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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 5th Sep 2014 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: The attraction of Nando’s, fags, booze and junk food and capturing mobile customers
Authors: Martyn Cornell, Paul Chase and Matthew Kirby

Why Nando’s attraction will last longer than Five Seconds of Summer by Martyn Cornell

There are few demographics more fickle than young teenage girls – if you are a music act. Until earlier this year every 15-year-old female was mad for One Direction, and its floppy-haired young Midlander leader, Harry Styles. Today, pfah, 1D are dead, and for any girl born within a year or two of the Millennium, all loyalties have been switched utterly to another bunch of pretty lads, who go by the name of Five Seconds of Summer.
If you are in the hospitality business, that might make you regard the young teenage market as not worth bothering about: their tastes are still unsettled, they flit like butterflies from fad to fad – and they don’t have much money anyway. But one brand has succeeded in making the young millennial market its own domain: Nando’s. Take a trip through TripAdvisor and see what customers say about the chain – “noisy teenagers on almost every table” (Nando’s Southend); “Feels like a staff canteen filled with teenagers” (Nando’s Falkirk); “Teenagers love this place” (Nando’s Ipswich); “always full of teenagers” (Nando’s Shrewsbury); “typical clientele, usually groups of teens” (Nando’s Victoria, London); “an ideal hub for teenagers” (Nando’s Slough) “Popular with the teen to early twenties crowd” (Nando’s Basingstoke); “caters very well for teenagers” (Nando’s St Helens); “usually full of teenagers” (Nando’s Worcester); “where teenagers go on first dates” (Nando’s Paradise Forum, Birmingham); “Do not understand why my teenagers rave about Nandos” (Nando’s Leamington Spa) – you’re getting the picture.
So what is it about the peri-peri chicken chain that brings in the under-18 crowd? I discussed this last week with Paul Flatters, chief executive of the research company Trajectory, and his colleague Tom Johnson, and their conclusion was that it was a mixture of strategy and tactics: partly a very clever use of social media, which is vital with a generation that finds being attached to the internet via its mobile phones more essential, almost, than breathing, and partly a cleverly pitched offer that appeals to a group still young enough to be quite shy in the more formal atmosphere even of a PizzaExpress or Zizzi’s, but aspirational enough to reject McDonald’s or Burger King as a place to hang out.
“The Nando’s offer is built around a combination of price point and quality,” Johnson told me. “There are some key things in the service at Nando’s – the free soft drink refills, the fact that it’s a kind of fast-food hybrid, you go to a counter, which teens are more comfortable with than waiter service, it’s an introduction to eating out.” McDonald’s, the suggestion is, feels cheap: in Nando’s, at 16, you can go in with your friends and feel like a grown-up. The food choices – grilled chicken in a wrap with salad, for example – almost subconsciously appeal to a generation that has had the importance of healthy eating hammered into it. And Nando’s has won a reputation as the place where teens’ pop heroes – One Direction, Ed Sheeran – are happy to eat, with stories about which celebrities might hold one of the legendary Nando’s “black cards”, that supposedly gives the holder unlimited free Nando’s chicken for themselves and five friends.
Whatever the truth about the black card, Nando’s communicates extremely well with its target teen audience: “They’re really good on social media, they’re really good on Twitter and Facebook, where their audience sits: the way they communicate is a lot to do with their popularity with that age group,” Johnson told me. Nando’s has nearly three million followers on Facebook – over 1.4 million more than the brand in second place, TGI Friday’s. Importantly, Nando’s is one of the less frequent tweeters among food and beverage brands, but it looks for opportunities to make its tweets add value: last month one Twitter user called Sakimamusic tweeted: “Sitting at home eating @NandosUK and watching Star Wars. #rockon At least my chicken tastes good”, and was doubtless stunned to get a personal tweet back from Nando’s saying: “May the sauce be with you!” Its promotions encourage proactivity on social media while customers are actually in an outlet, like its recent “Finger Selfies” campaign. As the American website Sendible commented: “Proactive responses are viewed as authentic engagement rather than obligatory service, and it’s that kind of interaction that creates brand loyalty.”
Above all, Nando’s seems to have realised that while older generations may look askance at Millennial teenagers’ apparent obsession with staring at their mobile phones, much of what is happening on those screens is to do with social networking, networking that teens then carry on into physical space; and a Nando’s restaurant provides a warm, welcome, reasonably inexpensive space for teens to meet those they socialise with online. Social media interactions are “about reinforcing friendship groups that exist off-line,” Johnson told me: “There’s an idea that this generation are ‘cocooning’, surrounding themselves with screens, hardly ever going outside. We’ve done a lot of work on the leisure habits of young people over the past couple of years, looking at how people spend their time, doing extensive work for Greene King on the future of leisure over the next ten to 15 years, and we disagree entirely with all that. Our thinking chimes quite closely with some of the ideas developed by [the Spanish sociologist] Manuel Castells about the ‘digital third space’, where time spent outside is directly informed by conversations people have on-line. We found 90% of people’s social media friends lived within five miles of where they lived.” And if they have a Nando’s within five miles as well …
Martyn Cornell is managing editor of Propel Info

