Chief Marketing Officer at Bareburger, overseeing the company's outreach for 47 organic better burger restaurants across 5 countries.
In recent restaurant news, Shake Shack’s third-quarter sale numbers are in — the first report since its exclusive partnership with Grubhub, a food delivery service. After cutting out all other delivery services, the establishment didn’t get the numbers that were projected.
The major bright side of this exclusivity deal is that Grubhub agreed to share customer data — an invaluable influx of information often withheld by restaurants’ external delivery sources. While Shake Shack hopes to fix the drop with marketing and customer loyalty, I believe there are three clear reasons the initial launch didn’t go as planned. And working as a chief marketing officer for a fast-casual burger restaurant, I see three lessons marketers can learn when looking to develop a successful brand partnership.
1. Multiple Partners And Market Saturation
Grubhub was one of the first majorly successful food delivery services, founded in 2004. Now, a decade and a half later, we have newer, shinier services. New toys. New deals. An oversaturated market. To partner with just one service is already a risky decision, especially when the decision is companywide. Each major U.S. city has its own market leaders, and within the realm of food delivery, the numbers are supremely scattered. Sure, Grubhub (thanks to Seamless) dominates the El Paso, Texas; New York and Jacksonville, Florida markets. However, in Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; and San Jose, California, Postmates, Uber Eats and DoorDash win the popularity contest.
I’ve found that many millennials and Gen Zers prioritize ease and efficiency over brand loyalty, especially when it comes to large corporations. If a brand doesn’t come up when typed into our food delivery app search bar, we’re probably not going to go looking for it — we’ll instead find the quickest, highly rated, least expensive replacement. This “out of sight, out of mind” concept is detrimental to any restaurant looking for exclusive delivery service partnerships.
When considering a partnership opportunity, it is critical that you find a company that shares your company’s vision, belief system and social message. You must be a match in regards to ethos in order for the partnership to make sense. I also advise that your potential partner is a relatively new company that has shown innovation among its preexisting competitors and a warm reception on social channels. This shows promise for success among millennials and Gen Z. Pursuing multiple partnerships may pose less of a risk altogether, but sometimes a really good exclusivity deal can pay off better if the partnership turns out to be as successful as anticipated.
2. Brand Image
Grubhub has made headlines this year, suspected of buying up web domains that mimic those of smaller restaurants and cherry-picking restaurant phone orders — if a customer calls a restaurant through contact information provided on the Grubhub website or app, the call is relayed through Grubhub’s service, and the company automatically takes a cut.
While the company has been pretty successful in maintaining control of its mistakes, a negative brand image can affect a partnering brand. Twitter and Instagram have supplied a platform that makes widespread word possible — as soon as something goes viral, that’s it.
When you go public with a partnership, your company is suddenly and automatically backing the other company’s actions, whether you have anything to do with them or not. Aside from properly vetting your new partner before anything is signed or announced, a good public relations team is always a good idea.
If negative practices come to light after the partnership is cemented, I always go the route of transparency and honesty. I find that our peers and younger generations are more understanding when a brand appears vulnerable and human after any sort of bad publicity — as long as it is genuine and apologetic. Sure, you can disconnect yourself from the practices of your partner by articulating that you had no idea, but also own up to the fact that its actions are now your responsibility and you have a plan in place to fix whatever wrongdoings have occurred. Be truthful, apologetic and solution-oriented.
3. Values Match
It’s important for marketers to note that today, 87% of consumers (download required) buy a product based on the company’s advocacy on an issue or belief they care about.
Shake Shack became a billion-dollar company, in part, because it is a lifestyle brand. The company embodies the millennial culture’s values, aspirations, interests and opinions as a beautifully successful marketing plan. Sweetgreen capitalized on the same idea, which resulted in the same billion-dollar success. Sweetgreen integrates its own ordering technology — an allergy option on its site that allows a customer to input allergies and then eliminates all ingredients of danger — that fits the brand and consumer demographic. This type of feature demonstrates compassion and carefulness that leaves an impression.
Grubhub, however, has very transparently been about profit, which doesn’t align well with this type of brand’s image. I mentioned before how important it is to make sure your partnerships match up. Get to know the company you’ll be working with. Spend time in its spaces. Read every article that ever mentions it. Ask your employees what they think of the potential partner. Ask your friends, your family. Get out of your money-making headspace, because the money you’re thinking about will not be made if this partnership is misaligned.
