Case Study – Restaurant Grand Opening Marketing Online

In future blog posts I may add some case studies to determine what has or hasn’t worked when using online marketing to help generate new business.  A recent project is worth a short case study due to the fact that it simultaneously both worked and did not work as well as expected.


A fast-casual and drive-through restaurant chain, with the majority of its locations and headquarters, is based in Northern California.  The company desired to expand and chose the Dallas Fort Worth region as its main expansion focal point.  This is due to the influx of people and businesses moving into the DFW Metroplex area which meet their primary demographic audience.

There is significant competition for the type of food that they serve.  With that understood, one of their differentiators is to have a grand opening where they give away free food and offer some light entertainment (music, bounce house for kids, etc.).


Their belief is that free food, like it does for high school and college kids, is enough of an enticement to get people to show up.  From there they believe that the word-of-mouth should take over and help boost day-by-day traffic to the restaurant in conjunction with basic social media and real-world marketing:  coupons, flyers, direct mail, etc.

They asked me to help promote the grand opening event with various online marketing elements:  SEO, paid ads, free listings, etc.  The end result was their best turnout ever for a grand opening, despite the weather being less-than-ideal during a cold Saturday afternoon in February in North Texas.


In terms of what worked to promote this restaurant’s grand opening, from the online marketing perspective, it boiled down to three elements:

  • Targeted Facebook paid ads
  • Online event calendar listings via the classified ads
  • Dallas Fort Worth-specific “things to do” calendars

The clear winner, of the three, was the Facebook paid ad method.  Although people surveyed at the event mentioned the above 3 virtually to the exclusion of other methods, the Facebook paid advertising method was the best far and away.

Instead of paying to have people “like” the Facebook page, or paying to have them leave Facebook and be taken to another website, we crafted a basic post to go on the Facebook page.  It answered the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How” questions; and it had a graphic of the free food which would be given away that day.

In order to overcome resistance, we emphasized that the person didn’t need to bring any coupon or have to show anything at the event.  All that was required was to show up and eat free food.


We split test different ads to determine which would have the best “metrics”.  Unlike regular online ad metrics, paid ads in social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) have additional measurements of success which include:

  • “likes” of the post
  • shares of the post (the biggest one as it reaches people via a “tacit” endorsement)
  • post comments
  • clicks through to the website to get more information

Remember that the restaurant business, especially in a high-competition environment like Dallas Fort Worth, likely will draw people from no more than 5 miles and, likely, more like 1-3 miles.  In order to address this, we targeted the paid advertising to JUST the zip code where the restaurant’s location is.  This can be altered in your case if your location is near the line of two zip codes; but the restaurant in this study was in the middle of its zip code.

We then targeted the Facebook paid ad (promoting the SPECIFIC post on the Facebook business page) by this method:

  • zip code(s)
  • genders (we targeted both men and women)
  • language spoken (in this case, just English)
  • age range (we chose ages 30-40)
  • interests:  we chose interests based on those which would be “liked” or groups liked by parents with kids in the 30-40 age range.  These include local youth soccer, PTA, kids TV shows, etc
  • marital status:  we chose all, but your specific post could targeted those who are only “married”, “divorced”, “separated”, “single”, etc.
  • workplaces:  we did not narrow the list to those only working for specific companies, although you have that flexibility if you are running a Facebook ad promotion for those working for major employers in your area


The Facebook paid (promoted) post got shared/commented/liked over 700 times according to the paid ad stats provided by Facebook.  Based on predetermining percentages of those who took action, with those who showed up, the client and I figured that the efforts produced somewhere in the neighborhood of at least 250 people showing up as a result of the Facebook paid advertising.

The cost to have one person actually show up, based on the total ad spend, was around $0.80 (eighty cents).  The acquisition cost-per-new-customer was more successful than they imagined it would be.  In conjunction with their real world efforts, such as promotions at local schools and churches, the efforts led to a combined turnout better than they ever had at any grand opening in company history.


While the above is great, a case study wouldn’t be beneficial to you without understanding what didn’t work.  The following list doesn’t mean that these techniques are bad.  It just means that they didn’t work for this particular grand opening in February 2015 in the DFW market for the type of food being promoted.

