Restaurant operators are increasingly responsive to Web marketing, Dailey said. “It's a bit of a challenge because the best restaurant operators and foodservice operators are not deskbound for the most part,” she said. “However, increasingly it's fun to see the chefs that are completely connected to their BlackBerrys, or iPhones or mobile devices, and that gives them much more instant access to the larger universe in terms of gathering information. And they're younger, too; so this is what they know and what they're going to practice throughout their work life.”
Print advertising often is still the backbone of an integrated marketing plan, she said, but marketers are looking to support those efforts with other channels that allow them to tailor messages to different audiences.
Such tailored communications have become increasingly important for Hobart Corp., which has been focusing more on webinars and e-mail marketing, said Sarah Puls, VP-brand marketing for the food equipment manufacturer (see case study, page 19). The company customizes its marketing efforts using its CRM database. “It's really important for us to be able to reach our customers in a more individual way than we have in the past,” Puls said.
For example, Hobart can send an e-mail campaign that segments recipients by geography and their end-user segment. “We know which parts of the country are experiencing drought and can tailor our communications to those customers around water- usage savings,” she said. Such an e-mail would also point recipients to tools and calculators to help them make decisions.
Despite the tough economic times, Hobart remains committed to its marketing, Puls said. “I think the important thing right now is to resist the temptation to cut back,” she said. “Now more than ever it's a good time to continue spending because a lot of our competitors cut back, so we get much more free time with our customers by maintaining [our] level of spend.”
Smania also stressed that difficult times can present significant opportunities. “It really is a scary time for restaurant operators out there; they're being hit by so many different negative things simultaneously,” he said. “[But,] these operators need help, and there's a lot of things companies can do to help these them, whether it's introducing new ways to quickly prepare foods, product substitutes or technology solutions.”