Five common restaurant marketing mistakes. And how to avoid them.

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The world of restaurant marketing is full of varying strategies and ideas, as well as new and improved platforms to help drive traffic to your restaurant. With each of these opportunities comes a lot of room for marketing successes, but also plenty of spaces where restaurants can make mistakes. Over the past 20+ years as consultants to the industry, we’ve seen a lot. Here are five common and recurring mistakes we see most often.

1. Continuous discounting

We believe, on a selective basis, discounting can be an effective strategy to generate trial and LTO’s drive additional traffic at critical times. What many marketers fail to understand, though, is that discounting can actually become a restaurant’s worst enemy. However, when overdone, discounting becomes a bad habit fraught with long term problems. When restaurants abuse the power of discounting, it slowly becomes the only reason customers visit. You have trained your customers to wait to come in until you feed them the discount. Use discounts as a selective strategy to generate trial, sell against specific competitors or to help comp over a strong period.

Read more of our thoughts on discounting.

2. Shifting focus/strategy too often

Far too often, restaurant marketers set strategy for their marketing efforts, and decide to shift directions without really giving the original strategy much of a chance to develop. It is far more valuable to see a campaign out and allow it to grow into the great campaign idea you expected it to be from the beginning. We approach new strategy by adopting a test and optimize approach. The key: knowing what the important measurements are for your strategy. We set the tactics in motion then continuously test the performance or each element. We stop low performing actions and reallocate dollars to best performing assets. This allows your original overarching strategy time to optimize and drive sales.

3. Anecdotal reporting on what works or doesn’t work

A common mistake in restaurant marketing involves the way that decision makers measure and don’t measure success. Too often we see marketers look at the immediate result of their campaigns without really digging deeper into the “why”. As above, knowing which pieces are data are meaningful is not always obvious. All decisions today should be validated with quantifiable data. I hear people say “that doesn’t work” but without providing supporting details as to why. Again, using the test and optimize approach we can identify both successful and unsuccessful message and channels. Be honest and specific with real supporting data to determine what’s working and know why something has underperformed.

4. Going to the next bright shiny object

Unfortunately, many restaurants have become consumed by the next new platform or technology and it has taken their focus away from their best performing platforms. Contrary to popular belief, websites still have a very valuable presence in the eyes of the consumer. In a survey conducted by Angelsmith, results showed that 80% of respondents mentioned that they use the restaurant’s website as a source of research and additional information. Losing track of those reliable, owned platforms, and focusing exclusively on the next shiny object in the marketing world can be very dangerous. Keep those reliable platforms fresh, up-to-date, and unique to ensure customers are getting exactly what they want.

5. Ignore the data provided by their Loyalty Program

Restaurants can never have too much information about their consumer. All demographic information and purchasing behaviors about the consumers can be marketing gold, and too often restaurant operators are neglecting to have the discipline to review that data on a regular basis. Missing the opportunity to fine tune your marketing programs. Loyalty programs help to gather significant amounts of customer info and demographic data that can help you understand your target audience’s behavior. Take advantage of loyalty programs, and use them to get the most out of your marketing efforts.

Use these mistakes as rules to help you stay focused and on strategy versus continuously changing directions. Let your campaigns evolve using the data to make better decisions in real time as well as for future efforts. Accepting mistakes for what they are, and turning them into a positive is what separates those thriving brands from the average ones. The thriving restaurants get tripped up, but the way they overcome these challenges it what differentiates themselves from others.