  • Press release:  not enough distribution through social channels to reach the very-defined audience in one zip code.  The retail consumer’s ability to be accessed via basic online press releases (for just “free food”) is not newsworthy enough.
    • The press release DID WORK, however, in terms of ranking in the search engines for “XYZ food TOWN Texas” and “XYZ catering TOWN Texas”.  This gives merit to the press release strategy for getting new walk-in customers and catering orders months after the grand opening is completed
    • The press release has to be optimized for these phrases, however, so be sure that you know what you are doing
    • Link building to the press release helped the press release stay on top of the search engines.  Contact us if you need help with boosting your previous press releases for certain keywords in the search engines
  • Contacting the “things to do” people in Twitter for that town.  Even though this made good sense, it just didn’t work out as the people running those Twitter channels either didn’t care or weren’t given enough incentive to make repeat endorsements to their followers (which supposedly had hundreds from that town)
    • If your grand opening really has something newsworthy, like a famous band or pro athlete appearing, then these Twitter channel owners may help you; but otherwise their influence appears to be exaggerated
  • Using Twitter hashtags for the specific town
    • It just didn’t work for this case, despite 5 tweets all using the city’s most in-demand hashtag (supposedly)
  • YouTube videos from previous grand openings in nearby cities
    • Nobody seemed to care, as the view counts, despite being marketed to the new town just never increased markedly.  No comments/likes/etc. of the video from the previous city’s grand opening
    • This was weird as both the client and I thought that “social proof” (seeing other people having fun at a recent grand opening) would generate some anticipation of what was to take place at the upcoming grand opening.  It just didn’t work out that way
  • Relying on friends and employees to tweet, like, share the information.  Unless forced or paid to do so, the staff just “never got around” to promoting the grand opening’s “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How” information to THEIR OWN friends and family
    • This can be deemed “sad”, but it confirms the stereotype of the “employee mindset” when they have no vested interest in generating one new person to appear
    • Corporate office is rethinking the incentives on certain days (not just grand openings) to give employees a financial incentive to market to those they know; but that process is still in its infancy
  • QR Codes:  this didn’t work because the staff barely gave out the material with the QR code to those who attended early in the afternoon to “check in” or leave a review on Facebook which would entice friends to attend the event later in the afternoon.  The few who handed out the material couldn’t convey why someone should scan the QR code
    • This ties in with the employee mindset mentioned above
    • It also shows a lack of understanding by corporate office, as they realized later the power that QR codes can have on generating positive reviews on sites like, Yelp, and other review websites


Thank you for reading this far.  I want you to have an honest look at what did and did not work in this particular case study.  Some of the methods COULD have worked, but they needed more time or refinement; and, in some cases, they needed to give their own people more incentive to promote the event.

As for your upcoming grand opening or other event that needs online marketing to help increase attendance there are some takeaways:

  • Give staff some sort of incentive to promote the event
  • Free works, but not in all online media
  • Some methods, which you expect to work, will fizzle (i.e. the YouTube video of the previous grand opening for a city 20 miles away)
  • Hyper-targeted paid ads, even though they are paid posts, likely will generate a very low cost to acquire a new customer (client).  This has to have lots of planning beforehand, however, in order to maximize your ad spend
  • Sometimes an effort can generate business in the long term, even though it lost out in the short term
    • The press release is the example in this case

I hope that all of this helps you better understand the role of online marketing when having a live grand opening for a local business.  If you need help with any aspect, especially the paid ads, then you are welcome to contact us for strategy and/or implementation assistance.

The Merits Of Internet Marketing For Local Live Events

I want to thank Greg Smith for the opportunity to contribute a post to his website this week.  He was kind enough to let me share some suggestions and thoughts about the merits of incorporating internet marketing for local events, either free to attend or requiring paid ticket admission.  Here is the link to the article I posted:

Greg and I share some of the same thoughts about tiered link building, promotion of “Tier 1” properties as standalone landing pages and much more.  What this means to you is that, much like most local businesses only care about the phone ringing (or receiving e-mails from qualified prospects), whenever you promote live events you primarily care only about how many people show up to the event/game/show/etc.  There are over 20 online marketing methods to get the word out, and some offer you benefit long after the event has concluded.

