The hospitality and food service industry means big business. As of this writing, there are more than nine million restaurants in China alone, with India a close second with over four million eateries. That means big revenue, and if there's one thing that drives that revenue, it's marketing. While the food service sector continues to surge, what the public doesn't see are the special considerations necessary to market these hospitality-based businesses.
We're going to look at the marketing strategies used in the hospitality industry, including heavy investment in tech solutions. We'll also analyse how those strategies are designed to overcome the special needs and considerations inherent to the industry.
Marketing strategies used in the hospitality industry: a market in need of some TLC
Every field, industry, or market has needs that are unique to that field and that field alone. For example, restaurants have to pay extra attention to freshness, quality, sanitation practices, and the health and safety of their patrons. To that effect, they must build out their supply chain procurement procedures, as well as implement strict internal controls where food preparation is concerned.
No matter what industry you serve, one thing remains the same, though: marketing. After all, advertising is advertising…right? In reality, every industry has its own unique marketing considerations as well, especially the hospitality industry. In the next section, we'll take a closer look at all the needs, considerations, and unique factors that go into the marketing strategies used in the hospitality industry.
Related: Hospitality-specific CRM versus general: which is right for you?
Circumstances contributing to hospitality's special considerations
Why is hospitality marketing different from, say…retail marketing? The answer is simple: hospitality is all about the customer experience rather than a concrete product. Therein lies the challenge.
To market specifically for restaurants and other hospitality-centric entities requires you to sell an experience, which is subjective rather than an objective product. Doing so requires a more subtle touch, complete with value propositions that are on point. This brings us to our next point, customer expectations.
People come to your establishment for the food, but they stay for the ambience. While most establishments will aim generally for a superior customer experience, it isn't necessarily their focal point. It's true that some restaurants can thrive on the strength of their product alone, but in reality, the customer experience is their product.
The problem for hospitality is that it posits an important question: what actually defines a great customer experience? Is that definition even universal? Marketing strategies that are used in the hospitality industry have to overcome a great deal of personal bias in order to be effective. Plus, there is the question of reputation to consider.
Reputation is important no matter your industry. However, because the hospitality industry sells an intangible experience rather than a solid product, reputation is everything. Any damage to that rep, real or implied, adds severe complexity to future advertising efforts.
In the next section, we'll take a look at the key marketing strategies actually used in the hospitality industry and how they can be purposed to overcome the particular needs of this market subset.
Related: Branding Insights From Marketing Gurus
Marketing strategies built to address the hospitality industry's needs
One thing is clear: the hospitality industry has some particular challenges when it comes to marketing and advertising. So what's the secret of success? It's time to dive in and explore the exact marketing strategies used in the hospitality industry.
Make yourself discoverable
No matter the size of your establishment, from a large-scale franchise chain to a mom-and-pop cafe, every marketing campaign will be ineffective if potential customers can't find your contact information. And in a crowded industry like hospitality, that's not always an easy task.
According to PRE Newswire, a majority (76%) of all consumers prefer to research a business online prior to making physical contact either in person or via phone. That's not accounting for businesses, like many in the hospitality industry, that take reservations digitally. That's why search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the most important marketing strategies that you can employ. SEO uses high-quality content, combined with an ever-changing array of internet best practices to boost the discoverability of your brand in search engine results.
It should also be noted that no matter what marketing method you choose, you should always follow the NAP rule. That means prominently featuring your company's name, address, and phone number or other contact info on your marketing assets including web pages.
Work the social media angle
In keeping with the idea of internet discoverability, wise hospitality marketing professionals know the value of maintaining an active social media presence. Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok offer valuable marketing avenues that help put your brand in touch with its core clientele. Because each platform features a slightly different focus and atmosphere, using a combination of popular social media channels can help you differentiate your brand in an already crowded market.
Involve yourself in the community
When we think of marketing efforts, it's easy to think of large-scale strategies designed to reach far and wide using various media channels. Don't lose the forest for the trees, though! Regardless of your establishment's size, it pays to invest in the local community. It will boost your reputation and will net you additional business through local referrals.
Engage in traditional marketing
While we live in a digital world, not everything marketing-related has to be digital. Traditional marketing techniques, such as email, text messages, print, and even TV are still viable advertising methods. In fact, email campaigns have consistently provided the best ROI of any marketing modality for ten years running. Complement your use of technology and other marketing techniques with tried-and-true campaign efforts as well.
Use the technological tools available to you
There are lots of marketing strategies used in the hospitality industry, and to great effect. The feather(s) in your establishment's cap, however, is the technological tools at your disposal. Let's take a look at two of the most salient software products that should be in your business's tech stack.
QR code technology
QR codes have found a home in the post-COVID world. The restaurant industry in particular has begun implementing scannable QR codes into their menus, allowing for a contactless ordering experience.
Even hotels have taken a page directly out of the food service industry's playbook by implementing QR code menus for their own in-house restaurants, setting up contactless check-in options, scannable guest services information, and most importantly, as a marketing tool used to keep guests informed about activities and special events.
Customer relationship management software (CRM)
There's another key tech tool that hospitality marketing professionals have come to rely on to drive business: Customer relationship management (CRM) software. A CRM platform provides hotel management with a windfall of actionable customer data such as purchasing trends, check-in history, demographic information, and amenities utilised while in house.
Using this data, management and c-suite executives can craft policies and procedures designed to play to the business's strengths, thus differentiating your establishment from the rest of the pack. You can also use the data to offer customised discounts and loyalty programs.
Loyalty programs are your ace in the hole when it comes to marketing your establishment. They are a way to garner repeat business while maximising each customer interaction. Offering deep discounts –or even free meals– to your most loyal customers is a great way to spread your brand through word of mouth and an enhanced reputation.
Are you looking to elevate your marketing strategies and update your company's tech profile? Want to implement cutting-edge technology such as QR codes and CRM into your daily operations? Mr Yum can help. Contact us today for a free demo of our services.