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Direct Marketing Campaigns for Restaurants

Direct Marketing Campaigns for Restaurants

In direct marketing, promotional materials are sent directly to prospective customers through phone, mail, email or text message. Usually, direct marketing is aimed at former customers, whose contact information is available in your database. When you send these customers your promotions, you remind them of your restaurant and give them a reason to return.

Step 1: Build a Database

Before you can implement a direct marketing campaign, you must create a database of customer information. The more you know about the people in your database, the more effectively you can market to them. In addition to their name, address and email, try to gather from your customers as much of the following information as possible:

  • How they heard about you
  • How many times they have visited
  • Purchasing habits
  • Average check size
  • Average party size
  • Size of family unit
  • Place of work
  • Date of birth

There are a variety of ways to gather the aforementioned information from your customers, including the following:

POS systems.

The system’s computer can keep a database of customer contact information. If customers give you their name or use the same credit card more than once, you can also start to collect important information on their spending habits. Make sure to have the POS system keep track of average checks, frequency of visits and party size. » Learn More about the Importance of a POS system

Take-out, delivery and reservations.

When customers make reservations or order take-out or delivery, you can ask for their information. Save their email and street address in your POS or filing system, to be used in future direct marketing campaigns. » Learn More about Takeout and Delivery Marketing

Giveaways.

If you put on a resturant contest or giveaway, ask for information in the entry form, including address, email and “how you heard about us.” For entries, consider placing a business card or entry-card drop box near the point of purchase. This is a really easy way for customers to enter the contest and for you to get their contact information. 

Customer surveys.

When you develop a satisfaction survey or comment card for your restaurant, make sure to ask customers if they would like to receive promotions via email or print mail. Also ask them how they heard about your business and how many times they have visited. 

Website.

Include a place on your restaurant's website where visitors can submit their information and sign up to receive newsletters and/or promotions through email or print mail. 

Loyal customers, high-spending customers, and those who have visited your restaurant recently are especially likely to respond to direct marketing. You may want to consider keeping a separate database for these “special” customers.

Step 2: Develop a Promotion

In the world if direct marketing, it is essential that you make the promotion enticing. Otherwise, your letter or email will be viewed as an annoyance. You must develop promotions that truly benefit customers, so they will want to be part of your database. This is one reason to personalize your promotions and only mail people things you know they will want. If you have not gathered a lot of info on your customers, include promotions in your marketing that would have wide appeal.

In step one, you gathered the following information. Here are some ways you can use it to develop personalized direct marketing promotions:

How they heard about you.

You can use this information when you perform a marketing assessment

Frequency of patronage.

This will let you know whether the customer is new or repeat business. If they are new business, you can send them a bounceback promotion. If they are repeat business, you can send them a personalized thank-you with a special offer or coupon to show your appreciation.

Ordering habits.

Knowing the customer’s menu preferences will help you decide what kind of promotions to send them. For example, if a customer usually only buys an entrée, you can send them a coupon for a “free dessert with purchase of appetizer.” That way, they will be more likely to buy additional items the next time they come.

Average check size.

How much a customer spends each time they visit can help you personalize your discount or promotion. For example, if a customer usually spends $7, you can encourage them to spend more by offering them a “free drink with a $10 purchase.”

Average party size.

Knowing the average party size will help you interpret the information you gather on “average check size” and “ordering habits.” It can also help you choose promotions. For example, if a customer usually comes alone, you can offer him or her a BOGO (buy one get one) promotion to increase the chances that he or she will bring a new customer with them the next time. 

Size of household.

Customers with children are more likely to respond to kids’ menu and “kids eat free” promotions. You can reduce marketing costs by only sending these promotions to customers with kids.

Occupation.

The customer’s profession will allow you to tailor your marketing to them. For example, if a customer works as a retail cashier, they may be working for minimum wage, and you can assume they are value-oriented and send them a discount. On the other hand, if a customer is a company executive, you can send them a discount on a company catering package.

Date of birth.

Research suggests that more than 50% of Americans eat out on their birthday. You can use special occasion marketing to celebrate your customers’ birthdays, anniversaries or any other important date by sending them special gifts a few weeks before. 

Once you know something about each individual customer, you can practice target marketing to develop the best promotions for his or her demographic.

Step 3: Begin Direct Marketing

Direct marketing strategies vary. For customers who request to receive promotions, offer them the option of how they would like to receive them. You can use any of the following methods to directly market your business:

Print mail.

The most traditional form of marketing, print mail marketing is great for sending physical gift certificates and coupons, especially to older customers who may not use email. However, because of the printing costs, standard mail is one of the most expensive ways to market.

Email.

Marketing through email is becoming one of the most important strategies. It is fast and eco-friendly, and it saves money on print costs. It also works better than print mail marketing. Adults under the age of 34 are more open to receiving email promotions than other kinds of direct marketing promotions, so if young people make up a large portion of your business, you should primarily use email marketing.1

Text messages.

When Subway launched its first mobile phone offer in August 2006, the franchise saw a 50% response rate,2 so text message marketing can bring customers. However, in a 2008 study, only 9% of those surveyed preferred getting marketing text messages instead of email.3 To be safe, it is best to send text message promotions only to those who request it.

Telephone.

Since most people are sick of receiving telemarketing calls, direct telephone marketing should mostly be avoided. However, in some cases it is useful. For example, if you catered a big company holiday party last year, it is not a bad idea to call your customer in October or November and offer a discount on catering their next holiday party.

Remember, people forget about promotions quickly. Your promotions should include an expiration date to encourage customers to use it right away. In direct email marketing, the promotion can expire sooner than with print mail marketing. For promoting events, you will want customers to receive the marketing material no more than a week or two in advance.

Step 4: Analyze Your Success

If your email or postal mail marketing material gets returned, it means you have faulty contact information. Make sure to delete this information from your files, since otherwise you are spending some of your marketing money on nothing.

Make sure to check to see how many customers are opening your emails. Also, evaluate the click-through rates on any links you include in your email marketing. You can link to a coupon on your website to see how many customers actually show interest and click on the coupon link. 

After the promotion is finished, perform a marketing assessment to determine whether your direct marketing campaign has been successful.


1 “The Leading Authority on Email Marketing Metrics: EmailStatCenter.com” <http://www.emailstatcenter.com/> (accessed December 11, 2008).
2 Jamie Hartford, “Texting Success,” QSRmagazine.com, November 2007 <http://www.qsrmagazine.com/articles/exclusives/1107/subwaymobile-1.phtml?microsite=bytopic_onlineordering> (accessed December 18, 2008).
3 Ibid.

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