3 Timeless Social Media Starting Points for QSR Brands

While the world of social media content continues to evolve, QSR brands can take comfort in knowing that are handful of deep-rooted principles hold steady.  Below are three timeless starting points for creating social content:

1.    Picture your post.

Between Instagram, Vine and even Snapchat, the trend of sharing visual content has increased within the past year and a half.  To maximize on this, QSR brands should consider the imagery used in social content, paying particular attention to the type of photos their fans are sharing and engaging with. Several brands, including Taco Bell, Dairy Queen and McDonald’s recently began using Instagram-style images on both Facebook and Twitter, not just Instagram, a trend that mimics the behavior of their fans.

QSR brands should also consider the shareability of an image; often times, an enticing photo of a food item is enough to trigger a response from a fan, so post copy can be kept to a minimum. A great example is this tweet from McDonald’s, featuring a short “Good morning!” message and an Instagram-style photo of an Egg McMuffin. The post was short, sweet and relatable; the food looks just like an Instagram photo you’d take and share yourself. The tweet worked so well, it was enough to convince a “Business Insider” blogger to immediately go to McDonald’s and purchase breakfast.


2. Create a social series.

Whether it’s a #ThrowbackThursday post every Thursday or a reoccurring image theme, such as Dairy Queen’s “Cake Truths,” social series are a great way for QSR brands to build on their editorial calendars, as once the framework is established, they’re relatively easy to maintain.

Series can be timely or seasonal, as long as they retain a certain amount continuity, so as not to confuse fans. Successful social series for QSR brands are often inspired by fan or consumer behavior, such as ordering habits or occasions for visiting the restaurant. 


3.    Be relevant.

Consider what’s happening in pop culture, Hollywood or online. Incorporating themes, trends, or even mentioning a specific cultural event helps QSR brands stay in touch with what their fans and consumers are most likely talking about, both on and offline.

The key here is to make sure the event, theme or trend overlaps and meshes well with the brand so the content remains genuine, and not like a grasp at staying relevant for the sake of staying relevant. A fun example from Burger King was a tweet referring to the season premiere of “American Horror Story,” a TV show with a lot of social media buzz and mentions.



QSR Insights: Mobile Ordering

Pizza Hut is nearing the end of its record-breaking year for online sales. This success dates back to 1994, when Pizza Hut launched “PizzaNet” online, which was so ahead of its time that many consumers did not quite fully understand how it worked. Pizza Hut has since been one of the leaders in digital ordering in the pizza category. It now offers mobile ordering through an app, and with digital sales amounting to nearly a third of annual revenue; Pizza Hut has passed the $1 billion milestone in 2014.

In a world of overstimulation, a mobile app is the secret to extending communication beyond the in-store experience. Mobile apps can be used to provide coupons and offers, build brand loyalty, and even to deliver branded content; but if consumers lean toward the convenience factor, a mobile app should also allow them to place an order.

The Starbucks and Chipotle mobile apps have had success in using mobile payment. Both allow their customers to place orders through the app so their food or drink is prepared upon arrival. Both apps have been largely successful with their respective consumers, and other QSR’s look to follow their lead.

Chick-fil-A is currently testing a new ordering app in six locations with hopes to rolling out nationally. Similar to the Chipotle app, Chick-fil-A is allowing its customers to find a location, order food and select a pick up time.

According to SmartBrief, only 22% of restaurants in the US have mobile apps. Keep in mind that not all of those are used for placing orders.

Sources: http://www.smartbrief.com/poll/12/10/13/does-your-restaurant-have-mobile-site-or-app#.UqpPSePZ-kA

Photo Credit: Flickr via  Selbe B


Dunkin Donuts Inspires Fans to Become Top Chef Through Google+ Hangouts

Dunkin Donuts turned to fans for its latest endeavor in social media. This sweets brand has been extremely involved in the social media marketing world this year, with a very active presence on Twitter and Vine. Now the brand has done something new with its first event on Google+ Hangouts. The live video chat platform was the perfect space for the brand to showcase its campaign with Bravo’s Top Chef.

