During the pandemic, restaurant brands scrambled to implement digital capabilities and upgrade their tech stacks to handle demand for off-premises dining. Then they had to adjust to ongoing labor shortages and inflationary pressure. As a more balanced post-pandemic business environment emerges, omnichannel experiences—those which provide seamless brand interactions across in-store, mobile, and online purchasing—are critical to creating a cohesive brand image.
For restaurants, this means providing multiple ways for guests to order, pay for, and receive their food. Regardless of whether meals are consumed on or off premise, customers want convenience for the main course.
Omnichannel marketing is also a chance to showcase your brand persona online. Just as retailers would use signage, sales, and in-person demonstrations in physical stores, online engagement and promotions are equally important. Branding should span both in-store and digital experience—but it must be consistent. Here are three food-focused brands that demonstrate how to do omnichannel marketing right.
A Seamless Ordering Flow Grants Jack in the Box Data Access
Jack in the Box is known for its fun, often humorous marketing campaigns and brand voice. In the wake of the pandemic, the brand needed to update its communications strategy to let customers know they understood their evolving needs, such as safety and convenience.
In order to provide a more personalized and seamless digital guest experience across consumer touch points, Jack in the Box moved its entire ordering experience within its own brand framework with a new custom ordering site and hybrid apps. Now, customers can see suggested items and upsells during the ordering flow and gain rewards on purchases and delivery orders.
They can also place orders for pickup inside the restaurant, in the drive-thru, or for delivery through third-party services. Because everything stays within Jack’s digital framework, they receive the maximum amount of data related to each and every order. In a virtuous cycle, these insights help Jack provide even more engaging and relevant experiences for guests.
Wawa Keeps Guests Engaged via Social Media
Social media is at its best when it is authentic and relatable. Over the years, convenience brand Wawa has strategically grown their following from zero to 2.6 million followers and 2.5 million monthly engagements. Wawa content typically falls into three key categories: relatable content, incentives, and education.
Relatable content often comes from the customer’s point of view: what they are experiencing when they come into your store, what matters to them, and things they relate to. When Wawa released a short skit that lamented moving away from a Wawa store, the post received thousands of tags and comments where people expressed missing their friends.
Incentives and promotions—such as handing out gift cards for the brand’s annual summer flagship HoagieFest campaign—encourage followers to engage. The incentives might come in the form of sales or discounts, but also sweepstakes, sales, or special giveaways that only happen on social media.
Finally, educational content informs customers about the brand. The “zodiac drinks” campaign, for instance, matched Wawa specialty beverages with zodiac signs in a fun way that educated customers about the beverage menu. It’s one of Wawa's all-time most successful campaigns.
Texas Roadhouse Guests Skip the Crowded Foyer With Online Waitlists
Few things are less comfortable than waiting inside a crowded restaurant lobby. There’s rarely a place to sit, you’re in everyone’s way, and it’s often a case of sensory overload. With the explosion in takeout orders since the pandemic, the problem has only worsened as third-party delivery drivers join the chaos.
In 2020, Texas Roadhouse solved the decades-long dilemma of crowded restaurant bars and foyers for their guests when they introduced online waitlists. Instead of waiting for a table inside the restaurant, customers can join an online waitlist with a few clicks on the brand website, then wait in the car until they receive a text that their table is ready. Online waitlists not only unclog the entrance area of a restaurant—which makes for a safer and more enjoyable experience for both guests and staff—but for customers with mental health or mobility issues, they are a welcome option.
In the post-pandemic landscape, restaurants must provide robust omnichannel experiences. Not only do customers want speed and convenience, they want personalized suggestions, upsells, and opportunities to authentically engage with their favorite brands. Providing a consistent brand experience across channels—and in person—is critical to building brand trust. Is your omnichannel experience up to par?
Ashley Dammeyer is Head of Strategy, Restaurant, Dining & Convenience at Bounteous.