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How restaurants can reach visitors and locals on the move

Summer is gearing up to be an epic road trip season, with 71% of travelers saying they will rely on cars to get around this year[1]. In preparation, savvy restaurant owners are plotting how they can promote themselves to get in front of visiting tourists and local residents alike.

Here's what restaurants need to know to whet the appetites of on-the-go customers.

Road tripping is on the rise

The nation is ready to escape lockdown, with more than 70% of consumers intending to travel this summer[2]. That spells major dining dollars, as 96% of road trippers say they will stop for meals or snacks en route[3].

But how will they make their decisions on where to stop? The power of suggestion can be highly compelling, notes Waze's Head of Industry, Restaurants, Mike Wilson. Any restaurant can find success by using digital out-of-home on Waze to inform and remind travelers that their business is open, and on or near their route.

"Restaurants that have invested in prominent real estate need to take advantage of it," said Wilson. "While there might be four choices at a busy intersection, not all of them will be advertising their presence."

Cracker Barrel, for example, understands the importance of robust out-of-home advertising, and has long been known for its ubiquitous billboards that lure in hungry travelers for a satisfying meal.

As Cracker Barrel continues to invest in digital advertising, the company is seeing positive results. "People are increasingly out and about; we want to make sure we can reach them through on-the-go channels," said Julia Perry, senior director of media and digital marketing at Cracker Barrel. "We see Waze as a really important part of that, and a complement to our outdoor advertising."

Locals want in on the action

While restaurants are likely to see an influx of visitors and out-of-towners this summer, locals will remain a steadfast consumer audience.

Restaurants are also finding that people continue to engage in flexible commuting patterns, even as some folks return to pre-pandemic routines. "We're encouraging our clients to re-imagine how and when they message because consumers have a different mindset concerning when they eat," said Wilson.

With newly-revised schedules, workers are no longer tied to a specific lunch hour or the most convenient dinner option as they leave their office. "Restaurants need to expand their thinking beyond time-specific advertising," said Wilson. "The ability to reach people at opportune times has definitely widened."

Touting options like curbside and drive-thru can help bring diners to the door, especially as indoor dining capacity regulations continue to be in flux. In the past year, the share of trips to businesses with drive-thru options jumped 25%[4], and Waze found a 35% increase in engagement with brands who implemented the "curbside pickup" or "drive-thru" Location Personality badges[5].

A steady stream of messaging promoting various dining options can help keep a restaurant's location top of mind. "We believe there is a halo effect in seeing advertising that invites you to enjoy Cracker Barrel for curbside, pickup or delivery," said Perry. "It also prompts guests to think about dine-in if that's the most convenient option for you."

Capture every dining dollar

As people shift toward a return to normal, restaurants will play a key role in enhancing consumers' desire to embrace travel and in-person entertainment. And they are finding that Waze is a useful channel to promote safe, convenient options and help create excitement and anticipation. As Perry said, "We want people to crave the experience of being cared for by Cracker Barrel," and digital out-of-home advertising drives the message home.

This article was created in partnership with and originally published on Restaurant Dive.

[1] Google Consumer Survey, March 2021.
[2] Monthly Travel Recovery Data Report. U.S. Travel Association, 29 April, 2021, URL, Accessed 1 May, 2021.
[3] Google Consumer Survey, March 2021.
[4] Waze Data, Jan/Feb 2020 vs Nov/Dec 2020.
[5] Waze Data, 2020.

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