Marketing your Vegan Restaurant or Cafe – Ethics Attack – Medium
Marketing your Vegan Restaurant or Cafe
As veganism takes off around the world, there’s a plethora of businesses popping up to service the new consumer group. The most common among these are vegan restaurants and cafes. In fact, the vegan cafe has become something of a cultural cliché.
A friend once quipped, “My girlfriend studies at the London College of Fashion. She spends most of her times going to trendy, white girl vegan cafes.”
If you’re thinking about starting a vegan shop or restaurant, you’re going to need good marketing to get the ball rolling, and a great product to maintain the momentum. According to our experience and research, the biggest hurdle is getting vegans through the door. Once vegans in your area know about your establishment, word of mouth and repeat customers will usually take care of it from there.
Vegans, driven by goodwill and conscious consumption, are actually quite friendly and supportive. People are generally happy to support vegan and ethical businesses who’ve invested heavily in supporting their lifestyles. If you’re branded well enough, once they know you’re out there, they’ll almost always give you a try.
In Chaos, Opportunity
For vegan cafes and restaurants, our recommended strategy is to dominate your city, get every vegan in a ten mile radius to know your name, and claim the top-spot.
Veganism as a consumer preference is still young, and there’s still time to claim leadership positions before things solidify. This is the classic chaos to order transition. During the chaotic, early periods, it’s very easy to move up and down the ladder. As an industry matures, and things become more orderly, the hierarchy becomes more rigid. Chaos is ridden with opportunity, and staying ahead of the trends offers ambitious entrepreneurs a fruitful environment to excel.
Let’s dive into it. As with every brand, organization or company, you’ll have to build from the ground up. You wouldn’t invite friends over for a party if your house is a mess, and you definitely wouldn’t if you wanted them to keep coming back. As a vegan establishment, be sure that your branding is top-notch before you invest in marketing and advertising. Don’t launch unless your house is in order.
As humans, we see the average of what you give. If a photographer publishes one amazing piece, two mediocre shots, and one bad shot, what will the takeaway be? People will see the photographer as mediocre, because that’s the net average of what he’s produced.
Branding is a game of inches. If you want to be seen as top-tier, only publish top-tier material. Our agency offers free audits to ethical businesses, and I cannot tell you how often we see great businesses producing low-quality, unpolished content. Consumers only see what you give them, so don’t expect anyone to peel back the curtain if you’re giving your brand a poor image.
We always recommend people to find brand models they aspire to. Brand models can be in an entirely different industry. What matters most is that you love the brand, your target market will also love it, and you won’t produce anything lower than the standard of that brand model.
The very first step to constructing a world-class brand is creating a branding kit. As entrepreneurs, we’re tempted to jump into things right away and figure it out as we go. This gets us by for a lot, but branding, a precise game of inches, is the exception. If entrepreneurship and marketing is about running the furthest, then branding is about throwing a dart onto the bullseye.
A branding kit is a brief document setting policies on your color code, icons, logos, fonts, design, feel, slogan and appeal. All major organizations have a branding kit in place that dictates content and media produced, from IBM, to Amazon.com and the Swedish Armed Forces. Your vegan restaurant is no exception.
Start by finding some brand models with websites you love, and creating your own site that refuses to compromise on quality and appeal. You’ll also have to tackle store decorations, a logo, store-front signs, business cards and social media posts.
Luckily for us, vegans like to associate with other vegans. This is great news, because it means we can find our target market in one place. With your brand perfected and your target market defined, it’s time to start getting people through the door.
The very first step in marketing is defining your target market. “Vegans in my city” is a good start, but try to be more specific. We worked with a vegan cafe and defined their target market down to health-conscious girls with an international background attending a nearby university. Not every customer fit into this category, but 80% did — and these were the most reliable, profitable repeat customers. Yes, the Pareto Principle applies even for vegan cafes!
Create a layered target market diagram that you can refer back to. Your most broad layer might be “Vegans in New York City,” while your most specific layer might be “Women aged 20–28 studying at NYU and living near Washington Square Park.” The more specific your target market is, the easier it is to target them, and design a space for them.
