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Fueled up or out of gas? How restaurants can serve up clever offers to customers that help counteract the rise in prices

Summer 2022 travel plans have been coming in hot – and it’s about time. In 2020, Americans stayed home. In 2021, they ventured out cautiously. While still cautious, they’re eager for an excursion. And most of them will be hitting the road: A Google survey found 72% of summer travelers plan to travel by car, and 80% of those travelers plan to make at least two trips.[1]

While they aren’t willing to sacrifice their long-awaited vacation, there’s no doubt consumers will be watching their wallets, as inflation takes a bite out of their budgets for everyday essentials. With the national average gas price rising north of $4/gallon – roughly 40% higher than last spring’s average – how can restaurants appeal to travelers who are both excited and budget-conscious?[2] The answer is relying on advertising tactics which brands and agencies alike say have been highly effective in attracting on-the-go consumers.

Travel is still on the menu for consumers

The great news is that even though consumers may be looking for ways to cut costs, getting out and about takes precedence.

Waze navigations to car rental locations were up a whopping 34.3% year over year in the first quarter of 2022, an indication that business and leisure travelers alike were on the go.[3] And navigations to gas stations were up 6.1% year over year in that first quarter, further supporting that premise.[4] On their itinerary? Leisure activities that had been out of reach until recently, according to Waze data showing navigations to culture and entertainment destinations up 55.7% year over year in that time period.[5]

And those figures are apt to further surge during the upcoming summer travel season. Over the last three years, Waze data shows a 61% increase in traveler navigations when comparing summer months to the beginning of the year.[6] Now is the time to prepare to welcome these hungry travelers.

Two wallet-friendly strategies to adopt now to reach on-the-go consumers

Despite this anticipated high demand, it’s wise to be cognizant of diners’ budget realities and help them temper the gas pinch. Fortunately restaurants have a variety of levers to pull to boost visits. Here are two vital strategies fellow restaurant leaders have found effective in winning market share.

Strategy #1: In-car and out-of-home advertising

The best time to reach a potential customer is in that moment of decision when they’re on the road. In a recent survey conducted by Restaurant Dive on behalf of Waze, 90% of restaurant brand and agency leaders said in-car advertising was effective for driving in-person visits to restaurant locations (with 40% describing it as “extremely effective.”)[7] This puts in-car advertising in line with other go-to marketing channels, including:

  • Social media advertising: 94% of respondents found this format effective, with 42% saying it was “extremely effective”[8]
  • Out-of-home advertising: 90% of respondents found this format (which includes items like billboards and bus ads) effective, with 42% finding it “extremely effective”[9]

The takeaway? Hungry travelers are looking for suggestions for convenient dining spots on their route or unique options near their destination. The best way to reach them is through messaging that can be consumed in transit, such as advertising through navigation apps like Waze.

“The survey results echoed what we’re seeing in our internal data and through conversations with restaurant leaders: They realize that reaching the on-the-go consumer is critical for boosting their bottom line,” says Mike Wilson, Head of Industry for Restaurants at Waze. “Waze Ads should be a key component of any restaurant’s advertising mix, especially during the summer months when customers are in unfamiliar areas and need that extra boost to raise awareness and promote opportunity.”

Strategy #2: Address key customer concerns to increase brand affinity

Savvy quick serve restaurants have seized the opportunity to tie their promotions to the recent gas price hike with creative messaging and offers that enhance goodwill.

For example, Krispy Kreme piloted a promotion that cut the price of a dozen donuts on Wednesdays to match that day’s gas prices, while Bojangles gave away $1 million in $10 gas cards to customers who purchased family meals.[10] [11] Meanwhile, Del Taco introduced a $2 value menu with exaggerated ads touting eggs that had risen to a “bajillion dollars,” along with gas prices stretching to”$5,333 per gallon.”[12]

“Restaurant marketers know a clever promotion gets attention – but one that solves a core problem gets action,” says Wilson. “Emphasizing value will spur purchase intention.”

All three promotions hit the nail on the head and also gave visitors something to talk about. Krispy Kreme helped customers feel better about their midweek donut habit by significantly reducing the price of a popular but discretionary item. Bojangles strengthened brand loyalty through helping their customers solve an immediate need. And Del Taco was able to get a laugh and still emphasize its low prices.

Convincing summer diners to hit the brakes at your door

Given the effectiveness of promotions in influencing consumers on the go, rising fuel prices represent a unique opportunity for restaurants to message offers that appeal to cost-conscious diners.

“Now is the time to harness the power of Waze’s 140 million monthly active app users,” Wilson says. “The crucial summer travel season offers the ideal opportunity to reach on-the-go consumers with in-app advertising.”

Wondering how Waze can help boost your bottom line? Visit our interactive dashboard to learn more about local trends and opportunities.

[1] Google survey, February 2022
[2] AAA gas prices. Accessed 6 April 2022, https://www.waze.com/ads/trends/
[3] “Category Trends.” Waze, Accessed 5 April 2022, URL, 2022. Accessed 5 April 2022, https://www.waze.com/ads/trends/
[4] “Category Trends.” Waze, Accessed 5 April 2022, URL, 2022. Accessed 5 April 2022, https://www.waze.com/ads/trends/
[5] “Category Trends.” Waze, Accessed 5 April 2022, URL, 2022. Accessed 5 April 2022, https://www.waze.com/ads/trends/
[6] Waze internal data, 2021
[7] Restaurant Dive survey commissioned by Waze, April 2022
[8] Restaurant Dive survey commissioned by Waze, April 2022
[9] Restaurant Dive survey commissioned by Waze, April 2022
[10] “Krispy Kreme ties doughnut prices to average gas price on Wednesdays to offer inflation relief.” USA Today, 13 April 2022, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/food/2022/04/13/gas-prices-krispy-kreme-donuts-dunkin/7300876001/. Accessed 4 May 2022
[11] “Bojangles Giving Away $10 Gas Gift Cards with Family Meals.” QSR Magazine, 5 April 2022, https://www.qsrmagazine.com/news/bojangles-giving-away-10-gas-gift-cards-family-meals. Accessed 4 May 2022.
[12] “Del Taco launches $2 value menu to lure customers fed up with inflation. Yahoo.com. 26 January 2022, https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/del-taco-launches-2-value-212216943.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cucmVzdGF1cmFudGRpdmUuY29tLw&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAM9J4GVtU66bUceeFrK2p3d59AJIFhzLG4-RVZCLiTeUOv0szJ8Wjz6NonLsKiwtQWvQD5vE1F59uwNHgBX5Di2mVz_aPWbWes4y8IszPqpo0NMjRCpMI8q_VLAPmvifbqPds5AyMDEAnnd0VFvroVtXwPjKuF9Atay1QEtX-Ftl. Accessed 4 May 2022

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