Why Is QSR Marketing So Bland?

Restaurant advertising, can you tell the difference.

We have all just finished the holiday period and most of us have had time to sit in front of the TV, being bombarded by ads for a host of fast food, QSR and mid scale dining choices. While watching these ads, the thing that came to mind was “when did we, as consumers, end up being content with the crap that advertisers dish up on a daily basis.

Every ad looks the same.

Get one happy family that looks like they are on uppers and stick them in a nondescript restaurant eating the same food as everyone else sells. The food arrives and huge smiles appear, little Johnny jumps up and down with glee, little Jenny’s eyes go so wide that we think she may be having a coronary and dad gives mum that knowing wink as if to say, ” Oh wow honey,  it was worth it to sell granny to the glue factory to pay for this family meal.” Yep this family definitely has it’s own meth lab!! Honestly,  have you or any of your family ever reacted to a QSR meal the way these actors do? If the answer is yes, you watch way too much TV.

It must be tough for the agencies to differentiate brands when the food is almost the same in every food franchise and each company insists on having the same architect design and build almost identical restaurants no matter what the concept. The exterior colors for most restaurants built in the last 5 years come in a range of light beige all the way through dark beige. Wow, how hard must it be for the consumer to chose!!!

I was watching a movie over the holiday and fell asleep on the couch while a QSR ad was on. When I opened my eyes the same ad was still on and I was sure that I had just dozed for a second or two until my daughter informed me that I had been snoring for at least 10 minutes and had been awakened by her left foot forcefully impacting my right shin so she could hear the rest of the movie. I joked that it was a coincidence that I had awakened to the same TV ad and was informed of my stupidity by my ever vigilant daughter, no, it was not the same ad or even the same company and ” don’t you know they all look the same!” Well, at least my suspicions were confirmed, The food industry ads suck big time!

So what are the advertisers and ad companies thinking, are they so afraid of upsetting even one person in the target market that only the blandest of ads ever get to air. Are they so afraid of political correctness that every ad has to have at least one of every ethnic group in the world featured somewhere in the ad. I am sure I saw a Mongolian yak herder in a recent Arby’s ad! Is it the fault of the financial crisis? Are we so embedded in deep discounts that the only thing that matters is getting the current deal across 15 times in 30 seconds. So, it seems they have created only one ad in the last 3 years and they just change the voice over and tags to suit the deal and advertiser.

Is it just the US.

Is this only an American phenomena? Are other countries still making good food service ads? I recently watched a McDonald’s ad from India that featured an attractive young lady showing lots of cleavage to distract a young man from his burger. A little bit of bumping and grinding was there as well. This would not be allowed in the US!!!!! It would offend far to many people, religious and community groups would be up in arms. the head of Chick-fil-a would faint.

I will try to find some good food ads from differing countries that I think merit inclusion for whatever reason, maybe just because they are a little different. They may not be in English or you may not quite understand what the hell they are trying to get across but they will be interesting.

 

Here is the first,

Product Sampling in Your Restaurant

Product Sampling

The next subject on my list of Local Store Marketing ideas is product sampling.

What is product sampling? Giving away small portions of your menu items as a taste test to new or existing customers in the hope of either promoting trial of your restaurant or enticing existing customers to use you more often.

Sampling to existing customers, dependant on your concept usually means:

1. Adding a small plate of samples either at point of purchase or point of payment for coffee shops and other establishments that require the customer to order or pay at the counter
2. Delivering a trial sized plate to the customer at the table while they are deciding their order
3. Giving the samples after the meal at the table.
4. Sampling outside of your establishment. Normally at the edge of your lease line or close enough to control usage and your team.
5. Any other means to bring your product to people as a trial.

What should you sample? Anything that will retain its quality when not served in the usual manner and will still have eye appeal when served in small portions.

Here are a few sampling ideas that I have seen work in the past:

• New menus or significant changes to a current menu can be stressful, so prior to releasing it try a sample plate on your regular customers and get their feedback. It not only helps you to test your ideas and weed out some of those mistakes we all make, it makes your customers feel special.

