Fast-serve restaurants are quite a force in the food industry and don’t appear to be dwindling. Even during difficult economic times, people still enjoy the convenience and the lower price of fast-serve restaurants compared to more formal full-service restaurants. This category includes both traditional quick-service chains and the newer, booming fast-casual (also known as counter service) segment that has been growing faster than any other restaurant concept over the past five years.
Whether your restaurant is independently owned, part of a regional restaurant group, or a nationally franchised location, you’re continually looking for ways to improve service, boost sales through marketing and advertising, and run a profitable operation.
Here are some fast-serve restaurant tips that successful businesses are following that can help your quick-service or fast-casual restaurant stay at the top of its game:
1. Use Promotions to Attract Customers
Who doesn’t love a good deal? In fact, depending on the specific kind of restaurant, people expect you to have specials for kids, couples, and the like. When you offer deals, you incentivize families to spend money at your restaurant instead of your competitors’.
Coupon advertising helps you do just that by:
- Expanding awareness of your brand and your specific location
- Giving families a special reason to choose you or revisit in a short period of time
- Being top-of-mind when it’s time to choose a place to eat
If you’re not convinced, check out our blog Does Coupon Advertising Work for Restaurants?
So, what kind of deals do people actually want?
When a potential customer gets your coupon they should feel like Sally Field at the Oscars; “They like me, they really like me!”
A strong offer shows customers that their business is worth something to you. 20 percent is usually the threshold for them to get the message. This could take shape as a literal discount (25% off), or as a free item such as Buy One Get One free.
The key is to make the perceived discount higher than the actual discount. For example, Buy One Get One 1/2 off seems like a 50% discount for the consumer. However, the diner is paying full price for 75% of the ticket and is only getting 25% off the total amount. It’s an incentive for the customer without digging into profits. Everyone wins!
2. Don’t Waste Money on Ads Outside of Your Target Zone
Newspapers, television, and radio are the megaphone approach pushing your message to the entire metropolitan area. If your fast-serve restaurant is part of a franchise, you may benefit from media buys that cover a large space. But what if you’re not?
If your restaurant only has a few locations in a city (or is in a more rural area), you could be located a good distance from many of the people who will see your TV ad or hear your radio promo. They’re not very likely to take action, and that means that your advertising dollars aren’t as targeted and effective as they could be.
Try to think locally. Even larger cities have smaller communities within them. Try to focus on those people who are immediately nearby. If you can, talk to your customers to find out where they live. Other families in these areas are most likely to become loyal, regular customers.
3. Use Proven and Profitable Local Advertising Options
That may sound like a no brainer; just do the stuff that works! But how do you know what is successful before you’ve tried it?
Enter grocery store receipt advertising. The coupons on grocery store receipts have worked for thousands of fast-serve restaurants for over 30 years. They reach only the people in your target zone, multiple times a week. Plus, the low cost per thousand makes it easy for you to get a return on your investment.
Make the most of grocery store receipt ads by:
- Sticking close to home. Shoppers typically don’t travel more than 3-5 miles from their home to any given business. Remember that whole “don’t waste money on ads outside of your target zone” thing? That’s why we distribute your ads at the grocery store closest to your restaurant.
- Using the best of the best. Devising an aggressive, but profitable coupon offer isn’t that hard when you have thousands of great businesses to use as an example. Use our “Best of the Best” research to look at what other successful fast-serve restaurants have done. Then, customize it to fit your unique business and price points.
- Keeping track of your results. Once you’ve targeted the right people and used an aggressive offer, your grocery store receipts ads will do most of the work for you. The only thing left for you to do is keep track of the results so that you know how much profit was generated from this campaign. This may involve training your front-end staff, or making some adjustments to your POS system. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it to know what kind of return you got on your investment.
4. Leverage Social Media
Fast-serve restaurants that maximize the potential of social media as part of their branding and advertising can make an impression, even when someone may not be specifically looking for a place to eat. What you might not realize, however, is that the already-established social media geared toward your restaurant typically represents the chain in its entirety, rather than just your specific location. This is why it’s so essential that you create your own unique social media presence. Not doing so could mean potential customers end up dining down the road at a franchise owned by someone else other than you.
Be sure to check on corporate rules to see if you can create your own Facebook Business page or if it needs to be a location page that links to the corporate page.
And then there’s getting the most out of your Facebook page, Instagram feed, or Twitter account, which doesn’t just mean having a page, feed, or account. If you want your social media strategy to be effective, you’ve got to be doing other things like:
- Updating posts often (daily would be good).
- Offering promotions through your social accounts.
- Replying to comments on your page and/or posts. Be interactive.
Read our blog on how to use social media to promote your restaurant to learn more.
5. Build Community Relationships
Your restaurant is highly visible in your community. Becoming involved in local school activities from elementary school through high school is a great way to endear your specific fast-serve restaurant to parents and kids in the community. You can offer coupons that can be used as rewards. You can have your ads in various school-related programs and even on the side of the football field. It’s often an affordable option that is good for brand awareness and can be tracked when offering a discount. And at the same time, you’re giving back to the kids in your community.
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.