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.

Increasing Revenues By Looking At Your Business Differently

If you are looking to increase top-line revenues for your business then you can do so in a number of ways, primarily by:

  • increasing more first-time customers or clients who found you without any referrals
  • increasing more first-time customers or clients who were referred to you
  • increasing the size of the average transaction per customer
  • increasing the number of average transactions per customer
  • finding brand new revenues “hidden” within your business or industry

It is that last line item I want to discuss today in order to help you and your business become more profitable.  Some of you know that I have a background in the professional independent baseball leagues (some know them as the “independent minor leagues”).  I was a bullpen catcher, a player, a team official and a league official; and I maintain a few websites dedicated to various aspects of this subset of the professional baseball industry.  Most of these teams are operated by owners and front office staff, as well as league officials, operating under the mindset that, in order to be profitable, the teams primarily must focus on being “local, affordable, family-friendly entertainment.”  This model, however, does not work in all markets even when the owners and front office staff members are ethical, hard-working, and dedicated to make their teams successful.

In recent weeks some national attention has been given to these teams which are failing to pay vendors for months, have players living in substandard situations for minimal pay, and others which have to fold their operations due to not selling enough tickets and sponsorships.

When you have a moment, please take a look at any/all of these 3 blog posts:

Inside each of these articles may be some ideas which serve as a catalyst to help you think about new ways in which your specific business can become more profitable.

This website is called MORE THAN SEO, and it was chosen for a few reasons:

  • many business owners and executives are being sold “SEO” services multiple times each week, some of which produce questionable results
  • these services often keep the business owner “in the dark” and not explain why something is being done
  • to be good at SEO requires a mindset that often is different than an executive or owner has; and not conveying why something must be done often causes problems
  • SEO is just one way to get targeted first-time customers or clients.  Other ways include all forms of online paid advertising, social networks, social news sites, video marketing, and many more

While I love SEO because it suggests a hyper-targeted searcher can find you, it is not the only way to help you increase your profits.  Therefore I have to offer more than just SEO, hence the name.

By the same token, to increase profitability you may have to look at your business’ growth as being MORE THAN JUST getting another customer or client.  Here is an example:

If you run a local, hamburger established serving families with young kids then you have to acknowledge that your customers are also likely to grill steaks and burgers at home.  While you want them to come to your restaurant 100% of the time they think about red meat, it just won’t happen!

One way to improve revenues in this example is to produce helpful content (e.g. articles, videos, images) which could give tips on grilling techniques.  Your chef could suggest a certain type of grill, grilling accessories, or suggestions for the types of plates which help maintain flavor and temperature the best after grilling.

These pieces of content could be distributed to your customers when they show up at the restaurant (QR code invitation, request to join e-mail newsletter, etc.).  You also could ask your customers to share the video/PDF/article through their e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other channels.  Embedded in the bottom of that content could be an affiliate (tracking) link where people, anywhere in the country, can click that link and order the suggested item(s).  This way friends and family members of your customers who live outside of the area now have an opportunity to put money in your pocket 365 days a year.  This is because you would earn a small percentage of their orders before shipping costs.  By giving away helpful content which does not harm your premium product/service, you can expand your awareness (leading to first time customers) AND you can start to produce some additional profits for simply directing people to a place to order relevant items.

The above example is similar to suggestions I already have made to several independent baseball team owners.  Some of them are starting to understand that they can increase profits, and possibly increase attendance next season, through giving away helpful content.  You can read the articles listed earlier and begin to look at your business differently.  Obviously, you do not want to minimize your main revenue models; so just borrow principles and ideas from the pro sports world to help you grow your business can help you to complement or supplement your current business model.

Feel free to contact me with your questions.  If you want help for your specific business then please contact me through the contact form, and we can arrange a time to help you expand your business with strategies customized to your specific needs and regulations.  Thank you for your time and you are welcome to share this post with anyone you know who might find it helpful in some manner.

Local Businesses Accepting PayPal From Mobile Phone Users

Here is a recent article about mobile payments being made with greater regularity:

One of the emerging trends which can help local small businesses gain more revenue is the ability to accept forms of payment which are:

  • trusted by the customer
  • easy for the customer
  • are “synthetic currency” to the customer, therefore increasing the likelihood of a larger-than-normal purchase or willingness to accept additional up-sells at the time of purchase


An easy way in which a local small business, including everything from a local pizza restaurant to a local boutique clothing store to a local sports team, can increase its revenues is to accept PayPal.  This is especially true if the end customer tends to have a balance on PayPal, thereby increasing the likelihood of the money being spent.  This is because, at the time of purchase, the transaction is not being made either in cash or with a credit card; and this likens the transaction more toward how an adult views his/her balance in a casino with the chips.  At the time of the transaction, the customer may be willing to spend more because it is not something which seems to “feel like” real money is being spent.

Consider the following example if you owned a local pizza shop:

  • Teenagers want to eat pizza.  This is about as obvious an example of a “hungry market” as I could select!
  • Teenagers need money from Mom and Dad, so they ask for money to spend on a Friday night
  • Mom and Dad don’t want their child wasting money or spending it on items which are deemed inappropriate
  • Mom and Dad also wish to teach the teenager about spending habits, so they want to track where their “hard earned money” goes
  • Mom and Dad put $25 on the teenager’s PayPal account so that Mom & Dad can track the spending
  • Teenager has a Smart Phone or other mobile phone with internet capability
  • Teenager goes with his/her friends to the pizza place which accepts the PayPal
  • Teenager uses phone to buy pizza, via PayPal
  • Teenager may buy an extra slice or a drink for his/her friend because the other friend doesn’t have money that particular Friday night
  • Mom & Dad consider pizza purchases an “appropriate” purchase when tracking the spending

Obviously, the local business owner and management have to consider a few factors:

  • Making sure that the business is comfortable with PayPal’s transaction rates & fees
  • Making sure that the business is comfortable with PayPal’s chargeback rates, the overall terms & conditions, etc.
  • Training staff to confirm that PayPal transaction, indeed, did put money in the business’ account
  • Having a system in place to take PayPal transaction data to integrate into the business’ bookkeeping and accounting & tax systems


One extra benefit to this is that local nonprofit organizations can accept donations in the same way.  By accepting mobile phone donations on PayPal at the time the people are in a “giving mindset”, the organization can increase on-the-spot donations.  Assuming that prospective donors have a positive balance on their PayPal accounts, this should enable organizations to actually begin to get tangible results (in terms of donations) from all of the live events which they attend.  These could include Chamber of Commerce events, live events put on by the organization, booths set up at local fairs and festivals, etc.

Each business will have to weigh the pros and cons of whether or not to accept any form of digital currency & transaction services (PayPal included) in its business going forward.  To being the process of determining whether or not it makes sense for you then click the link below and then click the “Business” tab.  From there you can get information pricing, having a “virtual terminal”, and more:


Sign up for PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly.