June 15, 2022

How Restaurant Marketers Can Inspire Customer Loyalty This Summer

How Restaurant Marketers Can Inspire Customer Loyalty This Summer

Jocelyn Taylor and Vanessa Rottet, two members of VDX.tv’s Restaurant Vertical Team, share their learnings from this year’s Restaurant Leadership Conference.

As the summer season kicks off, we can expect to see an accompanying change in consumer behavior. With schools out of session and vacations in full swing, restaurant marketers will be competing more than ever for the attention of some of the most sought-after dining audiences. As we look to capture consumer attention and draw in visitors with tailored video messaging, our VDX.tv Restaurant team is revisiting what we learned at this spring’s Restaurant Leadership Conference (RLC) in Phoenix, AZ, on how to attract diners, overcome obstacles, and grow business during this season of spending. Here’s what restaurant marketers need to know.

Leveraging Loyalty

Who are your most valuable users? The ones already spending with you, of course! Increasing visitation frequency and average order size among existing users is crucial to winning the summer season and understanding consumer behavior. Leveraging internal CRM data can help restaurant brands understand the value of their existing consumers and see beyond the sticker price of menu items to understand not just what’s drawing users in, but what’s bringing them back. At RLC, Lindsay Eichten, CRM and Loyalty at TGI Fridays, shared more about their journey to understand the % increase in return visitation, based on what menu items were ordered by that consumer. Understanding what’s driving loyalty and leveraging that information in your consumer messaging is key to increasing visitation, building a strong foundation of year-round loyalists.

Summer LTO Season

Summer memories are often defined by the tastes and smells of our favorite treats. Most of us have that specific memory in mind – the return of the peach milkshake at Chick-fil-A, or the Starbucks Frappuccino® that won you over for life. This is exactly what restaurant brands try to do with Limited Time Offers (LTOs) – draw in consumers by creating the perfect limited product that speaks to a seasonal moment. At RLC, we learned the secrets of some of our industry’s most successful LTOs from experts like Sara Schmillen of Kahala Brands. Schmillen shared more on Cold Stone Creamery’s successful approach to LTOs, which was to extend the offer nationally and tap influencers to promote the product to key audiences and pique family interest. And while we are already in the summer season, don’t think that brands are waiting to develop their LTOs – Shane Schaibly, Corporate Chef at First Watch Restaurant, shared that First Watch starts developing their recipes 18-24 months in advance, with internal testing and customer testing done a full year in advance of the LTO release. With new fresh and seasonal LTOs being released every 10 weeks at First Watch, Schaibly is already testing what’s on the menu for summer… next summer.

Omnichannel Connection

With consumer attention more limited than ever during the bustling summer season, it’s critical to create multiple consumer touchpoints, both at-home and in-store, to maximize audience engagement and stay top-of-mind. One of RLC’s General Session speakers, Paul Brown, CEO of Inspire Brands, shared more about their approach to consumer connection. Brown discussed the importance of an omnichannel environment to build the communication and relationship with consumers through key connective points that encompass the entire digital footprint of your consumer relationship. From media messaging, ecommerce ordering, email communication, to in-store visitation, Brown encourages a unified approach throughout your multi-touch strategy to stay top-of-mind and break through the clutter of competing messaging. The days of the “unknown consumer” are gone. Now, brands must know not just what gets their consumers interested, but how they can reach them and stay connected at a frequency that keeps them coming back. During the summer season, it’s important to know where your consumers are and what they care about in order to keep their attention, build your relationship, and win their discretionary dollars during a key spending season.

Stay Flexible

Summer is a fast-moving season, and while we at VDX.tv love a strategic and well-thought out plan, all marketers know that some of the hottest ideas happen spontaneously by embracing what’s going on in pop culture. We were inspired by what we heard from some of the restaurant industry’s top CMOs – Kieran Donahue (IHOP), Tana Davila (P.F. Chang’s), Alice Crowder (Krystal Restaurants) – on how to drive success and capture the moment. For example, IHOP’s “Milkshake Monday” promotion offered all-you-can drink milkshakes after Adam Sandler’s TikTok video went viral. Staying nimble and saying “yes” to taking risks can often times have a big pay-off: Donahue shared that during the pandemic, IHOP reduced the price of menu items after reviewing off-premise and dine-in sales differently. This quick shift drove a 2X increase in off-premise sales. Donahue also noted that the IHOP team had a unified understanding of the brand and its direction, allowing them to nimbly react and work with their legal team to approve marketing initiatives efficiently. Just one example of how staying flexible and nimble can be key for restaurant brands to effectively execute on seasonal initiatives.

If you want to learn more about how to apply the above recommendations and strategically reach consumers with  omnichannel digital video, contact us here.

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