Survey: 5 marketing questions you should be asking yourself if you run a multi-location restaurant operation
In this blog post, I will give you marketing insight that you’ve may have overlooked in your marketing journey for your restaurant business. If you're already someone who’s reached the level of success in the restaurant industry to operate multiple locations, you are already aware of what is needed of yourself, your team, and the business to grow.
Nonetheless, we still think this blog post has something to offer. "if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail", Benjamin Franklin. that's been a golden rule in the business world for ages. I’ve brought up this quote because it relates to what this blog post is about, asking yourself the right questions, to make your marketing the most efficient it can be.
When you use a question first approach you allow yourself to reduce the effort and resources needed to bring your concepts to fruition. So here are 5 marketing questions you should be asking yourself when it comes to your marketing
- If you had a limited marketing budget, would rather use those funds to get new customers or increase the spending of your regulars/existing customer base?
- What is the main intention of marketing, new customers or regular customers to come back?
- Where are my customers coming from? Work, home, school?
- Are you tracking the demographics and characteristics of your customers?
- If you were to look back at your most successful ad campaign, how long ago was that, and did you try to replicate it?
What is the main intention of marketing, new customers, regular customers to come back?
This is most obvious, yet not the most utilized. This question could be interpreted in a host of ways. for example, I as a restaurant have an Instagram page. Why do I? Is it necessary or am I fitting the norm? Does each post or the aggregation of the posts directly bring me sales? Do I have social media to inform, build a community, teach, etc?
For many restaurants, social media seems like the necessary thing to do, disclaimer: I’m referring to social media accounts and not paying for social media ads. As a restaurant what do you prioritize more maximum energy and resources towards profit or a foundation of profit later approach? Having only 1-2 locations but 30k followers isn’t really beneficial, as the majority of your customers are local and your followers are probably diverse across the globe. You're feeding energy to followers who physically could never be customers.
Also, another way the question could be interpreted is that when you release a piece of marketing material who precisely are you trying to talk to. Unlike many other businesses and industries, everyone eats food, so asking who and what your target demographic may not produce a very narrow answer. So instead of asking the age or sex of customers, ask out of all the customers who ordered in the last 3 weeks, which have returned, which are the first time, which is [insert analytic point] and from their build out your intention to personalize a campaign to your customers because the simple “hey we have a promotion going on” isn’t as effective now and days when customer expect that from every restaurant.
Where are my customers coming and why?
Location, location, location. This one is simple yet effective. Where are your customers coming from? From school? Work? Church? Or on their way to point X? For most people in America, driving is the norm, and fast-casual has been the solution to eating on the road. Also, ask yourself if the majority of customers are coming to you because they love the food or you have great pricing relative to your area.
You can get the answers to these questions directly by asking your customers, for example, for every 2 customers ask if they are coming from or the way to work and you could even make it into small talk without it becoming too invasive or weird. The answer to this question will let you target your marketing by offer promotions or content that is more receptive to people on the road, walking in, looking for tasty food, on a budget, and etc.
As a restaurant, do track the demographics and characteristics of your customers?
Data is everything in today’s time. Marketing without data is like trying to hit a bullseye with a dart while blind, it’s possible but not likely. As a restaurant, you should be able to answer or deduce what percentage of your customers are over/under the age of x, what their estimated income level is, personality trait, estimated interests, sex, etc.
You should also have hard data to support, as observation alone isn’t sound enough and more prone to produce a bias.
You may wonder why these data points are useful, especially if you own a niche restaurant and serve a niche customer base. The first reason is, if you decide to hire a third-party marketing team, you could reduce your cost by already knowing the data and simply asking them to utilize it.
Second, you can judge your restaurant’s growth outlook, for example, if 30% of your customers’ are public students, they are more likely to only remain customers for a limited time, and expecting the next generation to come without focus may not be a reliable option.
Having information on your customers' characteristics can adjust your restaurant’s operation, service, and marketing to accommodate for the future and now. You can also deduce the data points by assessing your customer’s behavior, vehicle, dress, language and you can use spreadsheets/SQL database to record the data.
If you were to look back at your most successful ad campaign, how long ago was that, and did you try
They say, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, but a fool can’t be fooled again”. Look back at your previous campaigns and see how they performed against your expectations. Are the campaigns that exceed your expectations succeed because you deliberately perform a set of tasks that brought it there or was it a random act of the universe. Was the environment just right? Was the only reason it succeeds was because of timing?
Answering this question allows you to determine your independent and dependent variables, allowing you to put more effort and resources that make a difference. This also isn’t just from perspective, yes you may have done some things the directly lead to success but what about the customers, was their event at that time that led people to order more, were those who responded positively to the campaign in a primary similar demographic, is that demographic your usually demographic or deviated from the standard.
You don’t have to be a math genius to deduce these differences and similarities, however, you do need intuition and data to find the correlative and causative factors.
If you had a limited marketing budget, would rather use those funds to get new customers or increase
Last but not least, who matters more to you at this current moment. I’ve asked a form of this question to many restaurant owners and they all seem to come to the consensus that they want both, which is obvious as who doesn’t want more customers yet increases the revenue from existing customers. So I’ve narrowed down the question to an ultimatum, new customers or more money from the existing customers.
The answer to this question may change depending on where you are in your restaurant’s journey, there isn’t a right answer. However, I’ll give one reasoning as to why one would want one over the other. To start, if your goal is growth, saying yes to either will produce growth however now you must ask yourself how do I want to grow. Vertically or horizontal, vertically?
Do want a profit machine with a 1-2 locations business by increasing the revenue of your existing base, that has already shown a history of loyalty, Horizontal? By serving a wider customer base and having many locations. The answer is up to you, both methods come with their pros and cons, and it’s all about what you want as a restaurant.
An interesting tidbit about scaling horizontally is that Starbucks became the monolith that it is today by growing horizontally however decided to change their position by closing many locations. They negatively affected their per location income by having their revenue spread too thin across locations.
I don’t share this to bash or provide a negative bias against horizontal scaling, but to give you a real-world example of how it can be a benefit and detriment.
In conclusion, asking yourself the right questions allows you to decipher the purpose and motivation needed to maximize your marketing and bring your restaurant business to new heights. Asking yourself what is the main intention of marketing, new customers, regular customers to come back? To know exactly what is needed and not be overwhelmed by the vast options available. Will bring you the profit pumping machine, you aim to be.