In May 2017, I became the Marketing Coordinator for The Flavour Hut, a small, family-owned and operated take out restaurant. Located in the Park Place neighborhood of Norfolk, Va, the establishment was in close proximity to Old Dominion University. Several other universities such as Norfolk State University, Hampton University, and Virginia Wesleyan University were within a 15-mile radius. Considering these factors, there was a clear opportunity to strengthen the eatery’s brand exposure and target audience. Conversations with students of these universities revealed that the restaurant received mostly favorable reviews and high amounts of praise. However, these same conversations revealed three specific weaknesses in the restaurant’s branding that I would work to strengthen:
- a nearly non-existent social media presence
- vague brand identity
- Lack of creative methods to drive sales for the restaurant
Social Media Presence
Initially, I noticed that the Flavour Hut had one form of social media, a Twitter page (@TheFlavourHut1). This page had an unbalanced follower-following ratio and was filled with generic, underwhelming posts. The majority of the visual content utilized in the posts were blurry, low quality images. As a result, Flavour Hut’s followers barely engaged the original page.
Therefore, my first course of action was creating a new Twitter page (@TheFlavourHutVA). The new handle reflected the owner’s previous desire to expand the restaurant outside of the Hampton Roads to become a statewide franchise. The handle provided a more personalized connection with potential customers while paying homage to the restaurant’s roots.
To reduce the imbalance of Flavour Hut’s following-follower ratio, I employed a diverse set of social media marketing techniques. Following the popular brand ambassador model, I solicited the help of several well-known college students who had a large following on social media. For one free meal a week, the students agreed to tweet pictures of the restaurant’s food and tag the Flavour Hut page in the post. The ROI for this method was tremendously high. At the page’s peak operation, the following-follower ratio peaked at 1:4 (currently 1:3) versus the 1:8 ratio that the initial Twitter produced.
Next, I prioritized account interactions with current and prospective followers alike. The first rendition of the Flavour Hut twitter account was bland in its taste, literally. This page rarely interacted with its target audience; most of the posts were aimless images of food. When using the @FlavourHutVa account, I continued to post pictures of food, but with mobile and digital audiences in mind. I used a wide range of emojis and creative phrases to add depth to the posts.
Additionally, I consistently utilized hashtags while posting on the Twitter page. Considering the large concentration of their target consumer segment at local universities, posts began to include #ODU, #NSU, #Hampton (HU), and #VWC hashtags. This effort accomplished the goal of reaching more students and increasing social media exposure.
Vague Brand Identity
Developing a more consistent brand identity for the Flavour Hut was the next task at hand. After conducting a brand audit, I worked with management to clearly define the Flavour Hut’s image. We concluded that maintaining an image of “A warm, family oriented establishment dedicated to engaging, serving and improving its surrounding community through excellent food service,” presented a consistent standard for the restaurant to uphold.
We demonstrated a commitment to this statement by conducting the following initiatives:
– Entrepreneurial engagement and networking by allowing business owners to display their collateral free of charge
– Childhood fitness and wellness, by catering food and beverages at a local football camp hosted by then-Atlanta Falcons linebacker LaRoy Reynolds
– Philanthropic efforts such as clothing drives donating proceeds to children’s summer programs
-Providing positive commentary on social issues such as voter registration
Through these actions, we created a vivid image of the ideals that the Flavour Hut wanted to embody.
Lack of Creative Methods to Drive Sales
When analyzing the best methods to drive sales and revenue for the restaurant, I immediately considered the thought process of a typical college student: deals speak volumes. Each week, I facilitated a weekly product review meeting with the owners. We discussed which meals sold at the highest rates amongst their customers. Based on our insights, we developed a strategic solution to generate net sales. The resulting concept was our Flavor Fridaze campaign, in which we implemented flash discounts on food items every Friday. We conducted a trial run of this promotion for a month. Flavor Fridaze proved to have a significant ROI; the owner reported a 20 percent increase in revenue for the first month of Flavour Fridaze. As a result, the campaign became a mainstay. Eventually, Flavour Fridaze evolved into a platform to announce special events, customer challenges and other forms of content. Page followers begin utilizing the hashtag to express their suspense for the upcoming promotions, showing the hashtag’s effective audience reach.
Ironically, Flavour Hut’s close location to ODU hindered the restaurants ability to generated sales. Stationed as a small building on Killam Avenue, many first time customers claimed that they were unable to located the restaurant. After several discussions with the owner, we determined that hosting a cookout in open field across from Flavour Hut’s building would be an effective method to add visibility to the restaurant’s location. I coordinated a strategic partnership between the eatery and two fraternities at ODU (Omega Psi Phi and Kappa Alpha Psi) to execute the event. The fraternities provided extensive social media advertisement and beverages for the cookout. The Flavour Hut provided the food (at the cost of 2 dollars a plate for a burger or hotdog and chips) and a DJ for musical entertainment. The cookout yielded a turnout of 600 people, and once expenses were calculated, the cookout yielded a profit of $4500 in a 3 hours period (500 plates sold, in addition to the restaurant’s standard daily revenue)
Looking to capitalize on the success of the Labor Day cookout, we implemented Flavour Club Rewards Card as another avenue to drive restaurant sales and customer loyalty. The concept we developed was that for every 10 meals purchased, cardholders would receive one free meal. Also, cardholders would receive early notification for the Flavour Fridaze deal, and receive early notification of the #FlavouirFridaze sales.
The final sales method that I implemented displayed another example of understanding products and services in a respective industry. Several surrounding eateries, such as Del Vecchio’s pizzeria, had happy hour style deals (in their case dollar slices). These deals were extremely lucrative amongst the college crowds, especially at Old Dominion and Norfolk State. Therefore, the Flavour Hour was conceived, with an applicable twist. Instead of drinks, or pizza slices, we debuted discounted chicken wings and burgers. The entree-style Burgers (5.99 Combo with a drink) and Wings (7.99/Combo) were provided at an entree only price of $1 and $3, respectively. The resulting turnout was pleasing; we sold out the entree items in an hour due to high demand. The Flavour Hour generated $150 in a single hour of the promotion. While this promotion was a one-time occurrence, it exemplified the effectiveness of this promotional style.
After conducting various methods to improve the restaurant’s brand image, I was sure to record the results of each marketing and branding initiative that I conducted.
Peak Followers (@TheFlavourHutVA) Twitter page: 440
Peak Followers (@TheFlavourHut1): 164
Peak Engagement Rate (@TheFlavourHutVA): 2%
Peak Engagement Rate (@TheFlavourHut1): 4%
Flavour Hut Average Weekly Revenue (Before #FlavourFridaze, Brand Ambassador Program, and optimized social media content): $7,300
Flavour Hut Average Weekly Revenue (After #FlavourFridaze, Brand Ambassador Promotion and social initiatives): $8,760
Number of Total Flavour Club Members: 40