How Restaurants Can Differentiate Themselves from the Competition
How to Make Your Restaurant Stand Out from the Crowd
TL:DR Key Insights for Differentiating Your Restaurant:
- Knowing your target customer and their interests will help you create relevant promotions and marketing strategies.
- Analysing what your competitors are doing will help you improve your own services and save money learning from their successes and failures.
- Identifying your Core Principles and Unique Selling Points (USPs) gives you content for your marketing strategy and shows you where you need to introduce changes.
- Promoting the highlights of your Customer Experience (CX) and making a feature of what your restaurant does incredibly well encourages trust, customer engagement and orders.
- Making use of mobile technology and ordering apps gets your restaurant seen by people searching in your area, and improves your brand recognition and reputation.
It’s a simple fact that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a huge impact on the Restaurant Industry, and the consequences of social distancing and a potential ongoing wave of infections will be far reaching.
In a recent Office for National Statistics poll, it was revealed that 60% of consumers would be ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘very uncomfortable’ eating indoors during the pandemic, and only 2 in 10 would be happy to have a sit-down meal as restrictions ease.
(Source: BBC, 2020)
In light of this, and a social climate of heightened concern, it’s more important than ever for restaurant marketing to be clever, creative, and compassionate in order to stand out and attract positive attention.
People don’t want to continually hear the negatives, or problems – it’s been an exhausting period of lockdown, and yes, potential customers want to know what you’re doing to keep them safe, but they also want to hear about what you’re doing to benefit them and make their experiences enjoyable.
How do You Differentiate Your Restaurant from the Competition?
Before you can begin marketing your venue, you need to identify what it is that you’re offering your customers that they’ll appreciate, that they can’t get anywhere else, and how you’re taking care of their needs.
You need to ask yourself, what makes a restaurant special, and how are you meeting those standards?
Think of Marketing as your Front of House – it can only work when it’s supported by a team behind the scenes providing the content to serve up, and with the right prep work done ahead of time.
To create a differentiation strategy for your restaurant, you need to consider these key factors:
- Understanding Your Restaurant CustomersThis is the absolute basic, and it might seem obvious – but it’s vitally important; if you don’t know who your target customer is, what they’re interested in getting from you, and what channels you can find them on, you’re not going to make any headway.
No restaurant, no matter how diverse, is going to appeal to everyone. Take a look through your sales data – which dishes have been the most popular? When you’re taking bookings are they mostly for individuals, couples, groups, etc?Then look at your social media channels, there are tools such as Facebook Business, that allow you to see the different demographics that engage with your content.
Once you’ve got this information together, you’ll have a good idea of the type of people who are frequenting your pages and establishment, what they like and what you need to be focusing on.
For example: If most of your guests are couples, and your online visitors are engaging the most with posts detailing specific dishes or multi-course offers, then it would make sense to combine the two and create a campaign that appeals to couples looking for a special night out.
- Competitor Analysis and Your Restaurant’s Position in the MarketOnce you’ve completed your customer analysis, you need to look at who your competitors are and what they’re doing, especially other restaurants in your local area.Carrying out competitor analysis will allow you to see what’s working for them and what isn’t, asking – how competitive is the restaurant industry? Then finding the answer for your local area, will allow you to adjust your own strategy accordingly.
For example: A local competitor is offering delivery, but they’re getting a lot of negative feedback from customers complaining about how long it takes, and that their food is arriving cold. In this case, before you offer your own delivery – it would be valuable to check what size their delivery radius is, and whether their estimated delivery times are taking into account local traffic conditions.
By identifying their problems, you can save yourself money and improve your reputation by making sure your service fixes these issues.
Evaluating your competitors will also help you determine where you’re currently standing in the market, are you customers 1st, 2nd, 3rd or worse choice?
Improving your market position will require an evaluation of your reputation, so you’ll need to look on review sites and social media to see what people are saying about you. It’s a valuable opportunity to discover what people are praising you for, and to identify issues that need fixing.
