How To Use Groupon and Other Coupon Campaigns To Promote Your Restaurant
Coupon campaigns can be a great way to promote your restaurant. Groupon can help draw in new customers, and a busy restaurant is usually a great thing. For example, if a couple is walking down the street and sees that your restaurant is busy (unknown to them it’s because of a coupon campaign) they will be more likely stop by for a meal, especially if your nearby competitors are looking dead. Be warned, however, that there are some downsides to Groupon and other similar promotional tools.
First, such campaigns cost a lot of money, especially if you use a professional service, like Groupon. Not only will you be giving your customers a hefty discount, but also you will have to pay Groupon a portion of each meal sold. At the end you might take home only 25% or less of the original price of the meal! Clearly, you won’t be making any profit off of that.
Not only that, but sometimes professional services bring in the wrong customer. The idea behind Groupon is to spread a restaurant’s brand awareness, but often Groupon deals are dominated by people who practically scavenge the site looking for the best deals. These people simply want the cheapest meal they can find and after enjoying your promotion, few will convert to regular customers. Kind of defeats the whole campaign, doesn’t it?
Also, be weary of campaigns without “caps.” If too many people sign up for your promotion you might reach the literal point where you can’t serve them all. And usually it’s best to launch a campaign on one of your “slow” nights. If you are busy on Fridays, there is little point in drawing in more people through a coupon campaign. If you do, you might even end up driving away full paying customers if your service declines or there are not enough places to sit!
Also, you should never get in the habit of “regularly” offering discounts. If customers start to believe that you are always offering coupons, they will start waiting until your next promotion comes out before making a purchase. This is true for any type of promotion, but the social media effects and digital marketing efforts of a site like Groupon can really exacerbate the problem.
Running an Effective Campaign
The best way to combat against the perception of being a frequent discounter is to only offer discounts on special occasions. For example, if your restaurant is celebrating its 5th year anniversary, you can offer five dollars off of any check 20 dollars or more. Or it it’s the owner’s 50th birthday you can offer a 1 day 50 percent off coupon to celebrate. The best thing is to convince customers that this is a sort of “one time” deal.
Another great step you should take to protect yourself is to limit the number of coupons that can be sold. For example, if you use a professional service like Groupon they usually offer a way to limit coupons. If you are running your own campaign with more traditional methods you can put a disclaimers “First 50 customers only” or something similar.
As already mentioned you should limit specials to quieter nights and slow times during the day. Bringing in 100 extra customers on your busy Friday nights does little for your business and can even alienate customers if the quality of your services drop.
Also, you should try to get their contact information. For example, you could offer them a slip to sign up for email and text promotions. This way you can send them future deals. Getting details, like birthdays, is another great way thing to do. When you look through your database of information, if you see a customer’s birthday coming up you can offer them a free desert by sending them a promotion.
Speaking of desert, getting customers to buy more food than they bargained for is a great way to make it an effective coupon campaign. If people come in for a half off meal but buy expensive drinks and desert, you can make up for the lost ground!
At the end of the day coupon campaigns are double edged swords. When used properly and in moderation they can be effective in boosting your business and spreading your brand. If misused or abused, however, there is a high risk that your brand will be damaged as people come to believe your food is only worth purchasing with discounts.