April 21, 2021

Simple Solutions for Your Restaurant’s Top Multi-Location Marketing Challenges

By Brock Campbell

Can we all agree that having eight kids would be more difficult than having just one? The logistics of scheduling after-school activities unique to each child would be enough to drive a parent mad.

As you know, marketing to multiple restaurant locations is like that too. The more restaurants under your watch, the more complicated it all gets. And just like eight kids would have varying extracurricular tastes, each restaurant location — let alone each market — has its own dynamics to contend with.

Media costs, competition, demographics, and so on all vary from restaurant to restaurant, making marketing strategy quite a feat. Need a hand to wrangle your restaurants? We’ve got you covered.

Don’t Make Assumptions About Your Restaurant’s Brand Strength Across Locations

Brand strength is an important factor no matter how many restaurants you’re operating. You can’t neglect the basics because, at the end of the day, you need diners to know that your restaurant exists.

The challenge for multi-location restaurants lies in allocating resources to bolster your brand appropriately per market.

Too often, restaurant marketers have a solid understanding of their brand’s strength in their primary market — usually their original location — but then project that well-rooted image to all other markets. In reality, your restaurant’s brand isn’t going to be consistently strong everywhere, especially if you’re new to an area.

You might also fall into the trap of thinking your brand is strong in a particular market because your operations are strong in that market. Be careful not to conflate the two.

How to Approximate Your Brand’s Local Impact

Stop making assumptions about all markets based on one. To actually get a handle on your brand’s strength at each of your locations, you’ll need to conduct (and/or purchase) market research.

We’ll clue you in on two vital brand strength stats: Considered and preferred sets.

When a potential customer is hungry, does he think of your restaurant as an option without prompting? Then you’re in his considered set, even if he doesn’t choose your restaurant that time. And if that same guy conveniently passes Taco Bell on his way home so eats there, despite his preference for your Mexican food, you’re in his preferred set. Again, he didn’t select you right then, but your brand is strong enough to be his first choice.

Your Marketing Plan Should Be as Unique as Each Restaurant Locale

Each of your restaurant locations is unique, even within the same market. And there’s a lot that can change from your Tulsa to your Stroud spot — it’s overwhelming. To get started, try considering just three location-centric factors as you’re planning your marketing efforts:

1. Demographics
2. Competition
3. Media Cost

How Demographics Influence Marketing Strategy

Demographics can include anything from household income to ethnicity and marital status. It can even be as simple as the real estate makeup of the neighborhood. Are there mostly businesses surrounding your restaurant, or is it residential?

Pro tip: You can gain insight into demographics through paid market research, but you can also learn a lot from publicly available census data.

Now, back to tactical marketing. To understand how your strategy might change based on demographics, consider an example.

You have two restaurant locations. Restaurant A is adjacent to a sports stadium and is packed late-night, after games and concerts let out. Restaurant B is in a business district with tons of lunchtime traffic.

Just as you’d change your operational strategy per location — staffing restaurant A heavily at night and B in the afternoon — you should also tailor your marketing strategy. Maybe you run an LTO in the local business journal in restaurant B’s market, for instance. No matter what marketing activity you go with, don’t forget to account for these distinct demographics.

Scope Out Your Competition Around Each Restaurant

The same principles that apply to demographics apply to competition.

Take a look at the competitors around each of your restaurant locations. Whether through research or on-the-ground ops. If you’re Burger King and one of your locations is surrounded by other fast-food chains, you’re going to want to shift marketing gears to combat the heavy competition there.

Accounting for Media Costs in Diverse Markets

Media costs are dependent on the market, duh. Your ads are probably going to cost you more in huge San Diego than in smaller Sacramento. It’s important to plan for those discrepancies.

However, media cost is just that, cost. It doesn’t tell you much about the impact your marketing efforts will have per market, just what it’ll run you.

Level the Playing Field for Fair Marketing Allocation Across Markets

Clearly, media costs, demographics, and competition only tell you so much. Plus, they’re inconsistent across markets. You need a way to level the playing field across restaurant locations as you’re deciding on marketing tactics and resources.

Try developing an opportunity index. An opportunity index is a semi-scientific, semi-anecdotal rating of the most important factors affecting your cross-market resource allocation. These factors could include things like revenue, growth potential, competition, media cost, etc. Basically, you’ll assign a numerical value — say 1-10 with one being negative — to each factor. You decide each factor’s rating based on, as we said, anecdotal evidence and concrete research.

A Barebones Example of an Opportunity Index

Imagine restaurant A is deemed as high growth because there’s a new apartment complex coming right next door. It gets an eight for its growth potential factor score. At the same time, restaurant A’s market has extremely expensive (and rising) media costs. That factor scores a three.

Now, restaurant B has average growth potential, coming in with a score of five. There’s not much going on as far as new opportunities. But, the media costs are super low. Earning restaurant B an eight for that factor.

In the end, restaurant A totals eleven and restaurant B totals thirteen. You might have initially banked on restaurant A because of the new apartments, but its outrageous media costs actually make restaurant B a better bet for resource allocation.

You can see how an opportunity index, even this watered-down version, clarifies otherwise muddied information. And, most importantly, gives each market a fair shot.