Every hamburger lover has heard of California’s In-N-Out burger. Its greasy, delicious legend has managed to traverse land, sea and air—has traveled thousands of miles—to reach the salivating mouths of consumers from San Francisco to New York City.
And while I’ll admit they make a pretty decent burger, and have withstood the test of time—In-N-Out has been in business since 1948—it’s not the restaurant’s meat that interests me so much as it is In-N-Out’s marketing strategy. And it’s one that restaurants everywhere should be paying attention to.
What makes In-N-Out so great is that it has a secret menu, which only exists online. And while the secret has gotten out at this point, and is in fact now referred to as the Not-So-Secret menu, the concept is simple: it is a brilliant marketing gimmick that drives users to the website, and from the website to the food company’s store.
On the Not-So-Secret menu, customers can find popular ways that other people like to enjoy eating an In-N-Out burger that they might not have otherwise thought of. Options include features such as “double meat” or “Protein Style,” in which a burger is wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. Others include the “Grilled Cheese” burger or, my personal favorite, “Animal Style.”
The options for content creation in the restaurant industry are endless. This is because food is one of the most celebrated aspects of our society—and people love interacting with their favorite restaurants. Restaurant goers like to know their wait staff and where the restaurant’s food comes from. They like writing reviews and sharing favorite menu items or embellishments with others. And, most of all, they like to talk about a good meal while they are hungry and then follow up with a trip out to the restaurant.
When a customer leaves a restaurant, he or she is apt to talk to friends about the experience or think of a return trip at some point after. But content creation calls customers to action before, during and after they are done with your product. It builds a community online and, by doing so, establishes one in the restaurant.
Think, for example, of the social benefits of walking through a restaurant and seeing someone that you have virtually interacted with, or shared a menu secret. Or of the benefits associated with wait staff biographies, or sections where you can submit suggestions or special requests ahead of time. For instance, “happy birthday” song requests, or an option to pick up a check before you sit down at a table.
And with the recent surge of content marketing, there is no reason why any restaurant should have a stagnant website or social media presence. Right now, 86 percent of B2C organizations use content marketing. Ninety percent of B2C marketers utilize Facebook, and 69 percent currently use Twitter. Further, 65 percent of businesses use YouTube to post content. And 45 percent of B2C businesses will increase their content marketing spending over the next 12 months.
With these, stats, it’s pretty evident that if you are not yet in the content marketing game, you are already losing to your competitors. Just consider In-N-out Burger and ask yourself whether you are producing the same kind of website material.
For instance, if you are a restaurant that specializes in gourmet, hypoallergenic cuisine, you could use your website to talk about your selection and ensure guests that they will be eating in a safe zone. Think of the business benefits of assuring a worried customer that his or her experience will be drama-free before sitting down at a table. Or, imagine having your wine selection listed, along with the type of food that it would go best with.
Your website is a public sphere where you can have fun, if you’d like, or remain serious—depending on your restaurant’s style. As long as you are consistent and match your content accordingly to your brand image, your current customers will love interacting with you while they are away, or even while they are dining. And your new customers will see your value as an organization that goes beyond the plate to ensure they have a positive dining experience.