Marketing tips for your restaurant’s next campaign

By Scott Mitchell

As Canadians continue to navigate high inflation rates and re-consider their spending habits, there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel for restaurant owners and operators. In Q1, the restaurant industry saw visits increase by 11 per cent and spending increase by 18 per cent compared to the same period last year, presenting an opportunity for operators to lean into the appetite Canadians currently have for dining out as they plan their next campaign.

Restaurants should be constantly evaluating their marketing strategies – from store-level/regional promotions to franchise marketing – and keeping a finger on the pulse with shifting consumer behaviours and innovative marketing trends. These insights are critical for any restaurant working to attract and retain loyal customers while remaining competitive through the end of 2023 and beyond.

Consumer priorities and price-conscious messaging

It is safe to assume that many consumers are keeping a close eye on prices and looking for deals and promotions that fit within their evolving household budget. To accommodate consumer priorities and sentiment, restaurants should be shifting their messaging to showcase more specific promotional deals where applicable. We have seen really strong creative promoting BOGO deals, ‘kids eat free’ promotions, and even loyalty programs that prioritize the needs of a price-conscious diner. These approaches can potentially entice customers to compromise their loyalty to a competitor brand, buying from your restaurant instead.

When amplifying these offers, the other thing to consider is where you are reaching your consumer. An omnichannel marketing approach allows brands to really integrate themselves into their target audience’s daily journey. For example, by integrating digital out-of-home (DOOH) into the media mix, marketers can leverage location data and geospatial technology to create a behavioural audience of restaurant visitors with individuals who recently visited a competitor.

By integrating mobile amplification to the mix, marketers can build on established connections and create additional touchpoints with target individuals who are more likely to have already seen the ads. They can also analyze movement patterns to understand the affinity for different locations at different times and ultimately reveal the best times (potentially around lunchtime) and places (like near the restaurant location) to target the audience.

With that knowledge, restaurant marketers can utilize place-based media to diversify their footprint and reach consumers in contextually relevant environments, such as airports, casual dining restaurants, gas stations, gyms, family centers, malls, movie theaters, office buildings, transit stations, universities and more.

Creative trends and best practices

Creativity is critical in driving engagement with any advertisement, and restaurant ads are no different. In fact, the attention span of audiences is decreasing each year making it even more important that advertisers grab and maintain audience attention – which is why we are seeing more and more brands experiment with out-of-the-box ad formats like “faux OOH”.

That said, there are a few things you can do with your content to captivate audiences that don’t require an augmented reality budget:

  • Contrasting colours: Neuroscientific experiments have shown us that visuals with a contrasting colour pattern will capture more attention. Instead of layering similar colours, consider how contrast could help marketers pique audience interest.
  •  More images than words: Using more images than words is critical to convey messaging quickly and efficiently. This can be done by focusing on a restaurant’s core logo, image, or message and is especially important with social media marketing.
  •  Motion-based campaigns: Many humans tend to be more alert to moving objects, meaning motion-based campaigns can be vital in bolstering engagement with advertisements.

Evaluating successes to inform future campaigns

Taking the time to understand consumer priorities and behaviours will enable restaurant marketers to create robust and creative omnichannel strategies that can help attract customers and maintain brand loyalty. But with any campaign, it is critical to set KPIs and measure its successes following the flight. By understanding the real-world impact, and assessing which approach performed best, restaurants will have a guidepost for how they can pivot content and tactics in future marketing campaigns.

Scott Mitchell is the Managing Director at Vistar Media (Canada). Vistar Media has built a complete end-to-end programmatic ecosystem to enable data-driven, automated, and measurable DOOH transactions, helping its partners broaden marketing strategies to achieve key results, such as awareness, consideration, favourability and foot traffic, through custom and efficient targeting, messaging and measurement.