More than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments closed in 2020 making the restaurant industry among the hardest hit during the pandemic. And the consistent theme I heard from the restaurant marketing execs I met with during this year’s Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit (RFIS) was the struggle to bounce back from a major disruption. As we head into fall and continue to work in an unpredictable climate, it looks like marketers will continue to face this challenge. Enter: omnichannel restaurant marketing, a strategy that will help brands simultaneously gain new customers and grow revenue in an increasingly fragmented marketplace.
National food spend is down.
Cardlytics analyzed the spending habits of U.S. online shoppers to help marketers navigate the changes in consumer spend that occurred across the broader food spectrum, including restaurants, grocery, meal kit subscription, third party delivery and non-traditional gas stations that feature mini marts. We learned national food spend declining by 2.5%, which would be the equivalent of all the restaurants in NYC closing for an entire year. Despite that, there have been tremendous opportunities for growth when restaurant marketing leaders were able to successfully target new customers. In other words, the upheaval reduced spending in the category, but opened the door to gaining new, high-value customers.
This is the advice I shared with the RFIS audience during our panel, “How to use Technology to Acquire New Customers.”
So how can restaurants win?
Omnichannel marketing is a customer-centric approach that delivers a consistent, personalized experience for consumers across all your brands. During the pandemic, online ordering became increasingly popular. In 2020, 26% of restaurant purchases came through online channels as compared to 13% in 2019. And we saw this behavior continue even as restaurants and grocery stores began reopening, with online restaurant spend leveling out at 28% of total restaurant spend and grocery at 14% of total grocery spend.
Now that many people are used to ordering via apps, mobile phones, and online websites, it is likely that this behavior will continue.
Tip: Recognizing third party delivery apps impact margins but bring in new customers, restaurants should stop worrying about the perceived risk from those platforms and focus on converting in-store only customers to omnichannel via their owned channels.
An effective omnichannel restaurant strategy means engaging with your customers where they are and accepting that third party delivery is just another touchpoint for you to deliver a seamless experience.
Here are a few tactics to consider:
Convert Customers to Omnichannel: The ‘omni customer’ is dining in-store and ordering online. These omnichannel customers tend to spend more than either an in-store only customer or an online only customer, spending 3X as much as a single channel customer on average! It’s obvious that the value lies with these diners.
More consumers than ever before have shifted their spending habits online so why not take your advertising where they're already spending?
It’s a straightforward task for most digital marketers to cookie and target online customers (at least for now) but targeting in-store only to get them to try online ordering is trickier. At Cardlytics, we help marketers do this by identifying and targeting consumers who have charged a meal in-store with a cash back offer to make a purchase online, or to purchase through a brand’s app. By reaching these single-channel customers and converting them to omni you increase their value.
Convert Grocery Customers: Grocery has increased their prepared meal offerings, further enticing consumer groups like families, gamers, millennials, and gen z, directly competing for a household’s take out or meal delivery business. And, with grocery share of food spend higher than it was pre-pandemic it continues to be important for restaurants to target these shoppers in an effort to bring spend back.
Online grocery shoppers are another great conversion point. In 2020, 11% of grocery purchases came through online channels vs 5% in 2019. Restaurants should target these online shoppers to convert them to online restaurant delivery. This blurs the line between in-store and online. Things like digital payments or restaurant specific apps designed to make ordering easier are all ways to entice new customers that are already using technology to purchase within this category.
Take Share From Your Competitors: Another major struggle that I heard from marketers at RFIS is how to target truly new or lapsed customers. The Cardlytics value proposition is probably most compelling when it’s used to target customers who’ve never interacted with your brand but are regulars at your top competitors. An offer to give your brand a try, whether in-store or online can bring in new customers who are very likely to become regulars.
If these tactics make sense, but you’re struggling to operationalize them in today’s difficult climate, you should check out this webinar with Fast Casual from Kamron Moore, Cardlytics’ Senior Director of Restaurant Partnerships, Laura Sporrer, Teriyaki Madness’ Senior Marketing Manager, and Stephanie Bauer, The Piada Group’s Director of Marketing. You’ll learn how restaurant marketers are putting these tactics to work with great results.