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August 21, 2020

How to Find Restaurant Operators Who Are Ready to Listen

Tony Treadway

How to Find Restaurant Operators Who Are Ready to Listen

Our Secret Survey Has the Answers

If you are trying to sell a product to a restaurant operator amid the pandemic, you need more than luck. Canceled shows, mass layoffs among distributors and brokers in an ever-changing landscape makes finding a decision maker the biggest challenge ever.

We foresaw the problem in April and surveyed nearly 400 decision makers within the top segments of the foodservice business. We asked them how they access information from manufacturers and what they are most interested in knowing.

“Only 4% of commercial operators said that they were looking to manufacturer brokers for solutions during COVID.”

Our secret survey was first revealed to Creative Energy and Flavor Alliance clients. Now, for the first time, we are ready to share some of the insights you won’t find anywhere else.

1 E-Mails with A Twist – By far, a beefed-up e-mail packed with COVID solutions is the most powerful approach to engaging with operators. Second only to operators performing their own searches via their web browser, e-marketing offers the best return on investment among all segments. More than a few lines of copy, the e-mail should include images, videos and recipe ideas that are embedded in the client’s website.

What is the best content to offer? Food trend insights are the most important, followed by food safety, new product information and then recipe ideas are best for driving engagement. Most importantly is your call to action. Among commercial operators, 31% said that they would provide their contact information to a food manufacturer if they offer them a free sample of their product.

As the best way to deliver that content, 68% of operators prefer video content. Copy with images are next on the list, especially when it involves recipe ideas.

Before you send your e-mail, make sure that your sales team provides you with an updated list of targets. Also, consider reaching out to an agency like ours that maintains a list of opted-in lists or a magazine publisher who can rent  their list of operators. Ask them about their average open rates (a percentage of the total list of names who open the e-mail) and click thru rates (CTRs). You are looking for an average open rate of +20% and CTRs of 2% or higher.

2. Beef Up Your SEO & SEM – Remember, most operators looking for a solution to address COVID do so by entering a few keywords in their web browser. Make sure your website is loaded with the keywords you think your targets are entering. That’s called search engine optimization or SEO. How do you know what they are entering? Go to Google AdWords? It is the marketplace for bidding for pay per click advertising on the world’s most popular browser. The most expensive keywords are the most frequently used keywords by your target.

Use those words in the titles of your website’s navigation or in the headline or first sentence of your product content. That is what Google’s algorithm will be searching for when an operator uses those keywords. Remember, SEO is basically free. Search engine marketing, or SEM, is when you opt to use pay per click advertising to appear on the first page of a browser search when an operator uses those keywords.

3. Is It Time to Advertise? Yes. Number three on the list of how operators are finding COVID solutions is through searching trade publication websites, reviewing publisher e-newsletters or print magazines. It’s time to advertise!

Operators who have survived the pandemic are searching industry websites for solutions now. More than 15% say they are searching trade publication website and 14% are reading trade magazines. Contradicting some who say commercial operators aren’t reading print publications, 67% of respondents in our survey say that they are reading the same amount or more of print magazines as they did two years ago. It is worthy of note that when asked, where are you turning to access important information on solutions during COVID, only 4% said that they were looking to manufacturer brokers for those insights.

Here is a quick rundown of commercial industry websites, e-newsletters and magazines per full-service and quick-service segments:

Full-Service Operators

Top 3 Industry Websites

  • Restaurant-Hospitality.com
  • NRN.com
  • RestaurantBusinessOnline.com

Top 3 Industry E-Newsletters

  • NRA SmartBrief
  • NRN Fast Casual E-News
  • Flavor & The Menu Flavor Flash

Top 3 Industry Print Magazines

  • Restaurant Hospitality
  • Restaurant Business (now digital version only)
  • Nation’s Restaurant News
  • Quick-Service Operators

Top 3 Industry Websites

  • QSRmagazine.com
  • NRN.com
  • Restaurant-Hospitality.com

Top 3 Industry E-Newsletters

  • NRA SmartBrief
  • NRN Fast Casual E-News
  • QSR AM Jolt

Top 3 Industry Print Magazines

  • QSR
  • Restaurant Hospitality
  • Nation’s Restaurant News

4. What about social? Yes, operators are engaging social media more but the channel they are accessing might surprise you. While most of our clients bring up LinkedIn as the focus of their marketing efforts, most of the operators are still accessing Facebook more than any other social channel. Among commercial operators, 32% are using Facebook as their primary social channel compared to just under 8% who are using LinkedIn.

For thought leadership, involving blog posts, we recommend that your LinkedIn channel be your primary channel. Easy to review new product information and recipe ideas with lots of photography should be allocated to Facebook and Instagram.

This exclusive peak under the curtain of a secret survey of commercial foodservice operator habits during COVID is just one way your agency should be providing market intelligence to you during these unprecedented times. We will publish insights on how to best reach non-commercial operators soon.

Creative Energy has gone another step ahead by helping to establish the Flavor Alliance. This unique alliance can provide your company with easy access to supply chain and culinary trends and insights without cumbersome retainers or contracts. Learn more about Creative Energy and the Flavor Alliance and you will be several steps ahead of your competition in re-engaging foodservice operators in search of solutions as they emerge from COVID.

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