Dunkin Donuts’ 38,000 Google+ followers along with other internet food enthusiasts were able to watch the brand’s executive chef, StanFrankenthaler reveal the winners of a contest Dunkin Donuts debuted on November 20th.  The contest asked fans to submit a photo of a recipe that incorporated at least one Dunkin’ Donuts menu item. The photo had to include the hashtag #DDTopChef and could be submitted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest through the end of November.

A significant amount of photos poured in from fans around the nation. Dunkin Donuts chefs then whittled down submissions to a total of six finalists. The winning entries were showcased in the company’s test kitchen, while Frankenthaler interacted with consumers on the hangout. Fans were encouraged to engage by tweeting to vote for the winner while interacting through Google+ hangouts.

 The results ended in a lot of very creative new donut recipes, with the winner being DDonut DDessert Nachos submitted by Jannine F. By utilizing Google+ hangouts in a unique and fun way, Dunkin Donuts took their classic donut to a new level. This level of fan engagement through contest and video chat is a great way to maintain fan loyalty and to gain new fans. This quick-service company’s innovative social idea showed the power of a successfully executed social media campaign.


QSRs Move Toward More Flavorful Options

Dining at a QSR isn’t about fuel anymore—it’s about experience. Customers are continuing to look for more adventurous menu options that are unique, inspiring and bring the heat. Subway, Taco Bell and Sonic are just a few of the companies that are listening to their customers and spicing things up.

Sriracha is the "hot" new condiment for QSRsThis week, Subway introduced the new Sriracha Chicken Melt and Sriracha Steak Melt, both topped with a creamy Sriracha sauce. The incorporation of the much beloved condiment helps to shake up Subway’s sandwich lineup.

This isn’t the first move toward spicier options for QSRs. Earlier this year, Taco Bell introduced its latest Doritos Locos Taco: Fiery, and Sonic added some more flavorful offerings to their sandwiches and burgers with the new Island Fire lineup. These menu items are tapping into the growing food trend of kicking up the heat that Millennials crave.

According to Food Fanatics Food Trend Tracker, this winter shows a shift toward South American and Southeast Asian dining trends. These foods are typically spice-based, right on target with the flavors consumers are seeking out, specifically flavors like Sriracha. In addition to that, QSRs are keeping an eye on theHeatSync index. Developed by Kalsec, Inc. in partnership with Mintel, the index tracks the usage of different peppers in the US and Europe and shows the increase in popularity of hot peppers used in consumer goods.

Traditionally the progression of a food trend has been a trickle-down effect from high-end dining, to fast casual, then finally to QSRs. With this new trend of hot and spicy food, there seems to be more of a trickle-up effect.  QSRs alone are leading menu innovation, instead of just jumping on the food trend bandwagon.

By watching general industry trends, QSRs can proactively create menu options that are more desirable than their fast-casual counterparts, allowing them to be the first to deliver on the experience and menu offerings people want.

Sriracha is the flavor of the moment, but consumers are constantly looking for the next big thing. So when looking toward future menu items think about:

  • Tracking food trends so your business can be more proactive during product development.
  • Look at past food trends to help predict future trends or flavor returns.
  • Take a look at your own menu to see where some menu items can be replaced with more tantalizing options.
Photo credit: Memphis CVB

QSR Insights: Starbucks Introduces Tweet-a-coffee

With Tweet-a-coffee you can send coffee gift certificates to friends.For coffee drinkers, purchasing and giving tangible gift cards might be a thing of the past. Starbucks recently introduced Tweet-a-coffee, offering users a new way to send $5 Starbucks Card eGifts to Twitter followers and friends.

Currently in beta and only available in the U.S., users simply sync their Starbucks account with their Twitter account, then tweet the following message: “@tweetacoffee to @[Twitter username].”

