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July 1, 2019

5 Steps in Outsourcing Your Restaurant Chain’s Marketing

by Tony Treadway

For large restaurant chains, the need for a robust and effective marketing team is obvious. For smaller emerging chains, there is another option. We’ve proven that outsourcing marketing and advertising services to a trusted and experience agency can be the right choice.

Let’s use one of the darlings of the chain business, Pal’s Sudden Service. This privately-owned and operated fast food chain is a 29-unit beast that outperforms major national chains in nearly every performance metric. A recent USA Today consumer poll of the nation’s best-loved regional fast food chains ranked Pal’s as second only to Habit Burger. The chain is likewise held up as a model for employee training and retention.

With so many accolades and success, it would be easy to imagine a big corporate staff. Reality? The total number of corporate employees is four. How do they achieve success? They outsource, pushing out their marketing services to Creative Energy. The formula has been a winning strategy for nearly three decades.

Our firm holds a high-level meeting once a year to review our own performance in delivering breakthrough creative on time and in budget. We listen to marketing challenges and plans for new menu items or Limited Time Offers. From this we develop and execute the plan with quarterly updates and monthly reports to all of the client’s store operators, including digital and social metrics. Our firm handles all marketing, advertising, social and PR functions.

If your objectives are to maintain a lean corporate model as you grow your brand and sales, here are five steps for finding the right agency partner:

  1. Does the agency understand your segment and customers? There is not substitution for understanding your segment, your competition and your customers. Look for an agency with a proven track record and ask if them about your experience.
  2. How much do they know about your brand? A good agency will ask you about your brand, your brand promise and personality. What market research do you have on hand? Be ready to share your knowledge and listen for them to ask about your brand. It might be a time for a brand workshop with your senior leadership to assess your brand.
  3. What research has the agency done on their own about your brand? A great agency will have done some research, visiting one of your restaurants, speaking with your customers to do their homework before your meeting. Do they subscribe to restaurant chain data research, such as Datassentials that can provide important insights, such as menu gap evaluations. Look for firms willing to do some of their own homework and with tools that can help you succeed.
  4. Set your expectations for performance and annual budget with the agency of your choice. Our parameters for Pal’s was set 27 years ago and remain the same. There are only a few. For example, we never advertise price as an inducement to visit the chain. Our annual budget grows every time a new unit is added to the chain.
  5. Assign one contact at your restaurant who will manage the relationship. For Pal’s, it’s the company’s CEO. The agency needs one voice from the client and not an oligarchy who is their North Star for performance.