Demystifying the restaurant marketing funnel (or how to break the flywheel 101)

January 27, 2021
Abhinav Kapur

Welcome to Part 2 of our series on how to break the third-party delivery flywheel.

In Part 1, we gave a high-level overview of the flywheel, or the tactics that third-parties use to acquire + retain guests. In this edition, we’ll map out the restaurant marketing funnel - the framework for how restaurants can break the flywheel.

I’m on my third rewatch of the Sopranos right now (season 3 is the best, don’t @ me).

My first two times around were spent admiring the acting + plot. But what really sticks with this go-around are the themes. Every episode is like an onion - layers upon layers.

Paulie saying “when did I ever complain?” while actively complaining, Adriana watching an episode of The A-Team called “‘Til Death Do Us Part” in the episode where she proposes to Christopher. Every shot, set-piece, scene, and line of the script has a deliberate purpose.

It’s kinda like running a restaurant - if you wanna break the third-party delivery flywheel, you need to bring that same approach to your restaurant’s marketing funnel. You need to construct a world where - like the Sopranos - guests get hooked early, and keep coming back for more (just as you’d expect when they visit you in-person).

There are numerous tactics to achieve that, but ultimately, everything corresponds to a particular stage in a restaurant’s marketing funnel -- a series of actions you take to attract and keep guests in your orbit. 

  • Awareness - how are you generating awareness for your brand, and by extension, your online ordering capabilities?
  • Acquisition / conversion - how are you converting guests from third-party platforms, or directly owning the guest relationship from the beginning?
  • Retention - how are you ensuring guests come back through your channels and not churning to third-parties (or flat out not ordering again)?

Where I see most restaurants struggle though is in adapting their in-store / on premise funnel tactics for the digital era. So here’s a guide, along with some tactics (both new and familiar) that are purely enabled by our industry’s broader shift to digital hospitality:

This is by no means exhaustive - tactics will vary based on your own approach to hospitality and the nature of your brand. But with the diagram above, you can see how many of the traditional brick and mortar tactics correspond well to channels that have taken on greater importance since the onset of the pandemic. 

Where once you invested time and care on your experience when a guest first walks through your doors, now you must invest the same level of care the first time a visitor comes to your native ordering site or mobile app. Instead of studying foot traffic patterns and waiting for reviews from the local papers, now you can check Yelp or Google Maps for a real-time pulse check of what your guests think (for better or worse).

The only real constant seems to be that good food keeps guests coming back (a critical area where third-parties can’t compete with you).

Beyond that, understand how guest touchpoints map to your restaurant marketing funnel. With that, you can create a reliable framework for acquiring + retaining them on your digital platforms, and most importantly, own the guest relationship and the privilege of hospitality.

And of course, if you need help, you can always book a time on my calendar so we can map out your funnel together.