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By showing that you care about your customers, they will come to positively associate you with all the qualities that make up social dining.

The Key to Marketing in 2017: Make it Personal

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People want to feel a personal connection with your restaurant.
By Chris Hickman October 2017 Expert Insights

Food is a social experience. When we celebrate events like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, we often prepare special meals for the occasion. From a beautifully decorated cake to red and green Christmas cookies, food is the great unifier. It brings people together.

Restaurants have the unique challenge of not only providing tasty meal options but also attracting consumers. But marketing these days is more than highlighting how juicy your burger is or promoting specials on endless shrimp; sure, those can get people in the door, but will it keep them coming back? Not unless there’s another element involved.

Service—great, exceptional, personal service—is key to marketing in 2017. People want to feel a personal connection with the establishment. When eating at a restaurant, customers want the same experience of warmth and friendliness that they feel when eating at home. So how can restaurants—even large, international chains—generate this type of inviting and friendly environment?

Marketing Vitals

Marketing Vitals offers a precise analytics software that is suitable for all types of restaurants, from owners to international franchises. This software helps turn “data into dollars and pain points into growth” by providing an insight into customer buying habits, employee performance, seasons/holidays, menu and more. What is their impact on overall revenue generation—or depletion?

With the Marketing Vitals’ software, restaurant owners can identify clear cause and effect for business performance. From here, you can take actions that make a difference: Develop underperforming staff, prepare better for holidays, or change menu items based on sales revenue.

Arby's

Take a look at any of Arby’s social media profiles, and you’ll find its marketing is as hot as its Spicy Three Pepper Sauce. The brand has taken popular and geek culture to a new level, paying homage regularly with scenes and images created out of Arby’s food and packaging. From Photoshopping their sign to read “Arrrrrrby’s” on Talk Like a Pirate Day to making references to television shows like The Magic School Bus and Netflix’s Bojack Horseman, Arby’s has generated an average of 50,000 reactions, 2,000 comments, and 4,000 shares per post on Facebook alone. One popular post received 115,000 reactions, 5,800 comments, and 15,400 shares.

Arby’s may “have the meats,” but it also has the creativity that allowed it to tap into both popular and “nerd” culture. People feel like Arby’s “gets” them, and they are receiving praises by the handful and multiple comments by people who say they’ll eat at Arby’s because of these posts.

Nando's Peri-Peri

Known for its Perio-Peri Sauce and Portuguese flame-grilled Peri-Peri Chicken, the South Africanbased Nando’s Peri-Peri gave itself a good reputation when it opened chains in Chicago. Upon opening for business, it set up a temporary pay-what-you-want system versus offering free samples or promotions.

And the best part of this system? All money earned during this time period was donated to a local non-for-profit organization. It was a great public relations move, establishing itself as a member of Chicago by showing they cared about the people in the city in which they now conduct business.

What's Cookin'?

What’s Cookin’? The answer depends on a customer’s catering order: From Country Breakfast to Hawaiian Club Sliders, this full-service family restaurant in Charleston, Illinois, offers tons of traditional, hearty catering options. But should an event be canceled, you can guarantee the food won’t go to waste.

Instead, they donate the meals to homeless individuals. Like Nando’s Peri-Peri’s donation to a local non-for-profit, What’s Cookin’ shows that they care about the individuals in the community they serve. It shows that they live up to the “family” aspect of a family restaurant, and it markets them as compassionate and giving because they take care of the people throughout the community, customers know that they will be taken care of too when dining in or ordering catering.

Jax Café

Another restaurant that truly lives out the aspect of a “family” restaurant is Jax Café. Instead of focusing on fancy ads, they market through actions. Started in 1933 by Stanley Kozlak and taken over by his children in 1943, Jax Café focused on establishing a warm, hospitable environment with great food. Their continued focus on serving their Northeast Minneapolis community led to Bill Kozlak Sr. being inducted into the Minnesota Restaurant Association’s Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2005.

Like his great-grandfather, Bill Kozlak believes that giving guests personal treatment and establishing relationships is the best form of marketing—and it is. When customers feel appreciated and believe in the same values as a restaurant, they will patronize it again and again.

Make It Personal

Advertisements, promotions and search engine marketing are all important, but the real marketing often happens face-to-face in the server and consumer interaction. By showing—and not just saying—that you care about your customers, they will come to positively associate you with all the qualities that make up social dining, and they will think of you when it comes to dining out or celebrating.

Chris Hickman is the founder and CEO at Adficient with 15 years of experience in search marketing and conversion optimization. In 2006, he founded GetBackonGoogle.com, helping businesses and websites suspended in Adwords to Get Back on Google.