Restaurant execs share successful mobile campaign stories

May 22, 2014 | by Alicia Kelso

The biggest theme to emerge from the National Restaurant Association Show earlier this week in Chicago was “mobile.” Operators are trying to figure out how to not only jump in this space, but to be relevant and efficient with their mobile presence.

In a session titled “The Glue Holding Together A Holistic Engagement Strategy … Mobile,” moderator Matt Wise, CEO of Helloworld, and panelists David Burke, Annica Kreider and Marc Lapides highlighted their top mobile campaigns and what worked for them.

More than 80 percent of operators said they consider mobile for all of their marketing campaigns. Wise said the adoption is necessary as consumer behavior changes rapidly. In one minute, for example, there are an average of 48,000 iOS downloads.

“We check our device on the average of 150 times a day. The heavier users tend to be younger. You have to master how you’re going to reach them on a smartphone,” he said. “Especially since smartphone penetration is now abou 65 percent.”

Yet, the restaurant industry is a bit behind. Last year, just half of all restaurants had a mobile-optimized website, and less than one-third had an app to engage consumers.

“Why are we behind? It’s complicated. The operator tends to think of all these channels separately – email, Twitter, Pinterest, POS, Facebook, in-store, etc. However, the consumer just sees your brand and all of these other things are connected by that.”

Success stories – Mellow Mushroom

The best programs are consistent with your brand’s personality. Kreider, who is the VP of Brand Development at Mellow Mushroom, said her company’s Share Happiness mobile program last summer included a gamification element that emulated Spin the Bottle that encouraged “table talk.”

“We don’t do a lot of discounting. We’re more focused on things that are fun and entertaining for the customer; more about engagement and we believe this fits,” she said.

Mellow’s goals were to sell more beverages (the program piggybacked off of a partnership with Coca-Cola), to increase guest satisfaction and to guide some behavior – away from water and into sparkling beverage sales, for example.

Kreider said mobile engagement from the campaign nearly doubled – in February 2013, 35 percent of visits to the website were mobile based. By the time the program launched, Mellow was at 60 percent. Also, the typical code entry rate for a program like this is 1 to 3 percent, but Mellow experienced a 9-percent code entry conversion rate.

“It was a dramatic behavior shift in a few months. This program gave us opportunity to learn about consumer behavior, what they're willing to accept and willing to use,” Kreider said. “This let us know our consumers are willing to use a mobile phone and to do what we asked them to do via mobile.

“Most importantly, we did get a volume increase. Likes and clicks are wonderful, but we’re in the business of selling something.”

Diversified Restaurant Holdings Inc.

David Burke, CFO of Diversified Restaurant Holdings (parent company of Bagger Dave’s Burger Tavern) said his company took a multiphased approach, since it’s a younger brand “still learning as we go” and since technology is moving too fast to predict what will be relevant six months from now.

“From an ROI standpoint, we need to be cautious about making big investments in one technology today,” he said. In November, the company came up with a mobile app and mobile site. Burke said this is ideal as it gives customers an option about whether they want to download an app or just go to mobile site.

“We can build off the platform that attracts customers with a fresh rewards program, locations, online ordering, menu, a mobile payments solution that we partnered with NCR Aloha for. It’s a relatively slow adoption rate right now, but I guarantee eight months from now will be a different picture,” Burke said.

Bagger Dave’s mobile app also has a music element, as the company partnered with Rockbot mobile app that allows guests to engage with a virtual jukebox.“There is a lot more to come. We’re looking at gaming, our loyalty program goes into effect the second half of this year. There are some pretty exciting capabilities. But I can’t stress enough to take it step by step and know what your options are,” Burke said.


Cosi leveraged its mobile presence for a program called “Fall into Cosi,” promoting its seasonal offerings. The grand prize was a grand trip to Paris. Marc Lapides, director of Marketing at Cosi, said the main objective was to drive traffic into stores during the nonpeak dayparts of breakfast and dinner.

“Mobile really gives us an opportunity to scale in an efficient way and really drive sales when we wanted to. I felt like a NASA controller, turning off campaigns here and turning on campaigns there, all based on traffic,” Lapides said. “It was time consuming but a good opportunity to drive business when we wanted to.”

Cosi drove people into stores using a decoder game piece. Customers had to find out in store if they were the winner of the grand prize trip, or a $5 gift card.

“They had to come into the stores. Once they come in, they usually buy something,” he said. “And we gave away 100 $5 gift cards because people would rather win something small than have the chance to win something big and not win at all.”

Cosi did experience volume increases at breakfast and dinner. Additionally, loyalty membership is up.

“The key for us was all the different ways we could talk to consumers outside of the store and give them more reason to come in,” Lapides said.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Mobile Payments, Online / Mobile / Social

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