MYO = Make Your Own
People today need no excuse to eat outside, but boy oh boy, do they love one anyway. There is no shortage of creative ideas to tempt customers through the door, and with more than 50 per cent of young people -- 18-33 years old -- going out to eat once per week, there are plenty of potential customers ready to receive your marketing.
One genius idea, executed very well by the restaurant industry, is taking advantage of special occasions.
Everywhere in the world today, we see a blending of the festive calendars. People love to share their cherished celebrations with the new places they inhabit, and in a city as international as Dubai, there are cultures from all over the world, all with their own celebrations that restaurants can tap into to expand their special occasions calendar.
Traditional holidays, however, are not the only special occasions that the restaurant industry can successfully pull off.
Special Occasions Online and Offline
When thinking of special occasions at a restaurant, the venue is usually where most of the focus is directed; what can be done on-site to meet the theme of the event. It's important to remember, however, that your customers also live online. Engaging them in the occasion starts with online promotion and engagement, and could even stay, for the most part, an online event.
Don't limit yourself to bricks and mortar events, special occasions and promotions. The online world exists, your customers are there, and reaching and engaging with them in that space is not as difficult as one may imagine.
So, how do you run special digital occasions? You think outside the box. Remember, special occasions don't need to be limited to the major public holidays, or special days designed for chocolate consumption. You can also MYO -- make your own.
Social Media Special Occasions
Every restaurant should be on social media and actively invested in building a following and a community. So why not tie your social media efforts in with your special occasions? Are you close to hitting a particular number of followers? Start shouting it from the social rooftops. Make a promotion to encourage more followers and plan an event for when you hit the magic number online.
These types of special occasions connect your customers to the success of your restaurant. Engaging customers in your progress helps to breed loyalty, create community, and bring in bookings.
If you don't have a dedicated marketing person, producing content can be quite a pain for restaurants. What many establishments don't realise, however, is that their customers are creating post worthy content all the time. Content that you can tap into, and turn the hunt into a special occasion.
When reusing customer content, you should be sure to engage them in the process and make some noise about it. One idea is an image competition. If you have an online menu, you can run a contest -- promoting it both online and on-site -- for the best food pic. Get customers to take a pic of their dish and post it to Instagram making sure to tag your restaurant and maybe throw in a hashtag or two. At the end of the competition, announce a winner, offer them a prize and use the winning image in your digital menu for the dish they shot. This means you’ll not only be using user-generated content for some social media posts but also for your menu making sure said winner will return to check it out, are share on social media again. That is how you take over the internet ;)
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One of the biggest challenges of the restaurant industry is forecasting produce needs and minimising wastage. If you have a digital menu you can be much more agile and turn this challenge into an event. Say the restaurant over-ordered or has been underselling chicken. Connect your social strategist with your head chef and create an event for chicken lovers.
You could make a range of new dishes if it suits your fancy, or you could offer a promotion; 2 for 1, or discounted chicken dishes between X and Y time. Whatever helps the restaurant to best capitalise on the situation to sell more chicken. These promotions can be easily programmed into the menu, and digital menus are updated in real-time so that customers online get the same information as customers on-site.
Repeat business is the ultimate goal for any venue. And thankfully it doesn't take much to show appreciation and encourage customers back a second, third, and umpteenth time. A little reward for loyalty goes a long way. While discount offers are nice, what about creating online communities for customers in the loyalty program? Give them sneak peeks at new dishes, exclusive dibs on prime tables, or even special events just for them?
Signing up loyalty customers can be done easily through a digital menu, and then rewarding them is simple. Discounts can be automatically applied, emailers can be set up to go out after their 5th or 10th visit, and email lists can be created to bring your chicken lovers in for the chicken promotion, your fish lovers for a fish night, whatever you offer that your loyal customers love.
Time to Create
All of these ideas can be recreated in so many different ways. The imagination of the restaurant is the only limit.
Still not sure of what to celebrate? Think of when the restaurant opening anniversary is. Celebrate it annually! Do you track how many customers have visited? Celebrate every 1,000. Hired a new chef that's ready to show off their skills? Promote a new dish on social media and encourage customers to come in and be first to get to taste it. In the restaurant world, everything is worthy of celebrating.
Special occasions boost the excitement around the experience of going out to eat, and it makes customers feel like they're part of something that not everyone gets to be a part of. You don't need a nationally recognised reason to throw a party. Making your own means no competition on dates and giving customers an experience they won't find everywhere else.