A good alignment promotes a genuineness that consumers will be able to see and appreciate without any extra work on your end. A partnership that makes sense is like a well-oiled machine — each fills the other’s gaps and shortcomings to create a powerhouse that illuminates and fosters incredible strength and success. A powerful, properly aligned partnership knows no bounds.
by Cherryh Cansler
EVOS worked with ShopAdviser on a six-week mobile marketing campaign across four locations in Florida. Provided.
Although most restaurant brands try to employ an omnichannel marketing approach to tapping traditional media — newspapers, radio, television, direct mail — as well as new media — digital, mobile, social channels — 75% said they relied more heavily on traditional media, but less than 50% rated those channels as providing excellent results, according to a survey conducted by ShopAdvisor. Earlier this year, the marketing solutions company polled dozens of QSR and fast casual restaurant owner/operators to uncover what was missing in their marketing strategies.
"The results of this survey are eye-opening," ShopAdvisor CEO Jeff Papows, said in a company press release. "We think it reveals a significant and likely widening gap between how restaurants spend to create awareness and attract customers versus how the consumer is actually finding them."
Most consumers — especially GenXers, Millennials, and GenZers — rely on their smartphones for everything, including finding places to eat, obtaining special offers, placing orders and scheduling pick-up or deliveries.
"With research predicting that by the end of 2019, mobile advertising will account for 72% of all U.S. digital ad spending, those restaurants that increase their digital promotion spending — particularly mobile — have the opportunity to set themselves apart and grow their market share with these audiences," Papows said.
How one brand got it right
Tampa-based EVOS Restaurants is a prime example of how effective a mobile campaign can be for a restaurant. Earlier this year, the healthy fast casual concept worked with ShopAdviser on a six-week mobile marketing campaign across four locations in Florida. The campaign included media creatives — mobile ads and landing pages — that engaged diners on mobile devices, which provided information on the restaurant's offers, special deals and directions to the nearest EVOS Restaurants location.
The strategy yielded a 9% lift in sales and increased website visits by over 110% — results that EVOS Co-founder Michael Jeffers said speak for themselves.
"Working on this campaign with ShopAdvisor has been nothing short of a fantastic experience," he said during an interview with FastCasual. "Their team acts with the utmost professionalism and was very hands on and constantly in contact with me and provided diligent notes and reports about how the campaign was performing at every restaurant for each of the eight targeted offers including brand building ads."
Jeffers was also happy with the creative efforts produced for his brand, which included marketed ads on mobile devices in and around the restaurants.
"With increased redemptions on our annual free organic milkshakes Earth Day promotion and a sales lift of 9%, we're more than pleased with the outcome of the campaign."
Is it time for mobile proximity marketing strategy?
A myriad of studies shows that smartphone usage is at an all-time high and growing. For example, more than three out of four consumers use their mobile devices as an integral part of their shopping and dining experiences, according to Quora Creative. With this, the majority of consumers are targetable via their smartphones for mobile ads and relevant promos from restaurants.
"This shift in consumer behavior underscores the urgency for owner/operators to invest more in mobile than any other channel," said Papows who believes that by implementing a mobile proximity marketing strategy, brands can target consumers more effectively and build brand loyalty not only for the duration of a singular campaign but for years to come.
"They also provide many more ways to measure effectiveness, including engaged audience demographics, most popular offers and times of the day, foot traffic and sales lift analysis," he said. "These campaigns can deliver invaluable information for building long-term, opt-in relationships with customers."
By Chris Morris
As more and more fast food chains try to elbow in on the breakfast market, IHOP is planning a new sort of fast-casual chain.
Flip’d will launch next April, with the first location popping up in Atlanta. The company hopes to have stores in New York City, Washington D.C., Denver and San Francisco by the end of 2020.
The new brand will focus on freshly-made breakfast foods and beverages with to-go orders in mind. Seating in the stores will be very limited. The company is better that freshly made foods will be a draw for people who are less than enamored with options from competitors. Sandwiches and other items will also be available for lunch and dinner crowds.
“In looking at what exists today in terms of fresh, fast menu options — particularly at breakfast — there’s still tremendous opportunity for growth,” said Jay Johns, president of IHOP in a statement.
The restaurant will use the regular IHOP menu as inspiration, offering twists such as a Pancake Bowl (where pancakes can be filled with everything from berries to scrambled eggs and bacon pieces. Other menu items will include egg sandwiches, breakfast burritos and bowls and buttermilk crispy chicken sandwiches.
The move is the latest by IHOP to remain competitive as the breakfast market heats up. Last year, the company launched home pancake deliveries and it has undergone a couple of stunt marketing campaigns in the past 18 months to draw attention to itself. It’s even launched its own beer to draw in customers in non-breakfast hours.
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