Geo-based marketing essential to restaurant growth

June 24, 2010

It may be simple and obvious, but the more a guest visits a restaurant, the more loyalty is built.

While loyalty is often seen across an entire chain, the location closest to a guest’s home is the epicenter. For example, familiarity with the staff contributes to the overall experience. While loyal guests are the most likely to return, it is a mistake to take their business for granted.

Engaging them more often, through more communications channels, deepens the relationship and increases the likelihood of referrals. An excellent opportunity exists right now for restaurant marketers to increase loyalty and improve local market share with a marketing strategy that includes geo-location and geo-targeted programs.

The universal goals of geo-location and geo-targeting are not fundamentally different from the long-held goals of the restaurant business – driving foot traffic, increasing order size, referral business, etc. They are both immensely important elements of a restaurant marketing strategy for many reasons. Most importantly, however, is that neither is specific only to one direct digital marketing channel. That all-important local feeling must be extended to the e-mail, Web, and mobile experiences – each of the direct digital marketing channels a guest is already experiencing a restaurant through.

While it is tempting to leverage only geo-location programs, which are outstanding and deliver impressive results, geo-location alone only moves the needle a little bit. Major impact on sales occurs when the geo-location is combined with geo-targeting.

Geo-targeting is important not only for localized offers but because of its inherent personalization capabilities. Local offers are great, but targeted offers and incentives based on current weather and past behavioral patterns are game-changers.

While many of the bells and whistles for more advanced geo-location and geo-targreting programs are enticing – tactics like augmented reality – the biggest payoff for restaurant marketers comes by deploying programs that appeal to the broadest audience and encompass each direct digital marketing channel. Here is a quick break down of some smart, easy to deploy geo-location and geo-targeting programs for a variety of direct digital marketing channels.


A corporate Web site must be able to recognize visitors and tailor the site experience to a specific region, or if possible, a specific location. Including details on the home page about local store hours, providing a local phone number, and other local information should be standard. Expanding the local experience online to also incorporate regional or local menu items and events is ideal.


Guests and prospects that wish to receive coupons or other information about a favorite restaurant will voluntarily share their zip code. Restaurant marketers must leverage that information and share relevant content, location news, and specific offers. The email’s content must be targeted and personalized, but it must also be valuable to the recipient. Guests may willingly share personal information, but they will opt out if the content lacks relevance or fails to deliver on what is promised.

Mobile Web

Guests who use the mobile Web are not traditional Internet users because they are seeking information that is not only relevant to them, but information that is immediately relevant. If they are traveling, they want to know where the closest franchise of a favorite restaurant is, directions, or hours. If they are not traveling they may simply want a coupon call-to-action for their favorite location. Think of the mobile Web as a separate entity from the traditional Web site, because the user does.

Text Messaging

Mobile technology is universal for consumers throughout the U.S., but no function on a mobile device is more utilized than text messaging. The best way to reach consumers – whether they are on a smartphone or a feature phone – is through a text message. Texting is personal, instant, and disposable without being disruptive. While the content delivered through a text message may be generally similar to an email, emphasis on time and place differentiates the two – and makes a text very valuable to the recipient.


Social is a part of the mix, but not the entire mix. Offering discounts for certain achievements on Foursquare or for deciding to visit a restaurant via Yelp are great tactics that leverage geo-location, but the audience is still limited to the most sophisticated users, which comprise only a fraction of the potential audience. Geo-location and geo-targeting are broad marketing strategies that must be applied to all digital touch points, one of which is social marketing by way of the mobile device.

In objective business terms, the most qualified target audience is the one closest to a restaurant’s front doors. The ultimate goal of getting guests inside requires marketing to understand the audience’s proximity and convenience. But, it also requires an understanding of what the audience finds valuable and what motivates them. Traditional offers and incentives help marketing create value and motivate the targeting audience. But leveraging every possible opportunity to drive traffic requires an understanding of proximity and convenience – two factors that only come into focus with geo-location and geo-targeting marketing programs.

Marketers already have an established presence in most direct digital marketing channels. A majority of restaurants have a Web site, and most have an email program. The next level of marketing, where measured improvement manifests itself each month, requires marketers to add mobile into the mix and leverage a multi-channel communications strategy rich with geo-location and geo-targeting campaigns.

About the author: Brian Deagan is the thought-leader behind direct digital marketing and co-founder and CEO of Knotice, a direct digital marketing solutions company. Contact Deagan at For more information about Knotice visit or their blog

Topics: CRM , Online / Mobile / Social

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