Experiential Marketing for Restaurants–Whether you own a fast food restaurant, a fine dining establishment, or an eatery that falls somewhere in between, you have one thing in common with every other restaurant. You’re in a great position to use experiential marketing to increase customers, customer loyalty, name recognition and more.
Why? As foodie culture has taken off in the United States and beyond, diners are clamoring to attend interesting food-related events. You can deliver by offering experiential marketing events designed especially for them.
How do you do that? We have some ideas and examples for restaurants experimenting with experiential marketing for the first time, or those looking to increase their use of this popular marketing technique.
Take food sampling up a notch
We don’t always think of product sampling as experiential marketing, but it can be. One of the most valuable aspects of experiential marketing is that it allows consumers to experience products and services with multiple senses. It also allows them to try things before they buy them. If you make all your product sampling event memorable and positive experiences for consumers, they can become wildly successful experiential marketing activations.
In recent years we’ve seen many spirit brands offer semi-private, educationally-focused tastings for consumers. For example, Jim Beam create pop-up “bars” at liquor stores in 14 major markets. Each event featured a bartender who poured bourbon samples, talked consumers through what they tasted, and asking subtle questions to determine which they liked best and how they planned to use the spirits. If the bartender was able to glean information about each consumer’s intentions, he or she could share recipes and personal recommendations on what to buy. The bartenders also encouraged consumers to sign up for a rewards program.
The result? Jim Beam saw a 68 percent increase in event sales from 2013 to 2014.
Is there a way you can add value to your tasting events? Perhaps by providing more personal service, a more exclusive experience, a chance to compare products, or opportunities to share photos on social media?
Connect with foodies by offering unique food experiences
A growing number of consumers value experiences more than materials goods. That’s certainly true when it comes to food. Create a unique food experience for these consumers and you’ll have them eating out of your hand.
Arrange high-end barn dinners, wine pairing dinners or dinners with experimental dishes. Plan lectures, demos or classes where consumers can learn about the foods of a particular culture or cooking hacks from celebrity chefs. Offer consumers opportunities to tour farms, wineries, breweries or processing facilities where businesses mill local grains or shape pasta.
Just make sure all activations stick to the key elements that make experiential marketing successful. Events should allow consumers to experience products with all five senses. Taste and smell are easy for restaurants, but how can you allow consumers to experience memorable textures, sounds and sights?
Any event should offer consumers something of value – besides food. Give consumers knowledge; high-quality products that are branded or useful for cooking at home; a positive emotional experience; or a chance to meet celebrities or influencers. Help them have a positive emotional experience. You know how important customer service is in a restaurant; how can you up the customer service experience even more?
Also, make sure you incorporate social media into your experience. This will help you spread your message far beyond the event itself. People love to food porn. You, more than any business except those who feature kittens and puppies in their activations, should have no problem getting consumers to take photographs and share them with their friends on sites such as Twitter and Instagram. Make sure they’re all participating in the same conversation (and promoting you at the same time) by providing them with a hashtag or encouraging them to take photographs with your name/logo in the background.
Plan a pop-up dining experience
Eventbrite, the popular event registration and ticketing platform, did a study of food and beverage trends in 2014. They found that pop-up dining was one of the fastest-growing types of events organizers were planning.
“Pop-up dinners are one-time food events that offer guests a taste of something different,” Eventbrite shares. “Whether it’s an unexpected location, a personal interaction with the chef, or a unique menu or theme, these events cater to the ‘Experiential Diner’ – who craves not just an amazing meal, but a new and exciting dining experience.”