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The restaurateur’s guide to surviving marketing problems

We’ve listed some common restaurant marketing challenges and PR crises complete with tips on how to respond to them

Photo by Thought Catalog /Unsplash

Restaurant marketing is difficult for obvious reasons, but there are certain marketing challenges that, if you knew how to manage them should they arise, signify you’re on to a good start. These problems can take on the form of either a foodservice crisis or an ineffective brand campaign. They require different solutions individually, but both can benefit from a technically sound and creative marketing and crisis communications plan. 

So if you’re wondering where to get started when it comes to marketing your restaurant, consider developing such a plan. It’s the minimum requirement, really, but it could also mean the difference between an uncertain concept lost in the mire of competition and a distinct, confident restaurant that’s well-equipped to recover from catastrophes.  

To get you started, we’ve come up with a list of some common marketing challenges complete with some tips on how to respond to them:

FOOD POISONING ALLEGATIONS

In many ways, a food poisoning scare is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a restaurant. Not only does it put your reputation on the line, it also puts your patrons in a situation that defeats the purpose of running a food business. Once you experience such a scare, survival becomes a dual responsibility: You have to salvage both your tarnished reputation and the dregs of trust left in your patrons after breaching the restaurant-diner pact. Late last year, Guevarra’s became the talk of the industry after a woman took to Facebook to call out the buffet restaurant after her family got hospitalized. Owners Rolando and Jac Laudico were silent at first—which is the number one lesson we want to impart to restaurateurs who face such allegations. 

Before launching on a tirade of public apologies, know that it’s your responsibility (and right) to first set the facts straight. Do the necessary investigation to establish what really went on. If you resort to apologies right away, your words can be construed as an admission of guilt should the complainants decide to file a lawsuit. And we get it, it’s scary to think of how fast word on the internet can spread, but during these times, it’s crucial to exercise empathy, tact, and diligence. Instead of saying sorry, let the affected patrons know that you’re acknowledging their complaint and that you are doing something about it. And then gather the necessary details: the name of the guests, when and what time they ate, and where they ate before eating at your restaurant. After that, go on an investigation. 

After the Facebook post made rounds on the internet, the Laudicos did the following: They tested their water supply, reviewed their suppliers, and passed San Juan Health Department sanitary inspections. The allegations turned out to be false, and they had the data to back this up. The Laudicos were able to clearly communicate to the affected customers what went wrong, which is another important lesson we want to emphasize when it comes to dealing with these cases: Clear, fact-based, and consistent communication is a key component in damage control. Negative comments will always be inevitable, but if you have the necessary facts and if you can communicate them well enough, then you can minimize the damage done and incurred. A good communications team can come in handy in these situations. Lastly, keep in mind that whether the food poisoning case is your fault or not, remember that it’s your customers’ right to know and understand what really happened.

SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE AND CUSTOMER RETENTION

When it comes to social media, the  question hardly has anything to do with whether or not restaurants should be using it, but almost everything with how well they are doing so. It helps to think of a good social media presence as one of the best ways to ensure that you remain in the minds of diners and, by extension, your diners remain to be loyal patrons at your restaurant. This all figures into a common concern shared by restaurants: customer retention. A respectable social media presence can make all the difference as it establishes and keeps open a line of communication between you and your diners even when they’re not in your restaurant. Think of it as a necessary communication tool that complements the actual dining experiences you offer. The two are not mutually exclusive—in fact, since personalization is favored these days, why not use social media to personalize dining experiences? 

Remember that despite the supposed glamour that comes with marketing, it’s really just a way to give your values direct and concrete expression. But these answers, though obvious and plenty, can’t be effected through guesswork. Social media algorithms and other online metrics require a lot of technical know-how. This is where a marketing solutions provider comes in.

At the very least personalization can mean avoiding generic branding—push for content that has a distinct voice, that talks to people, not at them. So rather than just the usual Instagram posts and Facebook promos, try investing in on-brand content. Make videos and social media snacks. But after creating content, another challenge arises: dissemination. How do you effectively share your content? Tap relevant and authentic personalities and publishers—people who embody and understand your vision. Remember that despite the supposed glamour that comes with marketing, it’s really just a way to give your values direct and concrete expression. But these answers, though obvious and plenty, can’t be effected through guesswork. Social media algorithms and other online metrics require a lot of technical know-how. This is where a marketing solutions provider comes in. 

The recently launched content marketing solution Influencer | Content | Amplification (INCA) does just that. It’s a platform for fully integrated content marketing to promote content in social channels and drive brand engagement across digital platforms. Through INCA’s proprietary platform, it thoroughly studies data on influencers and publishers, which is crucial since metrics can be easily faked. The end-to-end influencer marketing solutions platform gives brands the opportunity to work with trusted and reliable content creators who can create various content to drive awareness and create consideration.

You can email INCAph@groupm.com to know more.

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