Fags, booze and junk food by Paul Chase

Back in my youth if you were opposed to capitalism and profit you would join a political party that explicitly advocated a different way of organising the economy and society. If you were not merely hopelessly idealistic, but positively deluded, you would join a far-left group dedicated to revolution, the sort lampooned in the famous scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian that featured the People’s Front of Judea and its various splinter groups. But then we saw the collapse of the Soviet bloc. It was widely believed at the time that the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union meant the end of ideology. Don’t believe it. The collapse of the communist alternative to capitalism may have left a lot of ideologues bereft of an ideology, but they quickly found a new one: public health.
An unprecedented level of lifestyle regulation is what the New Public Health Movement (NPHM) is all about. Smoking was a battle they thought they had won until the private sector created e-cigarettes. The advent of this new and much safer nicotine delivery system caused panic among NPHM activists. And it has smoked them out (no pun intended). If their “cause” was to save us from the carcinogenic contents of tobacco smoke then they would welcome “vaping”. But recently the WHO has called for the smoking ban in public places to be extended to e-cigarettes. Of course it makes sense to regulate the content of these devices, but to seek to demonise them as likely to lead people into smoking cigarettes when the vast majority of vapers are people seeking to quit smoking, represents the most empty-headed type of Puritanism.
As regular readers of my blogs will know, my view of the ongoing campaign of the NPHM to demonise and de-normalise alcohol use is that it is driven by a similar desire to regulate lifestyle. The Licensing Act 2003 awoke the temperance beast, and alcohol policy has been fuelled by moral panic ever since. The focus of anti-alcohol campaigners today is the effect of alcohol on public health. But it is worth remembering that the “24-hour drinking Act” beloved of the Daily Mail was initially attacked on the basis that it would create a wave of violent crime and disorder. The Office of National Statistics data has found that violent crime linked to alcohol has fallen by 32% since 2004 and by 47% since 1995. So, what was a long-term trend of falling alcohol-related crime that began ten years before the Licensing Act 2003 came into force in 2005 has actually accelerated since the Act’s introduction!
If attacking “Big Alcohol” was the “second front” that the NPHM opened up after its campaign on smoking, then “Big Food” is the new bad boy. The latest manifestation of this particular moral panic is the assertion by the professional body representing GPs that we need an emergency taskforce to tackle childhood obesity or “an entire generation will be destroyed by a diet of junk food and sugary drinks unless urgent action is taken.” The taskforce, we are told, would be similar to the government’s Cobra panel, which deals with terrorism and natural disasters, and would tackle the “rising epidemic of childhood obesity”.
Dr Richard Roope of the Royal College of GPs said “For the first time, we have a generation of patients who may predecease their parents.” Of course, doctors see the most extreme cases, but the fact that average life expectancy is increasing is undeniable. The Office of National Statistics predict that a boy born in 2010 has a life expectancy at birth of 91 years and 6 months; a girl 94 years. Without wishing to minimise the problem here we should not succumb to this blatant attempt to create an alarmed public opinion, an attempt that has much in common with the NPHM’s attacks on smoking, vaping and drinking.
In fact consumption of calories, saturated fats and sugar are all falling:
• Daily saturated fat consumption per person has fallen from 50gm in 1974 to 32gm in 2012
• Daily carbohydrate consumption per person has fallen from 313gm per person in 1974 to 245gm in 2012
• Daily intake of sugar per person has fallen from 132 gm in 1992 to 112gm in 2012
The coalition government’s response to the NPHM’s attempt to create a moral panic over food is to point out that childhood obesity has fallen to its lowest level since 1998.
So what do all these campaigns have in common? I come back to the question of ideology. The New Public Health Movement and its campaigns are vehicles for opposition to capitalism and profit. What distinguishes this movement from the public health movement of the past, is that “public health” is no longer seen as being about promoting measures that would eliminate disease, but rather it is seen as a set of organising principles around which the whole of society should revolve. Ever-increasing regulation that would strangle business is seen as the way forward. Just because these people fell out of love with communism, does not mean they fell in love with capitalism.
Paul Chase is a director of CPL Training and a leading commentator on on-trade health and alcohol policy