While users can reward their own followers with an eGift, they can also reward and surprise complete strangers, an aspect that falls in line with the “nurture, inspire and pay-it-forward” brand mission Starbucks strongly stands behind.

In 2011, the coffee company launched a similar program allowing users to send gift cards via Facebook. And while Starbucks has far fewer Twitter followers than Facebook fans (five million compared to 35 million, respectively), the brand isn’t concerned; “I think the two platforms complement each other,” Starbucks chief digital officer Adam Brotman told Mashable.

Brotman also commented on Twitter’s inherently mobile nature and its “ability to bridge both the online and offline worlds,” something QSR brands looking to launch similar programs should keep in mind. “It does feed into those physical offline/online moments of serendipity,” Brotman said.

The trend of sending gift cards via social media garnered most of its popularity when Facebook began offering branded gift cards this past February, with QSR brands Jamba Juice and Burger King among the most popular and most-given.

Finally, the Tweet-a-coffee program is an excellent tool for Starbucks to use to gather information about consumers.  Not only does this new program attract more users to download the Starbucks app, but it also allows Starbucks to gather email addresses and additional customer information. Tweet-a-coffee also allows the brand to become involved in the social media conversations.  This is a powerful way for a brand to be talking with the customer online opposed to just talking at the customer.

Photo credit: Elvert Barnes


QSR Brands Take Content Marketing to the Next Level

Guess what? Consumers know that they are being marketed to. In response to this heightened awareness, they’ve even begun to block out the traditional world of marketing. Their DVR has given them the power to skip television ads. They’ve become numb to banners when online surfing, knowing how to take in online information without becoming distracted. Instead of fighting this, brands need to embrace a new approach to marketing.

Content marketing is a technique of creating and sharing relevant and valuable content to attract and engage with a brand’s target audience. It appears less self-serving—it goes beyond traditional promotions and new product news. Instead, it’s content that is informative and entertaining that your customers truly need and want.

Many restaurant brands are already integrating this into their overall marketing strategy but only a few are doing it really well. The key to getting it right is first understanding your customers and their needs, as noted in a recent QSR Magazine article.

Joe Pulizzi, a content marketing consultant and founder of the Content Marketing Institute says many quick serves jump into content marketing and create content because there are so many channels available. “That is the worst reason in the world to create content,” he says. “You need to really figure out how each piece of content you create is going to help your customers improve their lives.”

Chipotle, the darling in the fast-casual world, best exemplifies brands that are embracing and succeeding with this approach. Ever heard of a little video called “Back to the Start” or “The Scarecrow?” These short animated videos have both been viewed over 7 million times online. The only mention of Chipotle was in the closing credits.

Beyond their success using videos, Chipotle just hosted their third annual Chipotle Cultivate Festival in Chicago, San Francisco, and Denver. The purpose of the event isn’t to sell more burritos but rather to encourage discussion about sustainability and food impact while promoting the efforts of local artists, culinary and beyond. From chef demos to family activities to indie rock performances, the event attracted tens of thousand of festival-goers.

“It’s important that any form of content marketing is used genuinely, rather than as thinly veiled advertising attempts,” says Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold.

So take a cue from Chipotle’s playbook, make it your own with your customers in mind first and foremost, and do so with honest intentions.


Insights Into the Evolution of the QSR Drive-Thru

Drive ThruDrive-thrus have been a part of quick service restaurants for the past forty years. While their importance remains the same, the focus of the drive-thru has shifted over time.

In the beginning it was about speed: how quickly orders were filled and how many customers were served during peak hours. Menus were simpler back then, making speed an obvious goal to have. But times have changed. Complex menus and the desire for personalized orders have caused speediness to take a back seat. But while orders might be filled at a slower place, they’re being filled more accurately.

QSR Magazine and Insula Research published this year’s Drive-Thru Performance Study, which revealed the slowest drive-thru speeds seen in a long time. The study has been an annual effort for the past 15 years and focuses on six well-known fast food chains: Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Krystal, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s, with one rotating brand, which this year was Taco John’s.

