations campaigns require careful planning and execution to be effective. If you’re interested in learning more, contact [email protected] for more details.