Winter. It’s the most wonderful time of the year - unless of course you're in the restaurant business.
As foot traffic takes a nose dive along with the temperature, most restaurant marketers are throwing discounts around like kids having a snowball fight.
But saving money doesn’t combat the biggest problem restaurants face in winter: no one wants to go outside.
How can a $10 off coupon convince me to brave the cold? How can it make me want to put on snow boots and trudge through the snow?
The answer: it can’t.
We have to stop throwing discount snowballs and hoping to hit customers.
Instead let’s tempt people out of hibernation with carefully crafted experiences.
No discounts required.
1) Host Special Events
Why hold a special event instead of offering a discount? Events feel special. They feel like an occasion. And they don’t make people think they’re overpaying every other day of the year.
Your special event could be themed, like a holiday meal. It could be energetic, with live music. It could be cozy, with blankets and fire.
It doesn’t matter as long as it is appealing to your target audience. You’re bringing people in for the experience not the savings.
So make sure your event is an experience they’ll enjoy.
One that they won’t be likely to forget.
One that they look forward to attending again and again.
2) Target Your Loyalty Members
This fun loving group of guys and gals already like your restaurant. They’re the ones who took the time to sign up for your loyalty program. They maybe even use it. They’re more likely to brave the snow and come hang out at your place than someone who’s never eaten there before.
So send them special event invites for members only. Make them feel special.
Maybe it’s a meet the chef night. Maybe it’s a winter feast. Maybe it’s a bring your own winter slippers party.
It doesn’t matter.
The important part is your members recognize that you care. You’ve created an experience that’s exclusive, that’s desirable, that’s just for them.
It also doesn’t have to be an event. You can create promotions just for your loyalty members.
Offer them double the points when they dine on slow days. Create scratch cards that give double or triple the amount of loyalty points. Make certain menu items award more points.
Again, it doesn’t matter as long as you are offering your loyalty members something exclusive and valuable.
3) Post Strategically on Social Media
What do most people do on snow days? Snuggle up and scroll through Facebook. Half way through the day they’re stir crazy and want to go do something.
This is the perfect moment for you to strike. I mean post.
Share cozy looking pictures of your restaurant or winter themed menu items. People love looking at pictures of food, and you can take advantage of this when you know they’re bored at home.
Another effective way to engage with customers on social media is through an advergame. Advergames are addictive mini-games that are branded. They’re the kind of magnetic content that drives engagement on social networks. And once consumers are playing the game, you can run ads within them about your specials and menu items.
4) Run a Game-Based Promotion
We’ve noticed that our game-based promotions tend to get traffic spikes between 11am - 12pm and 4pm - 5pm. These players tend to be killing time before going for lunch or knocking off for the day. As a restaurant those are great times for you to engage with people since that’s when they consider what to have for lunch or dinner.
So create fun games that engage consumers in a way that drives traffic to your restaurant.
For example if you want to drive repeat visits you could run a collection game. Customers have to come into your restaurant to collect sets of icons. For each set they collect, they can win a prize. This encourages them to visit your restaurant frequently during the promotion period.
You can also drive traffic by offering in-game perks like a special code that unlocks a secret menu item. Consumers will need to visit your restaurant in order to redeem their perk.
The Bottom Line
With traffic and sales slowing, it can be tempting to ease off your marketing efforts to save some money.
But customers need an extra push, an additional motivation, to go out into the snow. It doesn’t matter how great of a deal your new menu is if no one wants to brave the cold.
So while other restaurants take a back seat with their marketing, keep pushing (snowshoeing?) ahead.
Create experiences that convince customers your restaurant is worth the drive through the snow. That it’s worth the extra effort of putting on winter boots and braving frigid winds. That it’s the place to be when the snow starts falling.
And do it all without discounting your menu.
You smart marketer you.