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Staying Connected With Your QSR and Fast Casual Customers During COVID-19

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April 16th, 2020 | Alissa McCue

As​​ consumers continue to stay home in an effort to avoid exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and to do their part to flatten the curve, restaurants are feeling the effects of diminished foot traffic. However, consumers are still opting to treat themselves to meals from their favorite local restaurants.

Because they’re considered an essential service, many sit-down and fast-food restaurants remain open for contact-less pick-up and delivery, but the interruption to a typical economic activity means many businesses need to pivot their messaging and strategies. And with no clear idea of when social distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place orders will be lifted, it’s hard to know how to proceed.

Convey Your Commitment to Your Customers

It’s clear that QSRs are currently playing a critical role for consumers. According to recent GroundTruth data, while visitation to QSRs is certainly below average, they are not seeing as big of a dip in foot traffic as sit-down restaurants.

By offering take-out and delivery options, restaurants are able to get people the food they need. These practices also build affinity with your brand, which will be important once social distancing procedures are behind us and you’re back to business as usual. As such, brands should leverage mobile marketing to demonstrate their restaurants’ commitment to their customers.

Adopt Local Solutions for Sharing Information

Engaging patrons with relevant and localized communication is crucial for sharing other types of business information as well. Guidelines for how and when restaurants can operate vary from state to state, and are liable to be adjusted over time. That means marketers must find creative ways to keep customers informed of everything from fluctuating hours to online ordering and delivery options.

Location-based audiences, coupled with the following strategies, can help.

Reach Loyalists

GroundTruth’s data about consumers’ past visitation behaviors can be used to connect customers with the offers that are most relevant to them. For example, brands can reach loyalists with location-based mobile ads that share menu item photos, the store location nearest to them, the distance to that store, and the news that the drive-through is open.

Boost Lunch Sales

With so many people working from home, customs like grabbing take-out between meetings or hosting a Lunch and Learn session with colleagues have largely been put on hold. That doesn’t mean consumers aren’t still buying lunch from restaurants.

GroundTruth’s behavioral trend data shows a 7% increase in foot traffic to QSRs & Fast Casual restaurants during lunch hours (1 to 4 PM) in March compared to the February average. This highlights an opportunity for restaurant brands to focus on lunch specials, or to lean into the lunch segment.

Target Customers via Mobile Screens

Another strategy for keeping your brand top of mind is using residential targeting to deliver relevant messaging and offers to mobile devices while consumers are at home. This is a great way to put mailing lists and CRM data to good use.

Employ Real-Time Targeting

Do you have restaurant locations in or near shopping centers? With the uptick in foot traffic to Grocery Stores where consumers are buying supplies, brands can use retail block targeting to reach customers in real-time and let them know there’s a drive-thru nearby.

Until we can put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, it’s important to get creative and focus on strategies that will help shift QSR and Fast Casual restaurants into the current landscape and out the other side for the benefit of both customers and the community at large.​

Alissa McCue
Senior Manager of Communications & PR

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