The days when going to a restaurant was simply about eating food are history. Customers expect eateries to provide them with experiences rather than just the basic fare. And why not? Experiential marketing is a great way to increase customer loyalty and engagement, as well as improve brand awareness.  

Did you know that 77 percent of marketers use experiential marketing as a vital part of a brand’s advertising strategy?

When it comes to providing unique and memorable experiences to customers, restaurants need to understand that their job starts even before patrons walk into their establishment. Experiential marketing is more about how they treat their guests rather than what they serve them on the table. From the venue to the menu, everything plays a part.

Here’s how you can leverage experiential marketing to grow your business.  

Provide Exclusivity  

There’s no doubt that customers want to enjoy a hearty meal and impeccable customer service at restaurants. With increasing expectations, however, a third element has been added to the mix, and that’s exclusivity. After all, who doesn’t like feeling special?

An increasing number of customers are expecting exclusive dining experiences that redefine their idea of eating out. No wonder then, that pop-up restaurants are gaining immense popularity.

Just as the name suggests, pop-ups are temporary dining concepts that open for a limited period of time. This could mean anything – a one-time dining experience or a few weeks of culinary festivals.

The short-term nature of a pop-up’s existence creates a sense of exclusivity and urgency. Pop-ups offer guests unique and exciting experiences through their specialized themes, menu, and even tastings.  

Thanks to social media, pop-up events are going mainstream and finding acceptance among customers. As they crave different experiences, pop-ups allow them to indulge in new, interactive, and exhilarating experiences.     

Samples for the Senses

Eighty percent of guests said that live demonstrations and free samples significantly help define their purchasing decision.

Product sampling can be a powerful tool in the experiential marketing kit.  It enables them to get a good look and feel of the offerings before buying them. 

Go Beyond Food

An increasing number of customers are laying more importance on distinctive experiences rather than things. This applies to food as well. It is not what they eat, but rather what they experience during their time at the restaurant that matters to customers.  

A few great ways to give them the experiences they crave include arranging upmarket outdoor dinners, wine tasting/pairing feasts, conducting food trials featuring experimental cuisines, delivering cookery masterclasses, or organizing special appearances by celebrity chefs. You can also offer customers a tour of your restaurant’s kitchen, a local produce farm, a winery, or a grain mill.

Ensure that the experiences you offer allow consumers to experience the products and services will all their senses. Creating the smells and tastes may be easy, but you also need to focus on producing the sights, sounds, and textures. Only then will your experiential marketing initiatives result in activations.

The most important thing to remember is to go beyond just food offerings, and add value to the experience. This can mean providing them with information on cooking techniques, engendering positive emotions through the cooking process, giving them high-end and useful cooking products, or even a chance to hobnob with celebrities. These are some ways which will help you take your customer service experience up by several notches.  

Using social media to talk about the experiences to potential customers will help you create awareness about your experiential events (more on this in the next point). Social media platforms present tremendous opportunities for you and your patrons to click and share food photographs.

Start a conversation around the images/videos you post. Use hashtags to promote your offerings and encourage your customers to take photographs with your restaurant’s name in the background and post them on your page.   

Partner with Complementary Brands to Conduct Events

Eighty percent of marketers believe live events are critical to their company’s success, while 95 percent agree that live events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world.

Additionally, 93 percent of consumers claimed that live events had a larger influence on them than TV ads.

Events are an integral part of experiential marketing, and restaurants can do this by partnering with complementary product companies or even venue providers. Everyone wants their slice from a successful experiential marketing pie. Everyone loves food. Collaborate with brands that want to market their offerings, and organize an event that is mutually beneficial.

Think a communal dining event with common seating where attendees choose to share their dining experience with complete strangers.. Other ideas include theme breakfast or brunch events, spirits and mixology dos, and vegan or organic food events.  

The “foodie” culture is getting bigger by the day, and customers are increasingly spending money on different and interesting culinary options. Restaurants can use this to their advantage through experiential marketing. 

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