According to research by TripAdvisor, over half of UK restaurants spend less than 10% of their time on marketing, and just 12% have roles dedicated to it.
It also found that despite 94% of UK restaurants monitoring the reputation of their business, 80% said they should be doing more to promote it. Of course, while budget and scale must be taken into consideration, it does appear as if marketing is low on the priority list for some.
Here are some of the best examples as well as what we can learn from them.
Pizza Pilgrims has gone from a single stall at a food market to becoming a fully-fledged chain, now with seven locations in London. As you might expect from a restaurant with such humble beginnings, its focus on authenticity has been at the heart of its marketing strategy, appealing to customers with its 'have a go' back-story and its no-frills product.
Set up by Thom and James Elliot, the name Pizza Pilgrims reflects the company’s beginnings, which saw the brothers head off on a journey across Italy in order to learn about pizza.
On their return, they set up a pizza van – instantly gaining a reputation for delicious dough and highly affordable prices. Alongside this, the brand was built on a hyper-local strategy, generating loyalty from people within the pizza van’s immediate radius. This led to the opening of the first brick-and-mortar location in Soho – which is coincidentally (though perhaps deliberately) directly opposite a Pizza Express.
Now with seven restaurant locations, Pizza Pilgrims still promises to ‘roll out with soul’ – positioning itself as an authentic and fashionable alternative to large-scale pizza chains.
Leon is another casual fast food chain that has seen rapid growth over the past few years. One campaign that kicked off real success was ‘Lean and Clean’, where it partnered with social media influencer Joe Wicks – also known as the Body Coach.
Building on the trend for ‘clean eating’ and general wellness, Leon positioned itself as a healthy alternative to fast food restaurants. Taking advantage of Joe’s growing audience on social, the brand created two fitness videos to post on his own channels. Following on from this, Joe continued to post related content including new recipes and competitions, becoming a natural advocate for the brand based on his own dedication to healthy living.
With Joe Wicks going on to become much bigger on social, and since releasing his own line of best-selling books, it can perhaps in hindsight be seen as a great example of micro-influencer marketing. Due to a natural and authentic partnership, Leon’s Lean and Clean campaign truly resonated with Joe's smaller but hyper-engaged following at the time.
Despite stiff competition within the fast food market, Nando's has become one of the most popular and well-known restaurants in the UK.
With 1.5m followers on Twitter and 4.2m fans on Facebook, its social media strategy has contributed to its success, with the brand running integrated social campaigns to help generate engagement and loyalty.
Its best examples have been those that encourage customers to share their Nando's experience on social media, such as the ‘finger selfies’ campaign. This involved customers tweeting a picture of their best finger selfie made from a Nando's napkin, using a £20 gift card as an incentive to get involved.
By creating campaigns that customers can easily engage with while dining, Nando's enhances the fun and casual experience that it’s become known for. In turn, it also furthers engagement on social media, encouraging customers to spread the word.
Nando's also recognises that it has become somewhat of a pop culture phenomenon, particularly amongst young people – perhaps cemented by the group Peri Boyz going viral with their parody song, ‘cheeky Nandos’. Using this and other related hashtags like #wingroulette, Nandos is able to connect with its ever-loyal target audience.
1. Encourage social media sharing. Asking customers to share their experience is one thing, but making it easy, fun, and a natural part of the restaurant experience is much more effective long-term. In the case of Nando's, this means creating simple and fun competitions that encourage in-the-moment sharing on social.
2. Use storytelling to engage. With an authentic and interesting back-story, brands like Pizza Pilgrims naturally capture the attention of consumers – especially in the face of competition from big chains. Keeping this sense of authenticity, even in the midst of growth, is important for maintaining customer loyalty.
3. Create experiences. Much like the retail industry, customers are becoming used to more immersive-style marketing from restaurant and food brands – also thanks to the popularity of pop-ups and experiential campaigns.
4. Build authentic partnerships. We’re constantly talking about both the negatives and positives of influencer marketing, but Leon has demonstrated that there is a sweet spot – and it always boils down to authenticity. In other words, focusing on levels of engagement rather than the size of the audience.
5. Capitalise on visual content. Food and restaurant brands are increasingly relying on the customer’s appetite for visual content, using platforms like Instagram and YouTube to promote themselves. User-generated content is a great way to create this but also save on both resources and budget.