- Identifying Your Restaurant’s Core Principles, Unique Selling Points and Introducing Changes
Standing out from the crowd doesn’t mean that you have to make wholesale changes and completely flip what you’ve been doing.If your restaurant is known for having a relaxed atmosphere, a consistent core menu with weekly specials, and a ‘customers are family’ approach to serving, these are all core principles and values that you can highlight as part of your differentiation strategy – especially if you’re comparing your business to chain restaurants that are more focused on get in and get out style of dining.If you support and give back to your community, then you should highlight your good works – although this needs to be done considerately so it doesn’t detract from the fact that you’re doing it because it’s right. You don’t want people assuming you’re only making a difference to attract more sales.
When looking at your USPs, don’t limit yourself to the menu. If you get a lot of praise for your décor or accessibility for disabled patrons for example, then promote it!
By examining what you do, and how you’re doing it, you will be able to identify areas in which you excel, stand out by being unique, or can offer something that customers will be attracted to.
Then, if you want to introduce changes, or you need to highlight changes you’ve made, for example table seating with social distancing in mind, you should create content that is positive and upbeat.
People don’t want to hear, “We’ve had to do this…” or “It’s just got to be like this…”. If you’ve made a change because of a negative reason, then don’t dwell on it – extoll the virtues and express the benefits.
By telling your customers how you’re helping them, or what you’re doing to make their experience even better, you’re creating a positive environment and expectations that they’ll be excited to experience for themselves.
- Creating Unique Selling Points from Your Restaurant’s Customer Experience BenefitsDo you have an incredible Customer Service team? Are you able to offer a variety of experiences, such as dine-in, curb-side collection, delivery, drive-through?When putting together your marketing, make a list of the different ways you’re able to get your dishes to your customer, and compare it to what other restaurants in the area are doing. If there’s anything on that list that you’re doing that no-one else is, promote this as a USP.Even if you’re not doing anything different to your competitors, you can still promote them as a USP if you’re doing it better than they are.
The better customer experience you offer your guests, the more likely they are to talk about your restaurant, and recommend you to their friends, family and social peers, and keep coming back themselves.
Research has found that, on average, a satisfied customer will visit a venue 4.3 times per month for 4.4 years but a highly satisfied customer will visit 7.2 times per month for 8.3 years.
(Source: Restaurant Engine, 2020)
- Highlighting Your Restaurant’s Technological USPsTechnology is constantly being innovated and updated to help improve processes, give new experiences, and change the way diners interact with restaurants.
Customers who place an order online with a restaurant will visit that restaurant 67% more frequently than those who don’t.
(Upserve, 2020)With social distancing, self-isolation and other restrictions caused by the Coronavirus, mobile apps and online ordering have become more important than ever.
Even before the pandemic, digital ordering and delivery had already grown 300% faster than dine-in traffic since 2014 (NRN) and from February to April, 2020 there was 169% increase in the number of restaurants actively using Online Ordering which saw an 840% increase in weekly sales via the function. (Upserve,2020)
It’s essential that you are making use of up-to-date and speedy technology to make your customer’s ordering experience a smooth process.
You need to have a website that is easy to use, displays correct information, such as your opening times, social distancing or health requirements, and the most recent menu, and allows customers to reserve a table or place an order quickly and conveniently.
Whether you use a 3rd party service such as Just Eat, UberEats or Deliveroo, or have your own mobile app, it’s important that you highlight this to your customers. Let them know they can find you on their mobile.
It’s also important that your website is responsive, meaning it displays correctly on mobile and tablets, because a large number of people use their phones and mobile devices to search, check their social media, and make purchases.
By making technology and ease of ordering a highlight, you’re giving your potential customers good reasons to check out your menu.
Putting It All Together, In Conclusion – Your Marketing is Essential
You’ve got all the ingredients you need to make your restaurant marketing a success, it now comes down to mixing them together and finding the right balance for your business.
Taking the time to carefully evaluate your offerings, serve up exceptional content (treat this like you would your dishes – if it’s just ‘good enough’ then it’s not fit for consumption), and promote the best of your restaurant to attract customers.
If you’re not sure where to start, or how you should be prepping your materials, we’re here to help.
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