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3 Smart Digital Marketing Strategies Top Restaurants are Embracing


What do Buffalo Wild Wings, Chick-Fil-A and Wendy’s have in common? Hint: it’s not (just) french fries on the menu. All have recently adopted smart digital marketing strategies to improve their customer’s experience. 

Incorporating digital media into the customer experience is an increasing trend as businesses realize that bridging the gap between their guests' online and in-person brand experiences has a significant and positive impact on retention and loyalty. Consider these statistics: according to research studies, 41% of diners consider technology to be extremely important to the restaurant experience, and almost half of consumers want to be engaged from the moment they walk into a restaurant. A majority of consumers are also voicing a desire to feel empowered and delighted during their dining experience.

As restaurant managers and owners begin 2020 planning, they should consider incorporating these three reliable tactics to entertain and engage customers while increasing check size and return visits:

Ditch analog.

Some restaurants are still relying on chalkboards, paper signage or other static measures to communicate with customers. These outdated tools are expensive to implement and time-consuming to manage, requiring an investment with each update while also limiting the scope of communication. Chick-Fil-A locations in Texas found success by installing digital community boards to replace their traditional in-restaurant marketing methods. Managers noticed they saved an incredible amount of money by not having to pay for printed materials or chalk artists. They also found that customers were more aware of relevant promotions, as the digital nature of the screen allows it to be changed at a moment's notice, and for more than one communication to be shown at any given time. 

Cut the cord.

Wendy’s canceled its traditional cable television service in almost 100 locations. One of its largest franchises (Hamra) instead adopted a branded marketing platform that highlights the Wendy’s brand signage and provides hyperlocal entertainment on their TV screens. The content is less expensive than cable TV and provides more relevant content on a local level.  The result is customers are more engaged with TV screens and more likely to absorb crucial marketing messaging. In addition, the program reduces the likelihood of undesirable or inappropriate content being displayed that could turn off customers, while also eliminating the risk of competitor advertising being displayed, as happens frequently when venues show national TV programming. 

Encourage mobile phone interactions.

Smartphones have become an essential part of every consumers daily life. Odds are customers are on their phones while they visit your venue. Rather than fight in vain against this trend, some savvy restaurants are choosing to embrace the behavior, using mobile technology as a conduit for guests to enjoy the dining experience even more than they normally would. For example, select Buffalo Wild Wings locations incorporate mobile-friendly, interactive digital signage into their venues. These screens don't compete with the screens in customer's hands (their phones); instead, they encourage the use of mobile phones to connect with the brand and the content they are seeing on the TV. QR codes and short links are prominent in on-screen marketing materials, making it easy for guests to take advantage of deals directly from their phones. To cash in on word of mouth -- without a doubt the most powerful marketing tool there is -- the signage transforms into a massive social media display, enticing customers to post their venue experience online in order to get the thrill of seeing their face on the big screen.  

Introducing new technology to your restaurant is an investment but it is one well worth making in the coming year. Not only will it keep your business on the forefront of a competitive landscape; it will also delight and impress your customers, who are increasingly expecting digital integration in every facet of their daily lives. We all eat out. Next time you do so, pay attention to what's missing from your experience. Chances are, it's a quicker way to pay, a simpler way to stay connected or a better choice of entertainment while you're there. The most successful restaurants have addressed these situations and more by embracing digital strategies. Isn't it time you joined them?


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Matt Gibbs, Co-founder and CMO of UPshow

Matt Gibbs is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of UPshow, a consumer engagement platform that transforms a business’s existing TVs into its top marketing assets. Gibbs is a genuine entrepreneur and trailblazer in digital media with deep roots in the Chicago start-up community. Gibbs graduated from Miami University of Ohio and resides in Chicago, IL with his wife, two children and corgi.

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