As the country reopens, restaurants, including quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and fast casual dining, are deploying digital strategies to engage hungry diners. To continue growing the takeout and curbside delivery revenue opportunities presented during the pandemic and stand out in a once again busy and bustling industry, restaurants are using multichannel promotions, loyalty programs and email campaigns to drive sales.
Denny’s And Bertucci’s Use Email To Share Promotions And New Menu Items At Their Fast Casual Dining Establishments
When competing in a crowded market, deals, discounts and promotions can bring consumers through the door and generate repeat business and future opportunities for engagement through email, SMS and push notifications. A 2019 study by Valassis, Defining the Coupon & Value Restaurant Consumer, found, “Consumers’ desire for savings is strong across purchase categories, and the restaurant market is no exception. Our data shows when restaurants make an up-front investment in offering incentives to diners, they see greater ROI and foot traffic gains in the long run, as well as more frequent and lucrative brick-and-mortar visits.” The Valassis study also revealed that 48% of casual restaurant diners prefer email coupons, and 20% of “consumers switch restaurants based on promotions or coupons.”
Many restaurant brands rely on email campaigns to target audiences with deals, promotions and new menu items. During the pandemic email became more important than ever with 55.5% of brands emailing more since the start of the pandemic and 25.3% including promotions and discounts in their emails. The rise of ecommerce led consumers to value seamless ordering options and easy access to promotions. Denny’s recently launched an email campaign celebrating the launch of its Red, White & Blue Pancake Breakfast with QR codes offering a 20% discount for online or dine-in customers. Similarly, Bertuccis used email to share its Father’s Day campaign, giving consumers the opportunity to order online or reserve tables with the added bonus of $15 off one-time only coupons. Bertucci’s email recipients could also opt into SMS alerts that gave access to additional Bertucci’s news and updates. By putting the consumer at the helm of how they want to be contacted and served, consumers may feel more inclined to opt into advertised deals and come back in the future.
Quick-Serve Restaurant Chipotle Promotes Loyalty And Rewards Via Email And Website Optimizations
Loyalty and rewards programs are popular with fast casual and quick-serve restaurants and often promoted across advertising channels. Chipotle recently sent an email introducing a new partnership with Tractor Beverages, noting that 5% of the proceeds of Tractor Beverage sales go to supporting farmers and announcing a limited-time only promotion that gives rewards members 50 points for ordering ready-to-drink or bottled beverages. Chipotle checks several boxes with this promotion, generating interest in a new product, continuing to emphasize their purpose-driven mission and rewarding loyal customers. The rewards page of the Chipotle website further explains how rewards can be used, either for future meals or sustainable apparel or as donations to the National Young Farmers Coalition.
Fast Casual Restaurant Applebee’s Leverages Virtual Brands And Off-Premise Sales
Virtual or ghost brands existed prior to the pandemic for major restaurant conglomerates, but they took on new meaning when delivery became the go to for many Americans. Virtual or ghost brands typically sell niche food items and are owned and operated by well-known restaurant franchises, but operate under different names. For example, Cosmic Wings, launched in March 2021, is a virtual brand operated by Applebee’s and only available online. Cosmic Wings and Applebee’s are both owned by Dine Brands. The Cosmic Wings virtual brand operates out of 1,300 Applebee’s locations around the country and is described by Dine Brands as offering a “one-of-a-kind menu featuring exclusive Cheetos-flavored wings and fried cheese bites.”
As the pandemic winds down, many restaurant franchisees are finding that online ordering and off-premise dining are still valuable revenue sources. “We found that the ability to offer something exclusive — and highly popular — through the online-only platform is a game-changer," explained Applebee’s in a statement. John Peyton, Dine Brands’ CEO, said, “We’re learning a lot, and I think [virtual brands] will be a future incremental. We are all in on virtual brands and ghost kitchens as a capital-light way to reach new customers in new markets and expand our brands’ footprints.”
Continuing to lean into delivery, either directly or through virtual brands, also allows restaurants to meet consumers who aren’t ready to dine in, people who have come to prefer take-out and diners who enjoy both experiences. Promoting easy ordering platforms and convenient curbside pick-up, alongside in-person dining options, can help restaurants sustain their online audiences even as restaurants open indoor dining again.
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