Recipe for restaurant success? It’s no secret and you should steal it!

Despite the challenges in the U.S. economy, the outlook for many restaurant chains is positive. A recent forecast by KeyBanc Capital Markets highlighted the growth potential for 25 top restaurants. Our agency has had the good fortune to work with three of the brands on this list and in the process has learned their recipes for success. Marketers in other categories could take some notes.

Here are some of their keys:

  1. Culinary (product) innovation. All these concepts continue to test new items that support their core brand promises. Based on customer feedback and acceptance, new items join old favorites on the menu. All are willing to try new things and not get stuck in the status quo.
  2. Offer a great guest (customer) experience. These leaders focus on both the product (what happens in the kitchen) and the service (the greeters and servers). Without both working well, their customers will be disappointed. And yours will too. Do you know what services your customers expect and how you are doing to meet these expectations? Are your employees great ambassadors for your brand? I can think of a few airlines, financial services companies and technology manufacturers that cannot answer affirmatively to the last question.
  3. Engage customers with digital and social media methods. Whether it is building active Facebook communities, sending special offers via e-mail, text or Twitter, or engaging on social media sites such as Yelp, Foursquare and Gowalla, many of these restaurants are ahead of the curve when it comes to adding new media to their traditional mixes. Have you begun to explore all the digital channels to reach your customers?

What are your favorite examples of restaurants using digital or social media marketing this year? I’m collecting examples, so please send them along. In the meantime, here’s a short video of some of my favorites (for obvious reasons):