Thursday, October 22, 2009

Restaurant Marketing Highs and Lows

Various reports claim that we have escaped the recession, and are on our way to recovery. I'm not 100% sure I buy into that yet, but I know things are looking up. It appears that many of my favorite restaurants (a industry hit very hard by the recession) managed to weather the storm, while a few good spots had to close down. I couldn't help but notice the increase in restaurant marketing over the last few months and feel that the swing was likely out of necessity for survival, but also due to the explosion of social media. Some of my favorite spots have a set up entertaining/informative blogs or Twitter accounts while many folks have taken on an entire social marketing strategy to keep customers informed/intrigued.

Punch Pizza may be doing the best job of this. They have a clear strategy, and have come up with an awesome promotional mix including deals for off-the-menu items, students, and just-for-the-hell-of-it promotions. They also hit you at several touch points engaging frequently via Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and email. I've taken advantage of a few of the promos they launched through multiple channels and have observed the success they've endured by waiting in line for quite some time to gather my prize. The design aesthetic and message stays consistent and on-brand and I have no doubt they are reaping the benefits.

Another example of great marketing/promotion is the Shefzilla blog from our friends at Heidi's. Not only do these guys create killer cuisine but they are also Twin Cities restaurant marketing pioneers. I find there blog extremely entertaining with topics ranging from the absurd, to the extremely relevant (especially for regulars like me hungry who want to hear menu updates) all while establishing dialogue around food and the Twin Cities dining scene. They also have a nice series on YouTube in which Stuart displays some of his awesome technique in a manner that foodies can both appreciate and apply. I also find the always entertaining Frank Thorpe an interesting addition on the bass.

Although, for every restaurant that does a nice job, there are others that bewilder - Parasole comes to mind. Don't get me wrong, they've built and impressive and lucrative roster of restaurants that I've dined in and enjoyed to various degrees. They've recently opened their dining club to free enrollment and their Sunday Supper series offers a good reason to take the family out on a typically slow restaurant night.

Then there's the Twitter account. I don't get it. A recent visit revealed the voice of their brand comparing sleeping with their first cousin to how low their wine prices will be when they open Il Gato in early November - sounds like a great message for families. Now, the absurdity doesn't stop there. I always page through the Southwest Journal when it hits my stairs, and I noticed a Burger Jones ad for the first time a few issues back. I can't remember the verbatim headline, but it was something to the tune of offering a good BJ (Burger Jones), but they obviously intended a play on words. Seems pretty immature for a local restaurant power, especially since the early Salut campaign was so creative.

Now, I realize, the ad and Twitter strategy has me talking here, and so in a way I'm playing into their hand, but it doesn't make me want to celebrate, or go to their restaurant any more then I would have had I not seen those promotions. To be honest, it's a bit of a turn off and could be detrimental to their brand. They've done great things in the past, but this is feeling a bit too much like that gross Paris Hilton and Carl's Jr. commercial, which clearly uses frat house appeal to try and sell something. I'm hoping they don't go too far with the Il Gato branding, because I'm thinking Uptown is in serious need of another good joint to help breathe a bit of life into that restaurant scene, and I know they can make it happen.

What are some of your favorite restaurants doing? Many premier chef's are building awareness and promoting a worthy cause through Tour de Farm... What else is out there? Seen/heard anything creative? I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you feel is making a difference.

Happy Eating,



kat said...

I think Chef Shack does a good job of promoting themselves on Twitter. & Cafe Maude just started Twittering, we actually ended up eating dinner there one night after a twitter from them

HungryinSW said...

You're right on about Chef Shack, they've built a tremendous following on both FB and Twitter. Cafe Maude gets pretty quite for long periods on Twitter, but their emailing strategy is pretty consistent, although it is typically limited to special events - I'd love more general restaurant news from them. Anyways, I like the free-flowing info. out there.

Jason DeRusha said...

I went to Kingfield Farmers Market just because of all the Chef Shack twittering. They're good at it.

I've noticed the Tim Mckee/La Belle Vie empire getting more agressive with twitter... in a good way.

Related Posts with Thumbnails