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Driving diners back to restaurants in the Covid-19 era

By Open Mic | Open Mic



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September 17, 2020 | 5 min read

It’s fair to say no one was expecting the massive disruptions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. From the way we shop to where we eat, the crisis has left a lasting impact on UK consumers and the high street alike. This unprecedented upheaval meant the quick-service restaurant industry had to reinvent itself to continue engaging with customers – with many relying on food delivery services like UberEats or Deliveroo to satisfy diners who could no longer drop by for a quick bite.

Brian Chan

Now that lockdown’s been lifted and restrictions eased, the race to drive diners back into restaurants is on. With government schemes such as ‘Eat out to help out’ this summer and brands themselves offering discounts to customers, here’s what you can do to bring diners back through your door.

Driving customers to physical restaurants is key

The food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector – contributing an impressive £31.1 billion to the economy annually. According to an IHS Markit study commissioned by S4M, UK restaurants were expected to invest over £450 million in drive-to-store by 2023 to get diners through their door. These numbers could increase as a direct result of the pandemic as brands’ top concern is how to fill physical restaurant locations that have been left empty for months.

Though tactics and media plans may change, turning to drive-to-store advertising is a winning bet. Drive-to-store is any form of advertising with the direct intention of increasing traffic to physical dining spots. Leveraging drive-to-store doesn’t mean putting aside online orders and delivery – least of all now when brands should use all available channels to boost sales. It means coming up with a strategy where ad spend is dedicated to driving dine-in restaurant visits.

Drive-to-store advertising is the way to go

The UK is one of the leading drive-to-store markets worldwide, with forecasts giving it 75% of total ad spend by 2023. The drive-to-store advertising share for the restaurant industry will follow the same direction and grow from 48% in 2018 to 71% by 2023 according to IHS.

One of the reasons why QSR brands are leveraging drive-to-store is because it allows them to measure campaign results on a more granular level than traditional advertising. When asked about it, brands mention in-store visits as the key motivator behind their investment, followed by incremental visits generated by the campaign and sales.

The ability to know precisely how many people came into a restaurant as a direct result of a brand’s advertising efforts is a solid argument for drive-to-store. It’s a tangible return on ad spend and a straightforward way to evaluate whether a campaign was successful or not.

How restaurant brands can drive visits efficiently

Steady digital growth will help propel the drive-to-store market forward in the UK – though it will retain a strong share across more traditional media like OOH, leaflets and direct advertising. Because digital gives marketers a detailed view of their campaign performance, it will become their go-to channel and account for 66% of the UK drive-to-store market by 2023. Not surprisingly, mobile will grow the fastest to represent 25% of drive-to-store ad spend by the same time (IHS Markit).

By turning to digital channels for their drive-to-store efforts, brands will have a way to effectively measure real business outcomes like visits and incremental visits to restaurants. Putting vanity metrics like frequency and impressions aside to focus on measurable KPIs will help them exceed their business objectives like increased revenue and sales.

Health concerns, social distancing and a growing demand for food delivery have reshaped the QSR industry as we knew it. Now more than ever, QSR brands’ top priority is to drive diners back to restaurants while sticking to government regulations. By leveraging mobile and integrating it into an omnichannel approach, you can engage with customers and drive incremental visits to restaurants while hitting measurable targets like increased visits and sales. Every day, consumers interact with various touchpoints that can impact their dining decision. From mobile, to TV or desktop when they’re at home to mobile (still), audio or OOH when they’re on the move, it’s time to adopt a global approach to drive local consumption and assist consumers every step of the way. Now that the worst is behind us, let’s get diners back into restaurants for some well-deserved quality-time.

Marketing Open Mic World

Content by The Drum Network member:


S4M – The drive-to-store platform.

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