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An Easy Eight: Best Practices for Successful Restaurant Offers and Promotions

create successful restaurant promotions and offers

Years of working with restaurant industry clients to design and execute offers have taught us some great lessons. For a recent webinar, we took the opportunity to set in writing seven of these winning strategies. Although we’ve found these best practices to be true for a majority of our clients, no two clients – and even more so, their guests – are the same. So, one caveat to start: we see most of these best practices as a good place to start, but would encourage you to optimize them to what works best for your specific brand.

1. Test Always
Etch this one in stone. Never pass up an opportunity to learn more about your guests. The better you know them, the greater your odds of serving up an offer that will engage them. Tweak your offers to learn what works and what should be discarded.

2. Establish a Clear Objective
Are you hoping to boost traffic, drive trial of a new product, or increase check size? It’s important to decide upfront so that it ultimately drives various decisions you make when designing the offer campaign, so that you know what to measure at the end.

For instance, when deciding what the actual offer should be, if your main goal is to drive traffic, our analysis from more than 15 million redemptions shows that a “free item” offer resulted in the highest redemption rate. But, if you’re looking to increase average check size, a “percent off” offer resulted in the highest average check. It’s decisions like these that will help maintain focus on your main business goal when creating and communicating the offer.

3. Keep It Simple
Keep your offer simple and compelling. The more restrictions you place on your offer or the more complex it is, the less likely your guests will redeem it and the more issues restaurant staff will have processing the redemption. And don’t be afraid to switch things up. Even your most reliable offers can lose their punch after a while. Keep an eye on your metrics. When you see a dip, try a new offer. Make it distinct from your existing go-to offer so that you don’t confuse your guests. For instance, if you always do a BOGO, try a dollars-off offer instead.

4. Consider the User Experience
It’s easy to create a vacuum when you’re working hard on a marketing campaign. So, before you deploy an offer campaign be sure to take the time to stop… and put yourself in the shoes of your guests. Send your offer to yourself – or even better, use software to test what your message will look like on various devices in all environments. Once it’s delivered – is the subject line compelling and noticeable? Open the message. Is the copy and design instantly easy to read? Is the call to action clear? Print out the email (as many of your guests will). Is your creative still legible? Finally, if you can, take your offer to the restaurant and go through the motions of redeeming it. Is the offer clear to staff? Do they see any issues with working to redeem it?

Although these questions are all focused on your email message, the same applies for any other distribution of the offer – SMS, mobile app, print, social media, etc. By truly walking through every aspect of the user experience, before you deploy your campaign you can identify any potential obstacles or ways to simplify and clarify your offer.

5. Think Beyond Email
While we’re on the topic of multi-channel distribution, if you’re not distributing the offer in multiple places, this is one of the best practices that can have the biggest impact. Our analysis of more than 13 million redemptions showed that clients that distributed their offers on more than just email saw a 55% increase in redemptions and a 37% increase in sales from redemptions.

The good news is, you’ve done much of the heavy lifting already in outlining the offer, the creative, and the user experience. When you do distribute the offer elsewhere, be sure to track which ones perform best and for which of your guests.

Better yet, get to know your guest personas well enough that you understand which channel will be most relevant and target offers appropriately (see #6 below for more). Millennials far prefer mobile communications over email but the same may not be true for Boomers.

6. Pay Attention to Changing Guest Expectations
Use your guest data to reduce the number of one-size-fits-all offer blasts and instead focus on personalized, targeted offers. For instance, consider sending offers only to guests who have redeemed an offer in the past rather than wasting a touchpoint on guests who haven’t, or only sending “kids eat free” offers to your guests you know have children.

Relevancy leads to an increase in open and redemption rates along with stronger loyalty. Your guests will begin to sense that your brand aligns better with who they are and what they want.

7. Remind and Rush
While your offer may be of interest, your guest could be unable to act at the moment. So send reminders and express urgency. Retarget those who have opened, but not redeemed the offer. Although this increases the touchpoints, the benefit may be worth it.

And don’t hesitate to extend the expiration date. Busy lives get in the way of the best intentions.

8. Measure Performance
Although you may feel pressure to get started on your next campaign, it’s critical to take the time to measure the performance of previous campaigns and learn from them. When measuring, look at all of the metrics to gather learnings, but keep your original goal in mind when evaluating performance. If your goal was to drive traffic, don’t use the average check size as the primary KPI for the campaign.

Finally, keep a detailed database of all test results. The goal should be to continue learning about your audience and fine-tune your campaigns. Not only will you continue to optimize your offer campaigns, but a testing database will prevent you from inadvertently repeating a test and wasting opportunities to more effectively engage guests.

To learn more about these best practices and several case studies illustrating their effectiveness, watch the on-demand webinar, Highly Successful Restaurant Offers: What You Need to Know. Featured speakers include Glenn Drasher, senior director of marketing at Perkins & Marie Callender’s. The case studies detail click-through rate increases between 200% and 300% and, in one instance, an eleven-fold increase in redemption rates.

Watch the webinar here >>