Grassroots Marketing Returns to Local Restaurants

by | Sep 15, 2023 | blog, Business, Giving Back, Marketing, National Restaurant Consultants, Trends | 0 comments

Local Marketing Builds Community for Restaurants

When it comes to restaurant marketing, messages don’t need to be far-reaching. They need to be potent and tailored to reach the right members of your community. This is true whether your restaurant is a one-of-a-kind establishment, regional brand, or a franchise of a larger chain—it is still a mainstay of your neighborhood and targeted market, a place where neighbors can gather.

With this community-mindedness at the center of the equation, it makes a lot of sense for restaurants to forgo traditional advertising attempts and instead bring name-recognition to community involvement. This is increasingly important as Millennials and Gen Z weight activism and charitable contribution as a major part of brand awareness and brand loyalty.

This is the focus of a recent article from Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), which states that “Restaurant companies are shifting their marketing resources back to the local level.” To begin with, restaurant marketing teams are beginning to identify the over-saturated digital platforms and algorithm challenges when it comes to social media marketing. “According to the Harvard Business Review, more marketers have started to look for ways to cut through the digital clutter that has been accumulating since about 2012,” the article states. Many restauranteurs have returned to “old-school” marketing methods, that by nature have a locally-minded emphasis, tactics like direct mail and guerrilla marketing.

Barry Westrum, CMO of Taco Johns, says, “Were committing ourselves to our local communities. I can get people with a 3-to-5-mile radius to know our story, well grow awareness from there with old-fashioned guerrilla marketing – apartment complexes, hospitals, military bases, whatever it takes to get coupons, flyers to those people in our community. Consumers want deeper connections with brands and this approach is resonating.”

Kathryn Bleeker, director of marketing at Ziggis Coffee, goes beyond localized efforts and discusses the importance of quality and type of marketing, honing in on the values shared by Millennials and Gen Z alike. “Consumers have become increasingly savvy and discerning,” Bleeker said. They can see through generic ads and sales tactics, and they crave more meaningful interactions with brands. By adopting localized marketing strategies, we can tell authentic stories, engage in grassroots efforts, and establish a real sense of community connection.” So, Ziggi’s has committed to work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, supporting both the national organization and its local chapters.

The marketing specialist for Jet’s Pizza, Steve Sims, talks about a similar commitment to local organizations. “[We are] sponsoring events and donating food to local organizations, hosting booster nights with local schools and using paid social ads to target areas surrounding its stores,” the NRN article explains.

These marketing efforts are not a manipulation of current values, but a return to something that has been lost in the digital era that younger generations are clamoring for: community. By recreating an old-fashioned sense of togetherness and engagement, even national restaurant chains are establishing themselves as pillars of community, and this commitment is important to the customers in their area. 

Richard Weil, principal and owner of National Restaurant Consultants believes, “While AI and other social media platforms are still an important part of vertically-integrated marketing, promotions through grassroots and guerrilla efforts by local stores greatly increase brand awareness.”

Overall, the success of local marketing campaigns lies in their ability to establish authentic connections, break through the noise, and meet customers where they are,” Bleeker said. By prioritizing grassroots efforts, utilizing data responsibly, and embracing the desire for genuine connections, we can build strong customer relationships and create a positive impact in the communities we serve.”