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Is Restaurant Marketing Technology Getting Scary?

Tom Cruise in The Minority Report
Don’t scan my eyes!

Mobile marketing is beginning to sound like the movie Minority Report, where pedestrians had their retinas scanned by computers as they walked by stores and voices addressed them by name and encouraged them to buy products tailored to their personal preferences.

That would be scary, but it’s never gonna happen to me, right?

Surely you’ve seen TV ads asking you to text such and such to a number and receive deals or promos.  The companies doing that kind of advertising get your number when you text, and use that to target you for future promos.

Seems like we’re getting warmer, Steven Spielberg.

Until recently, nobody in the food service industry was thinking about applying some of these new technologies to an old game: improving sales and customer retention.

That’s changing, and one of the agents of change is Fishbowl Inc., a technology-based marketing company for the food service industry.

The firm has built email and internet marketing campaigns for over 30,000 restaurants and is recommended by the National Restaurant Association.  They recently expanded into mobile technology marketing, where new marketing techniques have revolutionized how restaurants reach their customers.

Scotty’s Brewhouse in Indiana increased to-go orders placed on the internet by 500% with a two-for-one promo that went out via email and applied only to those internet orders.

Smoothie King chain restaurant locations offer a free smoothie in exchange for a text message from customers.  The cost of the smoothie is a fraction of the value of having that customer on an email and text list for future promos, and sales are up on promo days by 24%.

Jack-in-the-Box has even experimented with placing a small computer chip in special promo posters that communicates with mobile devices and alerts customers to local store locations and deals.

Maybe those retina scans aren’t that far off after all.

As marketing methodology improves using these new technologies, restaurants will be able to reach their customers in increasingly innovative ways.

Building email and text number databases of customers will help connect customers and businesses and allow restaurants to improve sales in slow periods and maximize customer retention.

Most importantly, restaurants can learn about their customers and cater more directly to their needs.  Knowing what customers want when they want it is half the battle in any service industry, and especially in the food service industry.

About Greg McGuire

Greg has blogged about the food service industry for years and has been published in industry magazines, like Independent Restaurateur and industry blogs like Restaurant SmartBrief. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, live music, and the great outdoors.

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  1. I don’t see any problem with focused marketing campaigns, it saves the company advertising expenses, maximizes the impact the money they do spend on advertising has, and for the consumer, he’s not getting plastered with ads and promos for products he has no interest in.
    It can be a little scary to find out exactly how much information can be gathered about individuals, but I think that it is an inevitable part of our advancing technology. But, the first time an Advertisement on a wall somewhere speaks to me by name, I might just jump out of my skin.

  2. I was just in a Planet Smoothie las weekend and they had one of those Text Message kiosks set up to use.

    The fact that the consumers are becoming more tech oriented means restaurant owners need to join them. Those that do will stay alive in these difficult times. Plus like Scott mentioned it can definitely save with the advertising expenses. If you look at how much it costs know to do a direct mailing verses how much email costs, there’s no contest. Places like SellMoreMeals.com take advantage of those eMail lists you mentioned, Greg.

    What it’s going to come down to is finding ways to increase customer returns and loyalty. When you can hit on that they highly effective word of mouth advertising will be what carries us through.

  3. My husband and I own a pizza bus in Tennessee. What do you guys think about hiring someone to make phone calls on behalf of our store to customers, to tell them of our current specials and thank them for their business. We figure you can call roughly 18 people per hour and pay roughly $8 per hour. Do you think this is a good investment? Have you ever tried it?

    • I think that sounds like a great idea. A phone call will add a nice personal touch to your marketing that is sure to give you an edge, especially in this type of economy. You could offer different specials for this segment of your marketing, either a coupon or verbal, and keep track of how many times they are used. This would allow you to track the effectiveness of your phone calls.

      We like to use this type of personal approach at our e-commerce website. Instead of sending out an email if there is a question about an order, someone from our web team will call the customer. That type of personal approach tends to work very well.

  4. E.S., a call-back program is extremely valuable and a must-have! 18 guests a day is not a very large amount. Numbers aren’t as important as actual engagement. We build our client’s programs around calling every guest back within 36 hours to see how their experience was and to reward their loyalty. It is a very powerful program. Be prepared!

    Jeffrey Summers, President
    Restaurant Coaching Solutions

  5. About time this industry moved forward into the 21st Century…

    BTW, great blog Tundra!

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