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QSR Marketing Strategies That Work In 2021 & Beyond

As a result of COVID-19, the Quick Service Retail (QSR), restaurant and hospitality industries saw storefront business go from unprecedented growth to a complete stand-still in a matter of weeks. Despite the challenges resulting from the pandemic, COVID-19 will likely be remembered as a milestone for restaurant-type businesses and QSRs. We saw primary ordering channels shift from in-store to online ordering. Brands quickly saw the opportunities of online ordering and a connected digital marketing approach to engage local customers. Today, the trend is here to stay. 

As your business embraces these new trends, what QSR marketing strategies can you implement to capture all the opportunities that come with online ordering? Let’s explore!

Successful QSR Marketing: A Case Study

Here’s how in-store experiences that seamlessly integrate with customers’ digital journeys have paid off for Edley’s Restaurant Group. Edley’s is a leading and innovative QSR brand based in Nashville, TN.

Nashville, TN is home to Vanderbilt University. The city boasts popular country music live venues and events. 16.1 million tourists visited Nashville in 2019, an increase over the previous record of 15.2 million tourists the previous year, according to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation. 

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out a big chunk of the revenue for restaurant-type businesses, coffee shops, QSRs, and event businesses. Like many other businesses, Edley’s, a fast-growing QSR brand, had to quickly turn its attention to engaging and connecting with Nashville’s local population of 678,448, rather than relying so much on tourist trade and footfall.

QSR Customer Photo: Edley's BBQ Nashville Style Whole Butt
Edley's BBQ, Nashville Style Whole Pork Butt

The challenge:

In a matter of weeks, Edley’s needed to focus on: 

  • Building awareness around online ordering channels
  • Designing a safety first storefront environment
  • Dinner packages and meals for a family of one, ten, or more
  • Investing in first-party delivery vs. relying on third-party delivery partners
  • Introducing a customer loyalty program designed for Edley’s hungriest fans

“With over 28K subscribers aggregated across our WiFi marketing, POS and third-party apps, it was perfect time to invigorate our email marketing strategy. GoGoGuest made our shift super easy."

Mark Harvey, Creative Manager, Edley's Bar-B-Que, Nashville, TN Tweet

How GoGoGuest helps:

Edley’s worked closely with GoGoGuest to launch a full-cycle digital marketing strategy in response to the pandemic. This includes WiFi marketing, email marketing, SMS marketing, web marketing, and a hybrid customer loyalty program that runs on Toast POS.

The secret to successful QSR marketing always starts with assessing then unifying your customer data. Since Edley’s is a GoGoGuest WiFi marketing customer, it was easy to add new integrations, including the Toast POS system and other third-party delivery apps. 

All of Edley’s customer profiles are centralized. Our system seamlessly updates new information from each customer’s preferred ordering channel when necessary.

“We rely 100% on GoGoGuest for our customer marketing solutions and strategy. The product platform combined with their solution centric approach and focus on customer success is bar none."

Mark Harvey, Creative Manager, Edley's Bar-B-Que, Nashville, TN Tweet

See what is possible.

Talk to sales.

The results:

GoGoGuest first implemented a WiFi marketing strategy for all the brands and storefront locations in Edley’s Restaurant Group. Customer acquisition was a big focus for Edley’s in 2019. This first step grew Edley’s permission-based and active customer list by 28,000.

With a successful in-store customer acquisition strategy, Edley’s team wanted to step up their marketing through a combination of email and social media marketing. In the early days of the pandemic, this proved to be an efficient and effective approach, generating 80% of revenue and an increase of 48% AOV.

  • Since partnering with GoGoGuest, Edley’s active customer list has grown by over over 28,000 customers
  • As COVID-19 restrictions relax in Nashville, local email customer engagement is steady at 86%. Tourist-focused customer engagement is up by 32%
  • Edley’s hungriest fans love their dinner packages. They can order easily online and have free delivery through Edley’s first-party delivery channel
  • The Smoker’s Club allows Edley’s customers to earn points on their favorite menu items then enjoy rewards. The customer loyalty program is easy and unique as it uses historical purchase data from Toast POS. The GoGoGuest platform offers brands plenty of room for flexibility when it comes to managing rules, points and rewards 
  • Customer engagement is part of growing customer loyalty. Edley’s rewards is a combination of dynamic optimization and ad-hoc points. Customers can claim their rewards at the point-of-purchase and it turns into an opportunity for a front-of-the house team member to upsell or cross-sell based on prior purchases and/or available rewards.
Video Attention Covers-Where Restaurant Brands Grow

Top 10 QSR Marketing Strategies That Work

Looking forward, what actionable steps can you take to market your business more effectively? Here are the top QSR marketing strategies that work post-pandemic:

Start With A Good Website

Your website is the foundation of your digital marketing. So many brands focus on things like social media or email marketing before their website is optimized and engaging for your current and potential customers.  

A QSR should always have a great website. You’ll want to make sure your location, menu, opening hours, and other important information are clearly mentioned. Your customers will access your website from mobiles, tablets, and desktops, so remember to make sure your website is optimized for both desktop and mobile devices. Your website should load quickly, information should be laid out clearly, and it should be user-friendly.

Focus on Local SEO

It’s a great idea to focus on SEO, but you want to be strategic – if you’re based on the east coast, ranking highly for generic search terms on the west coast won’t help you drive sales. You’ll want to make sure you show up to potential customers who live or work in the area(s) you serve.  

