Brand ambassadors, face-to-face marketing and experiential activations can deliver major benefits for restaurants and fast-food chains, driving footfall and engaging new audiences, says Dorian Payne, Head of Operations at StreetPR.
In the hospitality industry, restaurants and fast-food operators are used to the idea of hiring temporary staff – after all, they rely on part-time waiters and kitchen workers to respond to the fluctuations in demand that is a fundamental challenge in the catering business.
But just as you wouldn’t hire an experienced waiter to cook the food, or a chef to wait tables, you shouldn’t hire waiters and cooks to be brand ambassadors. We’re talking completely different skill sets here. It’s all about the right people for the right roll… sorry, role.
Your cooks and your service staff are very definitely promoting your business – but they’re doing it by doing the jobs they’re best at. If you want someone to get diners through your doors, then you need trained and professional brand ambassadors who will be able to engage with existing and potential customers.
You can deploy face-to-face marketers anywhere where your target audience is likely to be. We’ve got some clients who use our staff as greeters on or around the entrance to their restaurants, starting up conversations with passers-by or people already queuing inside, explaining the concept and the ethos behind the venue and any specials there may be and generally making them feel welcome.
It sounds very American, but younger Brits are so used to this kind of direct approach that they don’t have a problem with it.
Other clients use brand ambassadors to rove around nearby to their venues, handing out flyers and samples and generally raising the profile of the outlet. It’s all about getting the passing trade to actually stop and go in.
If you haven’t used brand ambassadors and face-to-face marketers before, one key thing to understand is that they work best when they are integrated into your other marketing plans.
It’s like cooking itself – all the ingredients in a recipe should complement each other, working in harmony to deliver something tasty and satisfying.
The other key benefit of face-to-face marketing is its flexibility – you can spice it up when you need to; it’s highly targeted and very cost-effective.
That’s why so many restaurant and fast-food chains use it. In fact, you could argue that they’ve been using it for a lot longer that marketing has existed – there were almost certainly people on the streets of Ancient Rome extolling the virtues of the local taverna.
However, there’s a difference between hiring a barker or a tout to drive traffic and employing professional brand ambassadors. To create a meaningful and long-lasting brand these days, you need consistency of message. That’s where companies like StreetPR come in. We’ve worked with dozens of companies in the hospitality industry, helping them promote new restaurant openings, highlight a revamped menu, and help smooth out seasonal dips in trade with targeted promotions and sampling activity.
As with any marketing, the first thing client marketers have to do is understand the core business strengths and the market they cater to. These may differ depending on where sites are, whether they are offering fine dining, convenience or fast-food, and even the national cuisine on offer. Don’t forget that the audience profile will also change according to day of the week, time of day and season.
Are you happy with your current user base, or are there groups you aren’t reaching? Who could benefit from your services – parents with kids, older people, time-poor professionals? What do you want your marketing to do? Is it to drive more footfall across your entire estate, or do you want to focus on individual sites? Are you adding new menu items or special offers? Are you opening entirely new restaurants or outlets?
Look at what your existing marketing strategy is, then look at how brand ambassadors can contribute to that strategy and leverage other media channels – or be leveraged by them. Face-to-face activity works really well with social media, for example – you can use it to generate content which can amplify what you’re doing on the street or in your venues.
Just handing out leaflets can work really well – so long as the leaflets have the right offer on and are handed out to the right people in the right place at the right time (a bit like delivering the right meal to the right diner in a reasonable time!). We’ve had clients tell us that people are walking in with leaflets they’ve had stuck on the fridge up to six months after a campaign has run (incidentally, you should always consider putting a time-limit on offers in leaflets, ads and even on social media).
An additional benefit is that you can run very tightly targeted and highly cost effective campaigns, selecting locations within a set distance from your venues or around those places you know your key audience will be (upmarket High Streets or transport hubs, for example).
We’re living in an ‘always connected’ world, so exploit that, and people’s obsession with sharing every element of their lives, to create buzz about your brand and your services.
Face-to-face engagement allows restaurant and fast-food brands and marketers to start and exploit conversations around the foods you offer with your key audiences.