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Breakthrough In Restaurant Marketing, Lead Generation

A new report highlights the switch from print coupons to online marketing, showing that American restaurants are turning away from newspapers and direct mail to the Internet to win new business and reach younger and more prosperous customers.

A review of online restaurant promotions shows that one-third of restaurant-goers now use the web to check out menus. The arrival of �virtual discount� coupons for meals is predicted to drive the number rapidly higher.

The humble, money-saving, discount coupon has apparently arrived in the online era. And many believe it promises to revolutionize the way customers choose where to eat in every sector of the restaurant market...just like it�s changed the way we find the news and do much of our shopping.

Coupons are used not only to bring in more diners but also as a key source of leads for future business, enabling restaurants to collect contact details and stay in touch with maintain higher volumes and increase profits.

The majority of coupons, offering customers annual savings of $331 billion, are currently printed and distributed with newspapers, but with redemption rates tumbling, the Internet is seen as a much more flexible and attractive discount route. This year, an estimated 2.6 billion coupons are available on the web, with online redemptions running up to 11 times the level of those from print.

In place of lengthy lead times, complex print management and costly logistics, the report says, the Internet allows restaurants to offer coupons instantaneously and at low cost. Customers simply find the restaurant discounts they want online, and print out the coupons at home.

Alex Makarski, outspoken editor-in-chief of Restaurant Commando, welcomed the new study. �This unique and rare special report provides the crucial data restaurateurs need to maximize their coupon campaigns,� he asserted.

One company in the vanguard of online restaurant couponing is rolling out a nationwide, city-by-city service allowing restaurateurs to manage their discount promotions in real time...effectively turning them on and off to control the flow of customers.

Restaurants simply log on to CouponCuisine, key in the details of their special offers, instantly generating up to five different coupons�for example to test new dishes or fill seats on a quiet night. They can show their full menu, link to the restaurant web site, control how many coupons are printed, change them as frequently as they want, and track details of who is looking at them and using them.

�It�s a massive marketing advance for the restaurant industry,� says CouponCuisine founder Nathan Gilder. �Instead of the shotgun approach of newspapers, restaurants using online coupons can target customers with precision and at low risk. If one offer doesn't work it can be instantly changed.�

Long-time restaurateur and consultant Troy Authement of Texas-based Strategic Profits is excited to see restaurant coupons on the Internet: �Having spent 24 years owning and running restaurants and three as a restaurant consultant, I believe services like CouponCuisine are the answer to attracting new customers and keeping current ones active,� he affirms.

Two interesting findings highlighted in the study are that middle and high income groups are among the biggest users of coupons, and that more than half of 20- to 30-year-olds use them. These groups are also among the most avid web users and a key target for restaurants.

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