It’s a jungle out there in the fast food world. There are so many options! And more just keep coming because people are demanding convenient, accessible, and affordable food that fits into their crazy lifestyles. But, you’re not just competing with other fast food joints, you’ve also got to find a way to make yourself stand apart from other locations within your franchise.
You may get help from the co-op for marketing and advertising. They may even have specific programs you can launch in your area. But those marketing efforts drive new customers to every location within your franchise, not just yours.
Here are three things that we have seen work well for fast food restaurant owners who are really focused on growing their individual business locations.
1. Paper Coupons
The power of a discount is amazing. Not only do they attract new customers, but they actually make a profit for your specific fast food location. Plus, people literally love using coupons with 64% of Americans stating that they use coupons frequently at restaurants and brick and mortar stores.
But just telling people about a discount isn’t always enough to bring them through your doors. And it’s not often that you have a good email database of customers who have come into your fast food restaurant. Paper coupons are a physical reminder of the great deal customers can get at your location specifically.
And because coupons have been around for decades, this is something many fast food franchises will allow you to do, and may even encourage, to help grow your business’ profits.
High Volume Coupon Distribution: Grocery Store Receipt Advertising
How do you get your coupon offer in front of all these fast-food loving people without spending an arm and a leg? There are a few options out there but, there’s only one way to get your coupon into the hands of thousands of people each week: grocery store receipt advertising. Since most people will hit the fast food places closest to them, and they also shop for groceries nearby, it makes sense to have your fast food restaurant coupon on the back of the register tape. These are your customers, or potential customers, and they’re totally coming to your place if they can get a better deal with you versus going somewhere else. Using receipt tape advertising also ensures that your advertising dollars aren’t being spent to benefit someone else’s’ store in the same franchise. Just make the coupon redeemable only at your location, so that your investment will get you the reward.
Repeat Customer Coupons: Bounceback Certificates
Another type of discount is specifically for those who have been into your place before. You may be thinking, “They already know about me! Why would I give them a discount?” Well I hate to break it to you, but your customers aren’t exclusively yours. Do you always go to the same restaurant every time you want a burger? No, you have options and so do your customers.
A bounceback certificate is an incentive to bring customers back to redeem a specific offer. For example, if you want to drive mid-day sales at your restaurant, you can give customers bounceback certificates that they can only redeem in those hours that are slower. For fast food restaurants, you would usually give these out as part of the check out process. For those who are coming into the restaurant (versus the drive-through), you can also collect emails or phone numbers so you can send out information that will bring customers back for a great deal. Just be sure you’re tracking the offer to know how many people use it and which ones perform better.
2. Off-Peak Pricing
Is your fast food restaurant busy during weekends but slow on weekdays? Or maybe you have huge traffic during lunch, but dinner sales are negligible. It’s totally normal to have peaks and valleys throughout a day. But did you know it’s an opportunity to increase sales? Off-peak pricing is meant to offer incentives during the times you’re not so busy. For instance, if your fast food restaurant is slow on weekday mornings after 9 am but before the lunch rush, you can offer something that will encourage customers to come at that time rather than during the busiest hours.
If you have control over pricing, you could offer unique prices during off-peak hours. But if you’re a franchise you may not be able to actually change menu prices. Consider offering a free coffee with every order over $5, or a buy one get one half off. You can even think outside the box and offer an incentive that is unique to your restaurant and customers.
If you seem to have some dips in sales volume that are bigger than others, you can separate dining times into three segments: “off-peak,” “mid-peak” and “peak” hours. During off-peak hours offer the best discount and during mid-peak hours offer a slightly lower discount. The idea behind off-peak pricing is to get more customers to fill the seats during times you wouldn’t have without a coupon.
3. Social Media for Individual Fast Food Locations
Most franchised fast food has some level of social media operating already. At least they should! But what you may not know is whether it’s for the whole chain or just for your location. Having your own, unique social media presence is incredibly important. When potential customers search for you on social media, you want them to find and dine at your location, not the one down the street owned by someone else.
Check on corporate rules to see if you are able to create your own Facebook Business page or if it needs to be a location page that is linked to the corporate page.
If you can update your own store’s content, get to it! It’s great for sharing specials, publicizing holiday hours, and gathering feedback from real customers.
Here are examples of a franchise that has a “location” listed under the main McDonald’s Facebook page. It’s still very customized to their location, but they benefit from some of the things that corporate does for them too.
The other way is for each location set up an independent Facebook page that doesn’t link into other locations’ pages. Chick-fil-A is able to set up their own stand-alone Facebook Business page that isn’t directly linked to the main corporate page.
Once you have a page for your location, be sure you continue to post pictures, respond to reviews and interact with those who are on your page.
Be sure you tell customers you have a page that they can like and/or “check-in” to tell others where they are. It’s a good way to get your location in front of your customers’ friends on Facebook and to build a local following.
Using one, two or a combination of these three tactics can add profit to your bottom line by boosting new sales, increasing returning customers and increasing business during off-peak times.
If you’re ready to generate new customers and increase sales for your fast food restaurant, find out how we can help you!
Finding the best ways to advertise in your local area is key to driving new customers through the door every single day. Learn more about some of the top restaurant marketing tactics and how to apply them to your restaurant.
We updated this post on May 2, 2019.