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The Power List

Marketing leader Dan Bejmuk offers advice on smart restaurant influencer campaigns

Get tips on the right — and wrong — way to build an influencer campaign.


If you’re not taking social media influencers seriously, you should reconsider that position — particularly as it relates to your restaurant marketing efforts.

Influencers and other creators have proved to be adept at building large followings and knowing what kind of content their audience responds to. That makes them the perfect vehicle for sharing about your restaurant concept — if you know the right way to work with them.

NRN editor in chief Sam Oches spoke with Dan Bejmuk, cofounder and CEO of marketing firm Dreambox, to find out more about why restaurants should consider influencer marketing, plus some do’s and don’ts in building a campaign.

This interview was edited for clarity. Stream the podcast above for more.

What is the right way to leverage an influencer to support a restaurant brand today, in your opinion?

It is genuinely one of the most cringe-worthy dynamics that we see, and we see it a lot, where you'll have a brand that wants to partner with an influencer and wants to tell the influencer how to create content. Let's pump the brakes a little bit here. The reason why we're recommending this influencer is not to tell them how to communicate to their audience. They've done that. They've developed a following. Our job is to make sure that we can provide the pairing between the brand and the influencer and the influencer's audience in a way that is authentic.

What TikTok has really done so far is really challenge people to be authentic. You think about Instagram and how polished so much of Instagram content is, that's kind of the name of the game: polishing and presenting an image that is so aspirational that people look and say, “I want that.” You look at something like TikTok, where authenticity is so real and anything that isn't authentic, people just skip right past it. And that's the key from a collaboration standpoint. It’s my plea to every marketer alive: When partnering with an influencer, we need to make sure that they understand what we do and why our brand is distinct and special and who our audience is and what matters to us and why we want to partner with them. Having that transparent conversation, I think, really helps put everyone on the same page.

What are some things you would suggest to restaurant brands for finding that right influencer?

One of the ways that we find influencers is an influencer comes to a brand and they are such fans already that they're putting their own content out before we've even spoken to them. We don't need to show them why this brand is special. We just want to give them a platform to be able to really amplify their message. That's one piece that's certainly extremely helpful: When there is talk of an influencer coming in, be extremely prepared, potentially have additional eyeballs on what may happen while they're in the store.

When you have people that have an affinity for a brand, that's remarkable. As brand marketers, we're always trying to reinforce this notion of, “These are my people.” Well, if we have someone that's already a fan of our brand, we're already 10 steps ahead since we don't need to try to match an influencer with a brand that they may not have any interest in.

What kinds of resources should brands expect to commit to influencer marketing?

I don't think that we can talk about influence without talking about the Keith Lee Effect. You look at Keith Lee, a guy that comes in with 15 million followers on TikTok, he comes into small independent restaurants and he's an honest guy; if he loves the experience, he'll share it. If he doesn't love the experience, he lets you know. There's a being-ready-for-what-could-happen perspective, from being buttoned up operationally, from being able to make the experience for everyone better. But then looking at, what happens if things don't go great? What are we going to do about it? Then you get into the reputation management, risk mitigation component.

A lot of this comes into making sure that we've got our A team on staff that day, making sure that from a food prep standpoint, that this is something that's being made to spec, that we have items that are being turned around quickly enough that the influencer isn’t waiting. If there's any reason for them to complain, they're going to, and that's the risk that we take. And so being able to tee them up so that they can have something that they walk away and they feel as though we've really rolled out the red carpet for them — those are elements that we really see being successful.

How might influencer marketing help restaurants turn their traffic around?

You look at different elements in a restaurant's life cycle where you have manufactured guest traffic. The grand opening is a great example: You've got a few months after opening where you see how you’re performing, and then reality starts to sink in and it could mean a whole bunch of soul searching around what you did during the grand opening that made it so big. A lot of that was the grand opening itself — the fact that you have something that's new, that people can come and try it.

One of the absolute components that we see as so fundamental to this is when those moments happen — and they may be manufactured like a grand opening, they may be something that's influencer driven — is seeing how these can remain sustainable. How are we going to retain these guests? Are we going to continue to invite them back in? What are we doing from a profitability standpoint to make sure that when they come in, they are making us money?

Contact Sam Oches at [email protected].

TAGS: Marketing
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