Toronto Expert Panel: How To Increase The Bottom Line With Restaurant Marketing

By on November 3, 2018

As 2018 starts to wind down, five local restaurant owners and executives were brought together on a panel last week to speak about how they have increased their bottom line this year, namely through high-impact restaurant marketing. This is an ongoing series put on by local event planner Ivy Knight and POS company, TouchBistro.

There was an all-star panel in attendance from the bigger restaurant groups to the thriving independents and each panelist gave their candid advice and raw learnings to form the perfect 2018 Toronto Restaurant Marketing Takeaways.




The Balance of Hiring Third-Party Agencies and Marketing In-house


Jessica Rodrigues spoke to how you need to be stable in-house before knowing how to leverage a third party effectively. Professional photos are important but sometimes very genuine photos of something quirky that happens with your staff or at your restaurant are things that might get more engagement from your followers – people crave authenticity.

Jessica mentioned that she usually relies on third-party agencies when they are opening a new location or when more technical marketing is needed such as paid Facebook advertising. Given that Facebook’s organic reach was 2.27% in 2015 (and now under 1%) and Instagram’s 30% a couple years ago, you need to pay for ads to increase reach and conversion and specialized agencies are experts in A/B testing and knowing what audience to segment and how to continuously improve the ad – boosting a post is NOT the same. Paid advertising is crucial if you want to use social media to increase business rather than just as a branding tool.


Adam Hijazi and Nick Baldassarre from Buca (Owned by the King Street Food Company) commented on their growing pains of needing to define the brand voice across all their distinct locations before they could get outside help. It will end up being more work than its worth going through countless brand voice revisions with a paid Facebook Ads agency if you aren’t clear on communicating what the limits are.

People are the Bottom Line: Attracting and Retaining Top Talent Wins


Most panelists covered this topic and Adam Hijazi from Buca wonderfully summarized the topic by saying that people are the bottom line and that money will always follow. This starts with deploying extreme empathy with giving staff preferential scheduling so they are happy at work and their energy properly transfers to your patrons who are the best marketing channels you will ever access!


Ashley Jacot De Boinod from Glory Hole Doughnuts talked about being on the brink of quitting when things got tough but thanks to her great staff and mentorship network, she stuck with it and recently got to open a new location. Hiring great people have also been the only way she has been able to expand as responsibilities have been shared and she has more smart brains to help her ideate on her growing base of 25,000 Instagram followers!

Social Causes are the best Marketing for loyal staff and raving customers


75% of Millennials care about whether a company practices social responsibility instead of just making a profit.


Ashley is also passionate about donating her time to local events such as George Brown’s Food Court Social which puts Toronto’s best chefs under one roof in support of those with mental health and addiction histories.


Suzanne Barr was best known for her previous venture, the Dinnette Restaurant which from day one had a social cause embedded in it – to diversify the kitchens with empowered minority women.

Giving back can also be done in very practical and frictionless ways. Local organization Mealshare adopted the buy one give one model popularized by Toms Shoes and lets diners at over 450 restaurants across North America give a meal to someone in need purely from choosing a select item at participating restaurants.


Local food waste app, Feedback App allows diners to get discounts as they pick up food that would have been thrown out anyways.


Audience Q&A:


Q: What tactics and channels give the best measurable ROI?

A: Jessica from The McEwan Group emphasized being good at tagging the right people and optimizing for the right hashtags at the right time are the first steps. However, those are very incremental improvements which will not yield any substantial short term gains. As mentioned, you need to invest in paid advertising used to target a very specific cohort of customers who have close proximity to your restaurant and have publicly revealed their affinity to your type of cuisine and even your competitors through their public profiles online.


Recent innovations like WiFi Marketing allow you to start to grow your database faster with first-party data which feeds into making your Facebook Ads more precise and allows you to craft monthly newsletters that add value and bring you an ROI of $38 for every dollar you spend (if done tactfully and without spamming people).

Q: What’s the ROI Of PR? Is it worth pursuing it?


A: Ali Khan Lalani from General Assembly Pizza (who graciously hosted the event) said that PR made them very busy for weeks but tapered off quite quickly so PR is great but cannot be relied on as your only marketing strategy. He also made the wise point that getting PR too early might bring people in with more heightened expectations than where your new staff and early products are – this is why soft launches are highly recommended until you have a well-oiled machine. However, when you are ready to make a splash, it can save you in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from what you would have to may media channels (see case study here).