May 23, 2019
Kids today have increasingly sophisticated palates—and their parents correspondingly expect more from kids’ menus than just chicken tenders, hot dogs or grilled cheese. In order to snag more dining dollars from parents and families, restaurants need to consider new ways to make the kids’ menu exciting, as well as how to make the overall family dining experience an enjoyable one—for everyone.
Value promotions have long been an effective way to get families in the door. Offering a “kids eat free” deal has been standard for many restaurants for a long time. But with more millennials becoming parents, families are looking for more sophisticated ways to engage with restaurants, leading operators to change up their marketing strategies. Check out these ways to revamp family value promotions.
1. Offer a parents’ night
Rather than focusing on the kids, restaurants can win families over and differentiate themselves from competition by offering perks to parents—such as free babysitting. Olive Garden, in 2015, offered just that, by partnering with 150 My Gym locations across the country and offering a free night of childcare. To participate, parents simply had to reserve a space at a My Gym location, dine child-free at Olive Garden, then show their receipt when picking up their children to have their deposit refunded.
Similarly, instead of offering a “kids eat free” promotion, try offering a “parents eat free” option. Moe’s Southwest Grill recently ran a promotion where adults received a free entree (up to an $8 value) with the purchase of a kids’ meal. Options such as these allow parents to save a few dollars more, since kids’ meals are typically priced lower than full-size menu items.
2. Create kid-friendly “flights”
At breweries, getting a flight of four or five craft beer samples gives consumers a chance to try several options at an affordable price. This strategy can easily translate to kids’ menus to let younger diners join in on the fun. For instance, offering flights of ice cream or sides can be a creative way to involve kids (and parents, who will undoubtedly share with the kids).
At Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, a nationwide chain, Waffle Bowl Ice Cream Flights were offered as an LTO during the month of March 2019. The option allowed customers to choose up to four flavors of ice cream, perfect for families with multiple kids—and perfect for helping to teach kids how to share.
Restaurants can also offer flights of French fries, waffle fries or puffed potatoes for a similar experience. As a bonus, these items can be served with a choice of dipping sauces for a customizable and interactive experience for young diners.
Allowing kids to customize their meals can mean big things for restaurants. According to a 2018 survey from Y-Pulse, a Chicago-based food-focused youth marketing research firm, 87% of kids like restaurants that let them customize their meals. By offering flights or customizable meals, restaurants are appealing to kids’ desire to choose their own (culinary) adventure—and when the kids are happy, everyone’s happy.
3. Build promotions for sports team celebrations
Family dining isn’t always limited to just one family. When kids are on sports teams, it’s not uncommon for groups to go out after a game or after a tough practice. Restaurants can set themselves apart and cash in on this opportunity by offering a 10% discount or a free beverage for families whose kids come in wearing their sports uniform.
Restaurants can also opt to sponsor a local team, which can involve posting banners at games, purchasing the team’s jerseys (and including the restaurant’s logo) or offering a raffle or giveaway during games. By positioning the brand as family-friendly and community-driven, restaurants can show parents there’s a place to go that’s fun for the whole family.
4. Expand on social media to gain attention of young families
According to a recent study from the McCarthy Group, 84% of millennials stated that they not only didn’t like traditional marketing, but also that they didn’t trust it. Ads on television or the radio aren’t going to resonate with them the way they did with older generations. To reach younger consumers, expanding promotions to social media is key.
Instagram and social media are today’s version of word-of-mouth advertising, so it pays for restaurants to hone their social media tactics, such as creating geotagged ads that can be sent to users who are in the area or using custom hashtags on marketing materials—hashtags that customers can post to their profiles (or search and view when they’re elsewhere). Operators could also look at partnering with social-media influencers to generate excitement.
By reaching out to millennial parents through channels they engage with, restaurants can feel confident they’re reaching their target market. And by updating family promotions to focus on kids’ lifestyles, as well as parents’ needs, operators can enjoy increased engagement and customer loyalty from young families.
By Heather Lalley on 23 May, 2019
With fewer consumers paying attention to TV ads and other traditional marketing channels, restaurant marketers are having to get creative to grow traffic through digital avenues.
Here are a few digital marketing success stories presented by restaurant brands at the 2019 National Restaurant Association Show. They’re smart (and potentially stealable) strategies that have proven to boost engagement and, in many cases, drive sales.
1. Develop a brand-specific social media tone
Operators with multiple independent concepts need to develop a different voice for each brand, said Kevin Boehm, co-founder of Boka Restaurant Group. “Social media needs to be personal. I’ve seen voices that don’t match with the brand.” Donnie Madia, partner of One Off Hospitality in Chicago, who also took part in the session “What Chains Can Learn from Indies,” added that his in-house social media expert develops feeds for each of his concepts, following the three C’s: consistency, content and community.
2. Know the audience
White Castle, when introducing the Impossible Slider, was well aware that millennials would be the prime audience for the new plant-based burger, said Lynn Blashford, the chain’s vice president of marketing. To spread the word about its new product, the chain crafted a campy digital campaign, led by hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan. “This was the first product we ever launched in our restaurants without using any traditional media at all,” Blashford said.
3. Pay to play
Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s marketing goal is driving frequency, said Brian Best, the chain’s vice president for digital marketing and loyalty. The smoothie brand aims to reach its existing customers where they are, via paid social media. By boosting social media posts multiple times during a promotional period, Best is able to funnel information to the most relevant audience. “It’s way better than email marketing,” he said.
4. Make digital marketing relevant
People consume digital ads while they’re going about their lives, so it makes sense to create campaigns that are timely and relevant, said Donna Josephson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Corner Bakery Cafe. Around Valentine’s Day, the chain created shareable cards highlighting certain menu items. The cards, with messages such as “I Ham Yours” and “Avacadon’t ever leave me,” were shared across multiple social media platforms. “We really drove guest engagement via social during this time,” Josephson said.
5. Look for moving pictures
Don’t be afraid of videos and gifs in digital advertising, marketers said. “In today’s day and age, people expect some type of motion,” said Michael Chachula, executive director of information technology for IHOP. In fact, a simple tweet from the brand last summer announcing that it was changing its name to IHOB was actually a video. That tweet went viral, sparking 1.2 million tweets in 10 days and 27,000 earned media articles, Chachula said. “It’s like even fish were tweeting it in the ocean,” he joked.
Senior Editor Patricia Cobe contributed to this report.
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