In the last month, JustEat announced more than 100 layoffs as the result of increased competition from Uber Eats and Deliveroo. Meanwhile, Uber just suffered its worst ever financial quarter, losing a staggering £4bn in just three months – even though its share price remained unaffected.
Given the uncertainty surrounding these businesses, predicting the future of the food delivery market is extremely difficult. All three businesses are vying for market domination, targeting the same customers with a similar market proposition. It will be fascinating to see who comes out on top, not least for tens of thousands of restaurants and UK businesses who will be caught in the crossfire, whose success and livelihood may depend on the outcome.
In these uncertain times, it is imperative that restaurants adjust their approach to food delivery services altogether and step up their independent marketing efforts. They must decrease their reliance on any one platform and prioritise marketing activities that can help take back control from other businesses and put customer relationships back in their hands.
This is an issue of brand loyalty and long-term success, rather than any short-term financial goals. The objective is to attract more walk-ins over time, tap into customers’ daily habits and make it more rewarding for customers to engage directly instead of via Deliveroo, JustEat or Uber.
Food delivery platforms and problems
Before understanding how a restaurant’s marketing can help lure more customers away from food delivery platforms, it is important to understand why they should do so and why these relationships are so problematic.
First and foremost, these platforms have given people greater access to cheap high quality food delivered at home, which has contributed to people going out much less. Most restaurants now need to be on these websites and applications to stay afloat, but JustEat et al are taking a sizable chunk of a restaurant’s profits.
A secondary but equally important issue is that these platforms now maintain the customer relationship and own all the brand loyalty that would belong to the restaurant otherwise. They also provide a platform for unethical business practices such as fake reviews. All things considered; they have tremendous power to decide whether a new restaurant lives or dies.
Enter restaurant marketing technology
Automated and highly tailored marketing campaigns are key to bypassing the food delivery middlemen. Marketers must ensure their restaurant can attract new direct customers with a near perfect online presence.
Enhancing reviews and photos on TripAdvisor and Google is no longer enough to set a venue apart; all restaurants are doing this. No, marketers need to consider clever new ways to uplevel their current campaigns and address the fine margins. For instance, restaurants should research ways to receive and respond to constructive criticism and negative reviews in private channels, only encouraging or rewarding online reviews when they are confident of getting 4-5 stars. After all, just a few bad reviews can tank a new restaurant’s average review, which is essential for online visibility, brand reputation and financial success.
Regarding existing customers, restaurants need to make it easier or more rewarding to order direct. Offering discounts or a free starter/side for direct delivery orders is becoming standard practice, which means restaurants that want to succeed must go further still. Creating a dedicated restaurant app is not as daunting as many think, and can help separate high quality customer-centric restaurants from the also-rans. Restaurants should also experiment with café-style loyalty programmes since food is such a vital part of people’s day-to-day routines and most people don’t try new venues without some kind of prompt or promotion.
Restaurants are also waking up to the fact that relying too heavily on food delivery platforms means losing traditional touchpoints with customers. It’s why rebuilding good (not necessarily big) marketing databases is so essential. In a post-GDPR world, restaurants have a golden opportunity to ensure they are contacting customers that genuinely want to hear from them. Using these lists, it’s easier than ever for restaurants to build highly tailored, automated promotions around key dates, events and behaviours. It’s surprising how many restaurants don’t do any of this.
A quick word of warning, as restaurants attempt to lure customers away from food delivery platforms, they cannot afford to neglect their existing profiles. Just Eat recently announced it would be displaying food hygiene ratings, and restaurants must keep one eye on developments like this that could help or hinder their chances of attracting potential customers.
The food delivery wars may be long, and the uncertainty they create may be challenging, but restaurant owners can ensure they are not hurt in the fray. Ultimately marketing is their best defence against change, and their best form of attack as they attempt to lure customers away from these battling platforms.
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