On average, speed showed a dip this year. McDonald’s experienced its slowest average drive-thru speed in the history of the study (189.49 seconds), and Burger King was the only brand to improve its speed of service this year.

This increase in drive-thru time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Speed may have decreased, but accuracy has increased. The study revealed that accuracy has reached 90 percent for most brands. Decreased speed can largely be attributed to more complex menus in the QSR world and customers’ desire to “have it your way.” Restaurants have made it a priority to make sure orders are being filled correctly the first time, which decreases speed but increases accuracy and overall satisfaction.

With 60-70 percent of business coming through the drive-thru lane, it’s important for brands to invest in drive-thru innovations to stay competitive and continue to give their customers what they want: an efficient way to grab a bite to eat that’s quick and accurate every time. The drive-thru experience is just as important as the in-store experience, so slow down and make each car feel welcome.

Photo credit: Ian Muttoo

QSR Insights: Falling Head Over Heels For Fall Flavors

As we enter the autumn months and the leaves begin to fall, customers begin looking to the QSRs for their favorite fall treats. The emergence of fall themed menu items has increased over the past years with pumpkin, apple and cinnamon dominating the fall palate.

Pumpkin Spice Latte is now a perennial fall favorite.

While apple is often associated with the fall season, more recently pumpkin-flavored everything has become the new favorite. According to research firm Technomic’s MenuMonitor, in August through November of last year, the country’s 250 largest chains introduced 105 pumpkin-themed limited-time offers, more than twice as many as the 45 apple items they put on the menu.

Starbucks brought back its Pumpkin Spice Latte for the 10th consecutive year this fall. McDonald’s has jumped aboard adding a Pumpkin Spice Latte to their latte menu and pumpkin pie to its dessert menu. Other QSR chains have followed suit: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts added a pumpkin cheesecake doughnut to its fall menu and Einstein Bros. bagels introduced a whole pumpkin line. We’re even seeing pumpkin ales and whiskeys growing in popularity.

Furthermore, the comeback of these fall flavors has become quite the event. For example, Krispy Kreme teased the two seasonal doughnuts on its Pinterest page two weeks before the items were available in stores.  We see this big buildup for these fall treats and the great disappointment when they disappear again. So what is it about that pumpkin flavor that people crave during the fall?  For one, pumpkin is a symbol of fall nostalgia and pumpkin flavor simply gets customers in the fall spirit.  The limited time only offering also has a great appeal.  Customers know that their favorite fall flavors won’t be around forever, which only fuels their desire to indulge in some pumpkin treats.

So how can a QSR make its pumpkin item different than all the others out there? Make it special. Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte has a truly devoted fan base and they accomplished this by  making the PSL a big deal. The chain lured consumers in by giving them a secret code, which allowed them to order a Pumpkin Spice Latte before its official release. Starbucks even created a $150 tumbler Swarovski crystals; they made 600  of the cups and sold out in 100 minutes. The PSL has its own Facebook page, is dominating Instagram and trending on Twitter: #PSL. Needless to say, the Pumpkin Spice Latte will be a hit for Starbucks again this year, assuming it doesn’t experience another shortage of product like last year.

Photo credit: Lorraine.


How Instagram Can Help QSRs with Marketing

Taco Bell on InstagramFood is an extremely visual experience. Even if something tastes good, we know that if it doesn’t have appetite appeal, it can completely halt trial.

Restaurant marketers are notoriously protective of they way their food is portrayed in photos. So it’s no surprise when restaurant brands first started having a social presence, content was simply repurposed from other traditional media. Many would use perfect-looking POP images and post them in social media. Thankfully now, many QSRs embrace real-life, or at least seemingly real, imagery. These new images are being taken at actual restaurants with a smartphone, not in a photography studio after perfectly crafting and lighting the shot for hours. These new photos are more relatable and often are closer to the real customer experience, allowing for a more authentic exchange with the brand’s social community.