Your QSR or restaurant-type business should be optimized to appear for searches like “QSR near me,” “fast food restaurant near me,” etc. 

SEO can be difficult to understand if you’re operating alone – ask your website developer or a specialist for help to optimize your site for local SEO search terms. It really will make all the difference. If you get local SEO right, you’ll enjoy quick results.

Social Media: Have A Good Presence And Engage

For any type of restaurant (and QSRs especially), social media is central to successful marketing. Again, strategy is key. Great content takes time to create and produce, so you’ll want to ensure you’re getting good ROI.  

Today, there are so many social media platforms to choose from. Being on every platform will be tricky unless you have a large marketing team. It’s important to think carefully about which platform makes the most sense for your business and where your potential customers ‘hang out’ online. Instagram is likely to be an excellent place to market your business but evaluate all platforms. Your business, location, and the customers you want to attract will influence which social media channels make the most sense for you. 

You’ll also want to invest in great content: you don’t need us to tell you that fuzzy, poorly lit phone shots are unlikely to help you stand out from the competition or attract loyal customers. You might produce everything in-house for ‘free,’ but be aware of the time you’ll need to invest into creating and scheduling posts – it is an investment of sorts. Outsourcing content production and social media marketing can also be an option.  

Engaging with your audience is also critical – these days, it’s not enough just to post and let the algorithms diffuse your content. You’ll want to start conversations, reply to comments, and like content that’s related to your brand. You’ll also want to encourage your customers to share their experiences, consider incentivizing tags, check-ins, etc.

St. Louis Ribs 9 Platter from Edley's BBQ
Edley's BAR-B-QUE St. Louis Ribs 9 Platter

Try Out Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing works like a charm for QSR. You can create a buzz about your restaurant and grow awareness and demand for your brand. 

Invite food bloggers and other influencers in the field to dine at your QSR and share their experiences with their followers. You could also do other paid partnerships or promotions with key influencers.

Offer Convenient Delivery And Partner With Food Delivery Apps

Your customers want a smooth and timely delivery experience. Late delivery, cold food, receiving the wrong order, expensive delivery fees, or a poor delivery experience will negatively impact customer satisfaction. 

You might want to explore delivering yourself – for some businesses, first-party delivery can work well. You may enjoy better profit margins and control the delivery experience better if you handle delivery yourself.

Working with local food delivery apps is always an option, but do your homework before engaging a partner. You’ll want to ensure they can meet your standards. 

When it comes to delivery, there’s no right or wrong option: delivery food apps can work just as well as first-party delivery. Assess and evaluate which is right for you.

Offer Attractive Deals To Local Work Places

When it comes to sales, local workplaces can be a great source of bulk orders. These are likely to be repeat customers, and employees of these businesses are likely to be interested in breakfast and lunch options. You may also benefit from customers ordering options to take home for speed and convenience at the end of the day. 

Local workplaces are a great source of loyal customers who will drive significant revenue.

Gather Great Reviews And User Generated Content

Reviews help prospects to decide on a restaurant. Potential customers want to see that other people have enjoyed their dining experience and have rated your restaurant highly. As a QSR, you’ll find that authentic, positive reviews can drive a lot more customers to buy from you. 

Even your most satisfied customers will need to be reminded to leave reviews. Encourage customers to leave positive customer reviews on Google and other review websites. Reviews don’t only have to be written. User-generated images and videos can also work well, so encourage your customers to leave pictures and videos of their experiences, too.

Take Part In Local Community Programs

You’ll find that customers value and appreciate brands that are active in community programs. Participation is usually relatively cheap, but you’ll find that you can gain lots of exposure at these events and build fantastic brand awareness. 

Customers love to see familiar brands turning up in easily accessible and fun places. These could include  

  • Local festivals
  • Food events
  • Eating competitions
  • Sponsorships
  • Community service

Find the community programs and activities that make sense for your business, and that will help build your exposure and place in your local community.

Email Marketing Isn't Dead

If you only take one thing from this article, let it be this: email marketing isn’t dead. So many “experts” say that email is less effective than it used to be, but the reality is that email marketing still works. It’s also pretty inexpensive. You can get great engagement, drive traffic to your website and increase revenue using email. 

We always recommend that QSRs consider data-rich and dynamic email marketing. If you have a good list of active customers, you can offer personalized promotions and add more value to your customer relationships.

Try Out Paid Social Ads

Paid social ads work great for restaurant-type businesses and QSR marketing. Trying out paid ads to see what results you get can be a great way to build brand awareness and tell potential customers more about your brand.

Social media ads can be tricky to set up and run correctly, especially if it’s your first rodeo. You’ll only be able to judge the ad’s effectiveness if you’re running your campaigns properly, and it’s not always easy to know if you’re doing things right. It’s also easy to overspend without getting the results you want, so work with experts or specialists to help you or check your campaign setup if required. 

When you have the results of your ads, you can decide if it makes sense for your business to continue them or not.

Next Steps

We can help you launch a full-cycle digital marketing strategy for your quick-service retail business. GoGoGuest covers everything from customer data management, WiFi marketing to email and SMS marketing, web marketing and a  customer loyalty program that works with your POS system.  Ready to see how we can help? Book a FREE consultation today.

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