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As Restaurants Recover, How Can Radio Help?

While the restaurant business has posted six consecutive months of increasing sales, it is not likely to return to levels seen pre-COVID due to changes in consumer habits, employment challenges and higher food prices. That's according to National Restaurant Association Senior VP, Research & Knowledge Group Hudson Riehle, one of two presenters during the Radio Advertising Bureau's Wednesday webinar, “Radio Works for Restaurants.”

The webinar's other presenter, Forcht Broadcasting's James England, Account Executive for the company's Somerset, KY stations – AC “Somerset 106.1” WYKY and adult standards WTLO (1480), which is simulcast on the Somerset-licensed translator W249DF at 97.7 – took that ball and ran with it. Citing recent successes, England explained how radio can keep restaurants top-of-mind with creative ad strategies that go beyond just the airwaves.

“We have to be better at what we do [and] understand the challenges restaurants are facing,” says England, one of whose clients is local chain Eubank Pizza. “Their business lives on shredded mozzarella cheese, and they were just telling me how much the cost of that has gone up.” As a result, he says, “they want to hire a marketer, they don't want to [just] buy ads. They have limited time [and] resources, everything is being stretched to the max on their end.”

When England noticed the eatery wasn't listed on Yelp, he went ahead and created one for them. “I ask business owners in general, not just restaurants, is your business searchable?” he says. “Tourists and locals are going to research your restaurant first before eating there. Usually, they're so appreciative because they had never even thought of that, there are so many other things on their mind. It establishes your credibility as someone who's there to help them market their business and not just somebody to sell ads.”

With Eubank's sponsorship of WYKY's morning show birthday shout-outs, with a large pizza awarded to one birthday-celebrating listener every Friday, England decided to go the extra mile. “I thought, how do we springboard off of what we're doing on the radio and be better than our competitors?” The answer: produce a birthday video customized with each winner's name to post on Eubank's Facebook page every Friday. “They get a lot of comments, shares and likes on that post, but he couldn't do that if it weren't for the radio campaign. I'm always trying to think like an owner or a customer: what would I do if I won the pizza and didn't hear that on the radio?”

For another client, Speedy Tacos, England added digital to their radio campaign, shooting a Facebook Live video to show listeners the items on the restaurant's new breakfast buffet. “Anybody can go on Facebook Live, but if we can help them do it better, they're gonna hire us to do it instead of doing it themselves,” England says. For Eubank, he added video to the audio ad copy to show listeners their double-decker pizza. “One of the things that we do a lot is take the audio we already have and just put a video to it.”

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