Restaurant Marketing in Unprecedented Times

    It's time to leverage insights to beat competitors.

    Marketing strategy over paper.
    Unsplash/Scott Graham
    As we enter 2021, restaurant brands and their agencies should consider leveraging insights, audience planning and targeting that previously were only available on digital platforms.

    The restaurant franchisee model has always presented a challenge to a cohesive marketing approach when there are separate budgets and strategies between corporate and franchisees. Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic made consumers more homebound than usual. While this has had a devastating impact on the restaurant sector, one thing does remain true—consumers still need to eat—and this accelerated the already rapid rise of digital delivery services, which had started pre-pandemic.

    According to Foursquare, visits to casual-dining restaurants in 2020 declined by more than 20 percent, with visits falling by more than 70 percent at the height of the pandemic. Of the people visiting casual-dining restaurants in 2020, approximately 25–30 percent of them were taking food to-go instead of dining in. This underscores the changing customer journey and the need for restaurant brands to take a more data driven approach to reaching their customers. As we move into 2021, location data can help major quick-service restaurants serve ads to TV households in which residents are increasingly out-and-about in the real world. But what does this really mean for restaurant marketers? And how do you survive, let alone thrive?

    A major consequence of this disintermediation becomes the increasing difficulty in harvesting first-party CRM data, which is critical to optimal targeting and messaging. The good news for restaurant brands is that there are now new tech solutions available that will allow for a more holistic approach to meet the challenges of evolving consumer behavior. These solutions couldn’t have come at a better time. The restaurant category has seen a steady increase in competition marked by consolidation.  

    The Proof is in the Pudding

    The TV industry has taken huge leaps of late in employing consumer and brand data to optimize advertiser campaign performance. While restaurant brands continue to invest in national advertising some have started to embrace addressable solutions. The challenge that still needs to be solved is how to enhance and bridge their localization needs with their broad reaching advertising investment. Despite restaurant brands’ good intentions to embrace audience-based planning for their franchisee-owned markets, the reality is the industry has not had the technical wherewithal available to them to effectively organize complex consumer data and set-top-box viewership insights at a DMA level.

    That is changing, according to an analysis from one of the major cable operators of the national investments for three leading quick-service restaurant brands derived from set-top box data generated from 23 million households, covering Q1–Q3 2020. This analysis uncovered that Brand A built a 7 percent lead in share of voice over Brand B even though they were both reaching the same portion of the audience. While Brand A reached the same audience as Brand B, they did so with greater precision, and as a result generated a 25 percent greater frequency in an average month. This frequency had a direct effect on restaurant traffic with Brand A benefiting from 4 percent increase in traffic to their restaurants as compared to Brand B and Brand C.

    As we enter 2021, restaurant brands and their agencies should consider leveraging insights, audience planning and targeting that previously were only available on digital platforms.  With access to deterministic TV data combined with location data, restaurant brands can understand how to be more efficient and effective while also aligning their national and local efforts.  Amassing these new insights strengthens the feedback loop to improve future campaigns.  

    This new audience-based approach should resonate in particular with restaurants, who have been disproportionately hurt by COVID. Restaurant brands are increasingly challenged with doing more with limited resources. But now with emerging new tech platforms, and more readily available deterministic TV data, they can do more with less. 

    As SVP, Client Partnerships, Davina Kent and her team are changing the way that Ampersand partners with Fortune 500 advertisers empowering them with data, analytics and media platforms to reach consumers while their media consumption habits are rapidly evolving. Davina previously served as VP, Advanced TV Sales at Comcast where she built the Advanced Advertising products division into an $100 million business. Earlier, Davina was a key player in the success of TiVo where she built the company’s advertising and audience analytics business.  She led her team’s  development of the industry’s first DVR advertising and audience analytics platform while also forging multimillion-dollar upfront commitments with WPP, IPG, Omnicom and Publicis.