A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with an experienced restaurant general manager. The topic of Local Store Marketing came up. He called bull, and my ears perked up immediately. Beyond having exceptional operations, active community marketing is a vital strategy to grow traffic and sales.
His main complaint was that the focus of Local Store Marketing always seems to be making lots of “drops” with little to no return on investment. He was frustrated that his district manager would rather have him away from his store, dropping menus to apartment offices which surely get thrown away moments after he leaves. I had to agree.
But if that approach doesn’t work, what does? To get better return on investment, restaurant companies should look to evolve their Local Store Marketing approaches in four ways:
1. Quality Over Quantity: Focusing on Building Meaningful Relationships
In today’s fast-paced environment, restaurant managers don’t have the time to invest in low-return activities. Instead of spreading yourself thin across various efforts, actively focus your energy on building high-quality relationships within the local community. Engage with local businesses, schools, and organizations to create partnerships that benefit both parties and align with the restaurant’s brand and customer base.
In the early days of Raising Cane’s, we sought to energize our late-night business (midnight to 3 am). We affordably recorded several funny late-night spots that bars could play at closing time. The campaign also included sharing “late night” buy one, get one cards with a “go get sauced!” theme that could only be used from midnight to 3 am on Thursday through Sunday. Then, the local restaurants partnered with popular late-night establishments to play these spots when they turned the lights on and shared the “get sauced” cards with their end-of-night guests. That same local community marketing activity wouldn’t work for brands focusing on families.
By concentrating your efforts on a select few initiatives that align with your brand values and resonate with your target audience, you’ll likely see a more significant impact on your traffic and sales. There is no shortage of traffic-generating ideas, but not every single one is a fit for your business:
2. Reflecting Your Brand Through Community Involvement
One common mistake in local store marketing is attempting to be everything to everyone. This approach can dilute your brand identity and confuse potential customers. Instead, ensure that your active community involvement initiatives reflect your brand’s core values and identity. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be genuine and authentic in everything you do.
For example, if your restaurant is family-focused, engage in activities that support families and children. Sponsor local youth sports teams, organize family-friendly events like storytime sessions or craft workshops, and offer promotions that cater to families. By maintaining a consistent brand message in your community interactions, you’ll attract like-minded patrons who are more likely to become loyal customers.
Consult to Grow client Mex 1 Coastal Cantina has built a brilliant partnership with Warrior Surf Foundation. Mex 1 is a Baja-inspired cantina focused on Surf, Tacos and Tequila. What better way to connect to the community than by supporting something that builds their surf brand and gives back in a big way? Check out the video below!
3. Reciprocity: The Key to Successful Neighborhood Relationships
It’s crucial to understand that local store marketing is a two-way street. Healthy and enduring relationships are built on reciprocity, where both parties benefit from the interaction. When seeking community involvement opportunities, look for initiatives that create a win-win situation.
Focus on opportunities that effectively drive traffic and build brand loyalty while delivering a high return on investment. To be successful, you need to carefully evaluate each Local Store Marketing activity to see if it’s worth the investment and is sustainable for your business. Be crystal clear on what you will provide, what you will receive, and the number of people involved.
Every local store marketing activity has costs: labor, food, drinks, gifts, production, etc. Every local store marketing activity should also have measurable or trackable benefits like signage at an event, announcements at an event, online promotion, etc. The best Local Store Marketing activity drives traffic directly to your restaurant and generates measurable sales.
4. Tracking and Adapting: The Continuous Improvement Cycle
While dropping menus might not yield significant results, that doesn’t mean all local store marketing efforts are futile. The key lies in actively tracking and analyzing the outcomes of your initiatives. Think specifically about how you’ll track the ROI of an activity before you initiate it. Use tools like customer traffic data, activity-specific POS buttons and sales data to measure the effectiveness of your community involvement efforts.
If an initiative isn’t delivering the desired results, don’t be afraid to adapt and evolve. Engage with your team to brainstorm new ideas and strategies, and be open to experimenting with different approaches. The restaurant industry is dynamic, and what works today might not work tomorrow. By maintaining a culture of continuous improvement, you can fine-tune your local store marketing strategies and ensure that your efforts align with changing customer preferences and market trends.
In conclusion, Local Store Marketing doesn’t have to be a futile endeavor. By shifting the focus from quantity to quality, reflecting your brand values, prioritizing reciprocity in community relationships, and embracing a culture of continuous improvement, you can breathe new life into your local marketing efforts. While dropping menus might not yield the desired results, thoughtful and strategic community involvement can pave the way for increased traffic, higher sales, and a more engaged and loyal customer base. It’s time to leave behind the ineffective “spray and pray” approach and embrace a more targeted and impactful local store marketing strategy.
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