Instagram is a popular photo-sharing app that allows users to take a picture, add a filter, and share it either on directly on Instagram or across other social channels. Many brands, QSRs included, have jumped on to this trend to show off their products in a new and different way. Currently there are more than 130 million active users on Instagram, with an estimated 59% of brands utilizing the platform. There are over one billion daily likes and over 45 million photos are shared each day.

Some of the top food brands on Instagram include Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts. These brands aim to capture a different, more personal side of their brand that customers can connect with. With the ability to add filters to images, the subject of the photo can take on different moods, thus helping to transform a picture of a burger or cup of coffee into a work of art.

McDonald's on InstagramInstagram allows brands to enhance their overall image and sentiment with product offerings and promote core values visually. Brands can curate content ranging from loosely brand-related to product-specific. By incorporating Instagram along with other social platforms, QSRs have the ability to show a completely different side of their brand to their established customers as well as potential customers through sharing via other social channels. These images can also be used as content on the brand’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.

QSRs can even see what fans are taking pictures of by using a tool like Statigram to track hashtags. This is another valuable way to see what your customers are photographing and sharing with their own followers on their social channels.

Some key takeaways:

  • Instagram allows brands to engage with users in a unique and personal way that helps to enhance online presence and strengthen social community.
  • Through Instagram, brands can drive traffic to other websites and social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc.).
  • Hashtags can be used to help brands gain higher search results and stay relevant in fan conversations.

Additional Author Credit: Stephanie Castro


Simply Measured


McDonald’s on Facebook

Taco Bell on Facebook

QSR Insights: The Story Behind Storify and Its Benefit To Brands

What is Storify?

Storify is a social network that allows users to create stories based on their conversations from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Users can drag and drop videos, photos, text and direct quotes onto a timeline to tell the web a compelling and engaging story.

The three-step process to creating your story:

Collect media from across the web: Create a shareable story from conversations your brand has had with fans online. Showcasing these social conversations is not only an ideal way to display brand/fan interaction to a client, it also offers a way to show the importance of strong community management.

Publish on Storify, embed anywhere: Once your story has been published you can embed the story anywhere. This is great if you want to publicize the success of a contest well done, showcase awesome fan engagement or if you simply want to share a positive fan/brand interaction.

Share, Share, Share: It is important to share these stories with fans and clients to build trust and it is a way to with fans in new, captivating ways, engage

Current brand value behind creating online stories:

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Storify has attracted several brands that are looking for new and unique ways to showcase their brand identity. With Storify, brands can now easily report on social interactions and chatter. This platform offers brands a new way to build an online presence. Whether your brand wants to collect user feedback on  products, curate content around a specific event or simply tell a significant brand story, Storify is a great platform to utilize.

Brands that are currently utilizing Storify include HBO, National Geographic, SELF magazine, Windows phone, people magazine and Mashable. Along with many others.Windows Phone posted a recent story covering the MTV Video Music Awards. This brand went out and captured this award ceremony with their new product the, Nokia Lumia 1020. The results were very cool.

Mashable Lifestyles also posted a recent story using Storify as a way to amplify their fan conversations and their social book club, MashableReads. Mashable fans took to Twitter and Facebook to comment about their new read and Mashable was there to respond and hone in on these fan comments. Through Storify Mashable pulled fan comments to tell this story of this read and promote their next MashableReads book.

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What this means for QSR brands:

This type of platform is especially important for QSR brands. To compete with ever-growing brand competition, these companies have to constantly be updating and showcasing their social presence. Storify will easily do this. QSR brands can show the success of a particular campaign or highlight new products or campaigns. It is also a great way to reward fans for being actively involved with the brand. By utilizing Storify, brands will further their fan relationships and develop a stronger online presence.

A brand such as Dairy Queen could utilize Storify to amplify fan conversations, reward active fans by creating a personalized story for them, promote new products, or to show the success of a particular event. Currently brands are only scratching the surface of Storify. Not only is this tool useful for sharing news stories but when looking a creative lens the options for QSR brands are endless.