Social media is the most effective way to get your message out to a targeted group of people. In fact, most cities have social media pages just for vegans. For example, as a vegan cafe in Melbourne, your target market is following any one of these Instagram pages.
You can reach out to these pages and invite them in for a free meal in exchange for a post, or collaborate with paid promotions. Another route would be interacting directly with their followers through what we call Engagement Marketing. This involves liking, following, commenting and DMing their followers from your brand’s Instagram account. This notifies them about your cafe, and some will follow you back and check out your store.
Engagement marketing opens up some really fun doors. A client of ours was targeting female students attending a nearby college. We followed, liked, and commented on nearly every girl’s Instagram account that was attending the school. What ensued was a massive buzz on campus about the new vegan cafe nearby. Girls were chatting about the trendy new shop that followed them, and were flattered by the personal interaction. The cafe became a hot spot for students in the area looking for a place to grab a healthy lunch after class, or stop by for a coffee in the morning. Because the branding and product was excellent, they told their friends and kept coming back!
Marketing involves a heavy use of human psychology. What will get people talking? What is quirky and eye-catching? What will make a buzz? Find out, and then do that. Do what P.T. Barnum did, and have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box with guerrilla and offline marketing.
Influencer marketing can be extremely powerful if done right! The ugly truth is that a significant percentage of influencers use fake followers and engagement groups to artificially boost comments and likes. When working with these influencers, you’re only reaching a fraction of their supposed followers. Be sure to choose wisely, and take a close look at engagement rates to verify influencers before working with them. While platform usage changes based on where you are, Instagram is the most prominent hub for vegans.
We’re a big champion of micro-influencers. Micro-influencers (7–15k followers) have a higher engagement rate than regular influencers, which is a metric used to measure engaged impressions on your promotion. The higher engagement rate, the more effective the post will be. To put this into context, you’d get the same exposure working with an influencer with 10,000 followers and a 10% (real) engagement rate as you would working with an influencer with 100,0000 followers with a 1% engagement rate (sans the social proof). Micro-influencers offer better targeting, and will often work in exchange for products. This is our agency’s secret weapon, and we run the world’s first ethical influencer marketing network at . You can scale this for an enormous reach.
Funnels & Growth Hacking
A funnel is a system that turns prospects into patrons. Whether you know it or not, every business, including yours, has a funnel.
This can be as simple as…
- Handing out flyers
- Customer walk-ins
- Repeat customers
- Word of mouth
Certain mechanisms allows us to squeeze exposure and sales out of your online traffic and in-store customers, maximizing our ROI. In B2B marketing, these are called “lead-capturing mechanisms.” In a B2C environment, we can break them down into two subsections: retainment and expansion. We can retain incoming traffic with funnel entry mechanisms, and expand the influence and revenue of current customers by tapping into their unique social capital.
Suppose we keep the same frame in place as the above funnel (which we wouldn’t), we could incentivize and optimize your funnel, using retainment and expansion, which would make the updated funnel…
- Hand out flyers in front of target market hubs (university, sports center, yoga studio) during peak pedestrian hours, offering a free juice shot for their first visit.
- When the customers enter with their voucher, serve the free juice shot and ask if they’d like anything else. After they order, tell them they can get 15% off their meal if they follow your cafe on Instagram (retainment) and publish it on their Instagram story (expansion).
- Offer extraordinary service, smile often, make conversation, and personally connect with your customers
- Run promotions, getting in touch with your audience by posting on social media, and incentive customers to bring a friend. This can be for a free coffee, treat or snack. Offer bonuses, and make your best, most social customers brand ambassadors. Incentivize positive reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp!, and OpenTable.
- Foster good will and become a pillar in the local community by hosting events, either during off hours or by staying open late. Depending on your brand and audience, this can be anything from a partnership with the local gym, a book reading by a local author, or an intimate talk from a plant-based doctor.