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, Abuelo’s here, Kenny’s Restaurant Group here, Sonny’s BBQ here, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.
Boston Pizza opened its first location in 1964 and within 50 years the chain achieved record systemwide sales of $1 billion and was serving a record 85,000 individual gourmet pizzas per year in the U.S., and using more than 7 million pounds of flour annually for its signature scratch-made dough. In addition to almost 400 restaurants across Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, Boston’s is opening a location by Fenway Park and have several other non-traditional extensions to come. With this type of success, I wanted to know more and spoke to Katie Borger, senior director of marketing for Boston Pizza Restaurants, based in Dallas.
What do you believe has changed the most when it comes to driving customer frequency?
We believe that this has come full circle. From knowing your regulars and creating new ones organically, to the gamification aspect of rewarding loyal guests, and back again to more of the organic impact. Guest behavior can be influenced by rewards but ultimately if your food, service, and atmosphere deliver upon your brand promise, you are fulfilling their needs and encouraging more frequent use.
How important are coupons for attracting new customers?
Couponing can create an incentive for new guests to try your restaurant, but you have to be careful. For us, we are a gourmet pizza restaurant with food made from scratch. Our food is priced slightly higher than some other casual dining concepts for that reason. If we are constantly couponing, it dilutes our message of quality food by creating a perception that we’re a discount shop. Be tactful in your discounting but always deliver to be sure guests keep coming back!
What role has social media played in brand awareness?
Social is critical to brand awareness, especially given the visual nature of the most popular platforms. If you can lure people in and engage with your brand, it’s invaluable. It allows us, as a small company, to reach a higher impression rate than through any paid media.
What is your top marketing tip for a new restaurant just starting?
Imbed within your community. People care about their immediate surroundings partially because they are tangible/top of mind on a daily basis. Create fundraising opportunities for local charities and schools. Host company happy hours and events. Be wildly aware of your offering and ensure your local outreach is in line with who you are. Establish your own community to become a place people trust and rely on.
Do individualized local or national campaigns generate the best ROI?
We see the needle move most on national campaigns because we can place consistent media buys and use all channels in a holistic effort to promote the campaign theme. Stores that execute LSM do it and do it well. They see a huge impact locally but because not all restaurants have taken on the local marketing to its full potential (due to turnover, operations, focus, etc.) the national campaigns are now our best bet.
Monthly Reader Question:
Can marketing help with table turns?—Nancy from Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Yes, by identifying which segment of customers prefer dining at which times and for how long. For example, if a certain segment of diners average 40 minutes rather than one hour, it is possible to have 3 table turns in a 2-hour period vs. only 2. They key is to have a marketing program that can effectively determine the segmentation of your customers. Another consideration is utilizing marketing for your table-top size. If only 25 percent of your tables are 2-top and you are marketing to groups of 2 at times in which you already expect your 2-tops to be occupied, you could be missing significant revenues since your seating utilization will be lower than your seating capacity. It is important to review your behavioral data to predict how long each segment typically dines, how large their parties typically are, and what promotions generate frequency in order to impact table turns effectively.