The fifth—and final—of RMGT’s series on restaurant mistakes looks at common marketing errors. We talk to restaurant consultant Aaron Allen, who reveals the mistakes restaurants often make and what they can do to correct them:

1. There are no formalized brand standards (brand promise, brand personality, brand positioning, brand story).

Everyone should have brand standards in place, even if they’re a mom and pop operation. Talk about your brand and its story. You want to be considered the only one that does what you do—to be unique.

The brand promise is the most powerful force in driving revenue, retention efforts, attracting new customers and getting them to come back more frequently, getting better relations with your vendors, and more. This brand promise should be ingrained in every employee’s mindset and when thinking about marketing, this should be absolutely top of mind.

2. A restaurant is not engaged in digital marketing or social media because it is intimidating or “too new.”

Most consumers are involved in social media to some degree, and they expect to engage in it with the brands that are relevant to them. Typically 40 percent of marketing budgets at some locations are being spent on digital marketing and social media so restaurants that aren’t involved, should experiment with this.

3. There’s no coordinated or structured effort to generate publicity via media relations campaigns.

Too many restaurants don’t do any public relations and think of it as being egotistical. But it attracts customers. When a restaurant gets written about—or talked about on the radio or TV—it stands out in a different way. And it helps employees feel better about where they work. It’s the best kind of word-of-mouth you can have.

When you look into hiring a public relations executive, look at whether they trained as a journalist so understand stories, angles, etc.

4. There’s no crisis communications plan in place.

If a customer leaves a restaurant intoxicated, drives and kills a pregnant woman, then a team of reporters comes to your restaurant, what do you do? You need to have a plan in place for crises like this, or for others such as a foodborne illness outbreak, or sexual harassment.

How do you react? What do you do? You need a PR and legal counsel and you need to create a list of whatcould happen. You also need to know whom to call in the chain of command at 1 a.m.—within the restaurant and without.

Restaurants should also have a plan for natural disasters.

5. A restaurant’s website is deficient or an afterthought (33 percent of customers visit a website before choosing a restaurant to go to for the first time).

It’s the most important marketing collateral a restaurant has after its menu. Don’t look at how create a website cheaply and make sure it’s mobile compliant. Ensure it’s got a press section and that you hire someone who knows about restaurants. It’s a digital manifestation of your restaurant.

6. Programs to build a customer database absent or lacking—the restaurant doesn’t know who its customers are.

Through comment cards, emails or another format, restaurants should capture information from about 10 percent of the people who come through its doors. It’s vital to know who your customers are so you can market and advertise to them. Most people, particularly repeat customers, want to connect with their favorite restaurants.

Let customers decide how they hear from you and how often. If the message is timely, value-laden and engaged but not a monologue it will typically be well received.

7. Discounting.

Discounting can drive short-term sales and gains but don’t run any promotional programs for too long because that can deteriorate or destroy a brand—four to six weeks seems ideal. Offers should be no strings.

8. Missed opportunities with “cause marketing.”

Align with causes—such as charities—where people have stood up for an individual cause. When you do that you align yourself with people who believe in a cause. It makes you much more relevant to them.

9. Loyalty programs or frequency-building programs are lacking/deficient.

You need to know what current purchasing behaviors are and loyalty programs are the easiest way to find out.  Look at it as a customer relationship management program.

By Amanda Baltazar

Industry News, Marketing & Promotions