Kenny's Restaurant Group, a budding operator in the Dallas area, shares its marketing secrets in today's ever-evolving restaurant world.

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, Sonny’s BBQ here, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.

When a restaurant’s motto is “Every day is a holiday and every meal is a feast” they get my attention. With five locations and an impressive catering operation, Kenny’s Restaurant Group is one of the most happening brands in the Dallas area. The company operates Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill, Kenny’s Italian Kitchen, Kenny’s Burger Joint, Kenny’s Smoke House, and Kenny’s Authentic East Coast Pizza.

Below is my conversation with their marketing manager, Kristen Hough:

What marketing strategies did you launch with that you still use today?

We don’t discount with a percentage off but rather a flat dollar-amount. “FREE” sounds more appealing than “20 percent off.” We will also add a side at no charge if a guest cannot decide on which one to order, or splitting two entrees in half if they cannot choose between two.

What do you believe has changed the most when it comes to driving customer frequency?  

Social media rules all! If you do not take care of people and serve a great meal, everyone will know about it within seconds.

What role has social media played in brand awareness?

We have staff dedicated to monitor it daily. We respond to any questions or concerns within 24. Customers really appreciate “being heard.

What is your top marketing tip for a new restaurant just starting? 

Smile. It takes time to get a new restaurant team up and running but being polite and courteous to all customers is a great start. The main thing we always ask of our staff is to smile, be sweet, and take care of guests like they are in their own home. Mistakes will happen, but moving swiftly and going above and beyond to fix issues is key for guests to forget all about it and get excited about your brand again.

How have your charitable-giving promotions and sponsorships helped with community relations?

For the past three years we have hosted a golf tournament to benefit Hope’s Door. It is always a meaningful way to bring our employees and guests together for an important cause. More recently, we donated $10,000 to the American Red Cross, which we dedicated to our fellow Texans effected by Hurricane Harvey. By including our guests in these promotions, it gives them an interactive way to help us help those in need.  Letting the community know how we care is important for guests and employees alike.

Reader question:

How important is it to bridge employee incentives with charitable giving?—Brian from Delaware

Very and here’s why. Employees, especially Millennials, want their jobs and companies they work for to have a bigger mission and purpose. For this reason, it’s important that your brand support and partner with charities and/or community groups and get your employees involved so they experience direct giving first-hand through their work performance. When you can recognize an employee for their sales because the fundraising made it possible to deliver 30 meals to a shelter—you’ll be one step ahead when it comes to retaining your solid servers, and attracting new ones.

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

Feature, Marketing & Promotions