Should you find the post to interesting then you are welcome to share it or visit more about our event marketing information and consulting here:

May 14 2013 Workshop – SEO For Properties Other Than Your Website

Next week (May 14, 2013) I will be leading a portion of an afternoon-long workshop regarding a rather unique element of internet marketing.  The topic will cover search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) for web properties OTHER than your own website!

Here is the breakdown of information:

  • Who:  Steve Smillie (Lynx Search Marketing) will be talking about your website’s design and your e-mail marketing + Mario Wilson (Market With Mario) will be talking about social media marketing.  I will talk about SEO for your other web properties (LinkedIn page, YouTube videos, etc.)
  • What:  3 events will take place that afternoon:
    • Luncheon
    • Workshop
    • After Hours Event
  • Where:  Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites (Fairview/McKinney).  3220 Craig Dr, McKinney, TX 75070.  Hotel desk phone is (469) 952-2044.  The hotel is on Craig Drive, south of Eldorado Parkway and west of Highway 75/Central Expressway
  • When:  Luncheon is 11:30 and the Workshops begin at 1:00
  • Why:  The common goal for each of the 3 speakers is to help any business owner or executive discover new ways to reach unknown (as of yet) prospects and convince them to contact the business for more information
  • How:  You can sign up at the event registration links here:
  • Price:  There is a fee for the lunch and another for the workshops.  All fees go to Networking University
  • Discount Codes:  Early1 is the code for the luncheon.  Member 1 is the code for the workshops.

Questions about all of the events are welcome to be directed to Debra through her contact information  at   You are welcome to contact me with questions about my portion of the workshop that afternoon.

Presentation From Aug 25 McKinney Chamber Of Commerce Luncheon

On August 25, 2010 I gave a presentation at the McKinney Chamber of Commerce’s WAM “Lunch and Learn” seminar.  The topic was on how attendees can begin to customize an internet marketing strategy which is best for their business/industry as well as their individual personalities.

If you would like a copy of the presentation, slightly revised based on the feedback from those who attended the event, then you are welcome to download  a copy here:

Should you like the presentation then you are welcome to send copies to friends and colleagues; or you are welcome to send them the link to this page.

Many thanks to Angie Bado, Cheryl O’Hagan, and Tara Stelluti for their invitation and encouragement.  I appreciate the opportunity to help and convey information which can help everyone’s business!

Also, thanks to Tammy for sponsoring the lunch AND for bringing her delicious food from home!

A final thank you to Jodi Ann, Beth, Becky, and everyone else from the McKinney Chamber of Commerce for their help and encouragement.  Your hospitality was terrific!

Should you like more information on internet marketing for your business, or if you need a speaker on this topic at an upcoming event, then you are welcome to contact me at your convenience.

Thank you, Matt.

Dallas Event Online Marketing

When talking with business owners and decision makers after the completion of Chamber of Commerce meetings, networking groups, and other Dallas area networking events, I notice that many of these people express frustration with not being able to get the word out about their open-to-the-public events.  Whether it is an annual event at a retail store, a golf tournament, a charitable event, a workshop, a small conference, or any other event open to the public these business owners seem completely at a loss as to advertising their events outside of the newspaper.

The beauty of today’s technology is that these decision makers now can post their events on various internet sites which will give the event more exposure AND syndication to more people who may be qualified.  There are several categories of sites designed to help increase attendance at these local events which are open to the general public.  For example, if a Dallas-area retail store wanted to get more people to its annual fall sale then it could:

  • promote the event via free and paid press release distribution services
  • promote the event on the online event calendar sites, which send the upcoming events to people’s e-mail addresses who have subscribed to receive these notices
  • promote the event on local review sites
  • promote the event on local classified ad sites which allow for event listings
  • promote the event on Dallas-specific sites which syndicate the content such as the event calendar on
  • promote the event on the business’ specific social media properties like Facebook and Twitter

There is an art to this process, especially if you are looking to “tag” your content with keywords which get large amounts of demand.  Several Dallas-specific keyword phrases relating to activities, events, and entertainment get thousands of searches each month; and it would be helpful to put your content in front of those searchers as well.  You can do this by promoting the event and/or your profile page on event sites  by using these high-demand keywords.

Should you need help with any Dallas-Fort Worth online marketing for your event, or events in any other area in the U.S., then please contact me to discuss how I can help.