Editor’s note: This is the latest monthly column with Rom Krupp, the founder and CEO of Marketing Vitals, an analytics software helping restaurants of all shapes and sizes. you can read his column on Twin Peaks here and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.

Three-decades strong, heritage brand Abuelo’s knows a thing or two about attracting and retaining customers. Keeping up with the rapid rate of change since they began 30 years ago, the upscale casual dining Mexican restaurant chain has seen impressive growth by adopting robust marketing and sales analysis tools, launching a new brand identity and effectively leveraging social media. Earlier this month, I spoke to Renae Scott, Abuelo’s chief marketing officer, and her insights are below:

How is it an advantage to be an established brand? 

By having context and perspective which gives us an understanding of new trends and how to respond. Our marketing team works diligently with our cross functional partners to address guest needs across technology, menu offerings, and digital and traditional media. We know that strong brands survive with a passionate core group of guests who will drive our business as we continue to grow and evolve.

How are you leveraging technology to drive sales in this business environment?

As we leverage new technology to meet consumer needs, we continue to provide the best and freshest expression of our food. We were early adopters of table top ordering because that was a technology that could be deployed quickly while maintaining our standards. However, online ordering and delivery required more time to plan and prepare and in the first quarter of 2018 we will be launching our online program with a delivery module and our guests are getting quite excited about the launch.

Has your media strategy evolved to reach these new consumers?

Social media continues to grow in influence and effectiveness for reaching, engaging and rewarding new and existing guests. As local mobile marketing has become key to reaching guests at the point of decision, we have turned to web-based solutions that enable us to easily manage our brand across all local pages and platforms.

Is your restaurant traffic dependent on discounts?

Relying on discounting or coupons to drive traffic is a downward spiral. I do believe that discounts have their place in an overall marketing strategy as long as they are used periodically and alongside brand right messaging. We had an initial menu update this fall bringing forward some of our more premium offerings while enhancing current menu items. After that, a periodic discount offer can drive trial and bring on that traffic.

What is your top marketing tip for new and even struggling locations?

Create and manage your social “tribe.” All restaurants have their fervent fan base. Be sure you are leveraging them and bringing them to life in social media. Offering your fans “surprise and delight” rewards in social media while making sure you are listening and responding to them will keep fans loyal and get them to organically do some of your marketing for you and with you.

Is charity or community outreach important for employee engagement?—Anne from Boston, MA

Yes, especially for millennials. They want to know their workplace is making a difference for others. Whenever possible, integrate your sales incentive programs with charity-fundraising or community outreach. Employees will appreciate hearing, “Congrats, your weekly sales made it possible to deliver 30 meals to the shelter” rather than “Our location raised $300 for charity this week.” When employees realize their success is having an impact, engagement will go up and retention will too. 

Do you have a restaurant marketing question? Email Rom@MarketingVitals.com and follow him on Twitter @Vitals_com

Feature, Marketing & Promotions, Abuelo's