• Bakeries or any business that sells pastries, cakes etc., can easily cut a pastry into small pieces, arrange on a doily and plate, stick a toothpick in the piece and have a team member go for a walk. Make sure that the team member is well trained on the product, pricing and ingredients.

• Coffee shops can buy sample sized paper cups and give out these to existing customers with new products or specials or as in the bakery scenario have a team member go for a walk.

• In one very large coffee concept who uses the sampling method on a regular basis, they were dumbfounded to find out that when sampling two new cold beverages prior to summer that the number one comment coming back from customers was “we didn’t know you sold cold beverages.” Sampling works!!

• If you have products that are almost at the end of their shelf life use them to sample. They have to be discarded anyway so why not use them to build sales.

Assuming you have decided to try sampling, remember to:

Spend the time training your team on the correct way to sample. Use team members with personality rather than product knowledge, you can always teach that prior to the sampling process. It is almost impossible to teach personality.

Spend time on packaging. A well presented sample will induce more trial than a tired piece of cake on a plastic plate, for higher priced items you may even want to look at individual sample packaging.

Run sampling on a regular basis, especially during slow periods, and add a discount for coming into your establishment on the day of sampling. A 10% discount card for the specific product can be given to people who have sampled your product and in the case of the large coffee chain I mentioned, they wrote the date and $1.00 off on every sample cup for a full sized beverage.

Good luck adding sampling to your LSM and if you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

RStevens

Local Store Marketing to Students

The next installment from my guide…

LSM for Students

The summer break is just ending and the kids and their families are thinking about the start of a new year of school. This means that local malls will be full of kids after school and food establishments around schools and colleges will be busy again.

LSM will usually involve some sort of give away, discount or other incentive to bring people into your store and this incentive will be even more important when talking about college kids or younger. You will have to be smarter about how you cost these incentives and how and who you aim the message to. Kids are more likely to go for bulk than quality which can even itself out in cost but you do not want to be a food provider that is known for giving kids cheap, unhealthy foods. Always have a healthy option, the moms will love it and if you are creative, can be cost effective and tasty.

Marketing to these students can take several forms; here are a few that have proved successful for many small restaurants, café’s, franchise businesses and independents.

  • Advertise in the school newspaper and be specific. Have a call to action for the kids so they know exactly what you are offering. 10% off when presenting your school ID, free beverage with any purchase over $x. Buy one get one free between three and five pm. It doesn’t matter what the offer is, as long as it is there and you can track it.
  • For smaller kids have coloring sheets / place mats with cheap crayons or pencils. You will be amazed at the number of moms that will visit just to have a bit of quiet while the kids spend a few minutes coloring. Pizza Hut used this successfully for years.
  • Bundle meal sets designed for kids or families. Feed a family of four for $x. Snack, beverage and cookie for $x after school.
  • In malls put up signage in your store to advertise to the younger crowd. Make it colorful and relevant.
  • Start a kids club with discounts , birthday specials and fun give aways. A discount for the kids club member when they bring the family with them can still be very profitable.
  • Use social media to advertise your kids specials.
  • Set up a Facebook page and remind your customers to “like“ you. Use Facebook to promote deals to all ages, it’s not just kids who use social media.

Learn from those who are expert at it. The big burger guys are the experts in marketing to kids. They have been doing it so long that the kids of the kids of the kids that they first started marketing to are now the ones bringing their kids into the store!

Of course you do not have the budget that these guys have but you can use some of their ideas Such as:

  • Colorful kids containers for carryout.
  • Package specific products together to appeal to kids while keeping mom reasonably happy. ( One healthy option)
  • Check out some of the websites that sell overstocked or surplus items for give aways. You will be amazed at how cheap some of this stuff is.

Talk to kids of all ages, ask them what they want and what the price point should be, after all it is them that you are trying to attract. An imagine how happy they will be when you as a business owner/manager asks them for advice!

Best of luck with your restaurant local store marketing and remember to keep trying new things and keep it fresh!

RStevens

P.S. and another shameless reminder that you can buy the guide this tip has come from by clicking the Amazon link on the right side of this page!