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How to make the most of online advertising

Restaurant execs share best practices during webinar

Restaurant and Internet company executives gathered for a recent webinar to share best practices and business wins tied to online advertising, website marketing and social media.

Recaps of the panelists' presentations can be found in the Dec. 20 edition of Nation’s Restaurant News. (Subscribers can view the online version here.) A rebroadcast of the entire webinar, “Online Advertising 101,” which was presented by NRN and sponsored by Yahoo Inc., is available at

In addition to their presentations, the panelists answered questions from participants and moderator Alan J. Liddle of NRN. An edited transcript of some of the questions and answers follows.

The webinar panelist were:

Clay Dover, chief marketing officer for Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, a 100-unit, fast-casual chain based in Baton Rouge, La.

Michael Friedman, director of interactive marketing for Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants Inc., parent of the LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Seasons 52 chains

Stacey Kane, director of marketing for California Tortilla of Rockville, Md., a 37-unit fast-casual burrito chain

Lem Lloyd, vice president of North American channel sales for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo

Keith Sirois, chief executive of Big Boy Restaurants International of Warren, Mich., operator and franchisor of about 140 Big Boy family-dining restaurants and the new @ Burger fast-casual concept

David Tryder, director of interactive and relationship marketing for Dunkin’ Donuts of Canton, Mass., which franchises more than 9,000 restaurants worldwide

How will you integrate online advertising and social media into your total marketing media mix?

Friedman/Darden Restaurants: We definitely take a media-neutral approach. If the key is to go after a younger audience, obviously our tactics will skew to that, and you’ll see us be heavier in online and much heavier in things that are more germane to a millennial audience.

Tryder/Dunkin’ Donuts: 2011 for us is going to be about really starting to integrate what’s happening online — not only through advertising but also in social, mobile and even through our company website — and align that much more directly with what is going on with the local marketing calendar so we can best serve the needs of our franchisees and our businesses based on how they differ from region to region.

Dover/Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers: 2011 for us will be the first time we’ll actually sit down and integrate digital initiatives — online advertising, social media, etc. — as part of our [marketing] planning process. We are increasing our budget against our online and viral and social initiatives.

Have any of your companies integrated offers across online and, say, TV?

Friedman/Darden: We have not embraced the idea of putting “” at the end of a TV spot with the hopes of pretending that means it is integrated. For us, [marketing channel selection] is really about articulating the messaging to the desired audience.

How can you calculate the return on investment from online advertising?

Tryder/Dunkin’ Donuts: The primary way is through some media mix modeling methodologies that we have, where we actually compare the impact across all channels. How do you know what [online advertising] is doing for your business? We don’t, quite honestly. What we do know is engagement, so [ask] how much time are people spending with it? How many people are spending that time? How many people are actually searching for a Dunkin’ Donuts store location as a result of that activity? We have not cracked the code on ROI, in the traditional sense, but I think we’re comfortable that we’ve got some very important metrics across other measures that we can use.

Dover/Raising Cane’s: This is newer media and not as widely accepted and not as widely measured. I have challenges when I sit down with my chief financial officer and talk about return on investment. Some of my peers just look at it as a cost of dong business, and others can actually put real numbers and a value behind it.

Any successes with location-based advertising?

Lem Lloyd/Yahoo: I’ll throw out [as an example] McDonald’s in the Southeast. They are doing some really interesting things in terms of location-based buys and targeting just in certain designated market areas. [They] are shifting money and going dark on radio advertising and just doing online [ads]. Then they are able tie it [results] right back to the media spend with online. When you look at a large site [such as or] in the future, you will see content and advertising that really speaks to where you live.

How do you get people to your social media sites and generate content there?

Stacey Kane/California Tortilla: [We] first started building a Facebook fan base and [adding] Twitter fans via our Taco Talk [newsletter]. We just made sure it had links to Facebook and Twitter. The content is just questions we need answered and we’re always letting them [fans and followers] know what is coming up next. People weigh in with their opinions.

What is the most common way to leverage social media in your organization? Is it coupons or special offers?

Tryder/Dunkin Donuts: Quite honestly, most often it has nothing to do with discounts and nothing to do with promotions; it just has to do with being a value add to the community. [Guests, fans and followers] want to feel closer, like they are special, and social is a great place to be able to do that without having to constantly discount. We didn’t spend a dime in advertising in social for the first 18 months we were in it and grew our Facebook page to well over a million fans.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected].


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