How to capture mobile customers by Matthew Kirby

It was my father’s 87th birthday, so as a treat I took him out to lunch close to where he worked for 30 years in the City of London. The only thing he had to do was catch the train from suburban Shenfield to Liverpool Street, something he had not done for nearly ten years. When I met him at the station he described the – to him – bizarre experience of boarding the train, then watching all the passengers in his carriage take various devices out of their pockets and handbags, and spend the next 30 minutes typing into them until they reached Liverpool Street station, never once looking out of the window or engaging in our pre-mobile national pastime of trying to avoid eye contact with our fellow passengers.
Sounds familiar? I thought it was a great example of how there is no longer any downtime, as mobile becomes the new normal for so much of our communication.
The growth of mobile use has a direct impact on our businesses. So how best to tackle the challenge of meeting the customer’s desire to have real-time social engagement? First, a few facts. Social network adoption in the UK looks to be largely over, as new user growth is set to slow to a near standstill by 2018 according to the new eMarketer report “UK Social Networking Trends”. What growth that does remain is coming from users expanding their social network activity to mobile devices. The proportion of UK social network users who will access their accounts via mobile phone will continue to increase substantially throughout the forecast period, rising from 75% in 2014 to 90% in 2018.
As UK consumers move their social networking behaviours to mobile, operators and marketers need to think about how they can move their efforts along with them. There are still pub, cafe and restaurant operators out there without mobile response-enabled websites, yet over 65% of all web searches in the UK now use mobile devices. Getting your operation geared up for mobile response is a matter of urgency. It does not have to cost a crazy amount of money. A basic mobile-friendly site can be done for £2,000 to £3,000 or less. Remember, over 80% of searches are for location, opening times, and bookings, not for pretty pictures of your wonderful food.
In the past I have spoken about the danger of throwing too much resource into the social media money pit. But ignoring it is just as dangerous, so I am going to attempt to suggest ways you can try to manage the social engagement without blowing a hole in your marketing budget.
I always like to start by asking what the customer wants. Given that feedback is seen as the key benefit of social media, it is a reflection on the new world of digital that a recent survey by Hubshot said that 72% of customers said they expected to hear back from an operation they had sent a question or complaint to within an hour. Customer expectations have changed and operators need to meet the real-time demand. 
However, the reality is that nobody in our industry has the resources of Nestle, Heinz or other such consumer brands to meet these expectations 24/7. My recommended tactic is to use the 80/20 rule, as most of the complaints or questions from customers come at certain times of the day. Depending on the day part, most social activity comes just before and shortly after the main service periods. Allocate resource to respond during these times and you will probably be able to please most of the people most of the time. That will not stop the odd disaffected customer who wants to rant at 7.30am, but most of your enquires/questions will come in the periods 11am to 12pm and 5pm to 7pm, while complaints land during or shortly after service peaks. Thus you should resource the business to meet this demand. One of our clients felt they were getting a lot more varied feedback from social media than their mystery diner programme, so they simply cut the mystery diner programme and allocated its budget to social engagement.
In terms of gathering the feedback data, there are a number of free web-based programs, including Google Analytics, Topsy, and Social Mention, that give you a decent idea of when customers want to interact. However, you need to be able to spot the real-time opportunity, technology and people skills to get the job done. If you have got all that in-house, then great. If not, you need to use a specialist agency. But be careful about the wondrous claims made and always reference-check, as working with Ali Baba and the 40 social media advisers can be a real hit-and-miss process.
Once you have squared away your social media customer feedback strategy, if you have enough strength left, you can then tackle getting your visual and creative content right. Most brands plan for real-time communication.
Counterintuitive though it may seem, it is the companies that plan, prepare and train that are able to move fast and tap into real-time opportunity. So, just like companies try to incorporate regular calendar marketing events, such as menu changes, Christmas and so forth, you need to plan your social media content. We encourage our clients to ensure any campaign is spread across the database and social touch points. The key points of any email campaign can be pushed out through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Each channel should have its own traceable codes, so when the redemption numbers are put together you have an idea where your business is coming from. 
The rapid uptake of mobile has made real-time social engagement an essential part of managing communications with your customers. If you do not yet have a plan to deal with this new dimension, you need to make one – or end up having an experience not too dissimilar to my dad’s.
Matthew Kirby is a partner at Fishbowl Marketing UK

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