Case Study: How Integrating Public Relations and Social Media Expanded a Fast Casual Restaurant Franchise

Megan Redzia - 11/22/2017

An integrafranchise_public_relations_and_social_mediated public relations and social media program has the power to help franchise brands stand out from the crowd and build a loyal base of customers. In this blog, we’ll show you how incorporating these tactics into a centralized marketing plan helped an emerging fast-casual restaurant franchise expand across the country.

Fast Casual Restaurant Franchise Goals & Objectives

The fast casual restaurant segment has outpaced the restaurant industry for several years by providing customers with a unique value proposition. A hybrid of quick-service and casual dining, fast casual concepts offer more customized and freshly prepared dishes than traditional quick service restaurants in an upscale, inviting atmosphere. The popularity of this restaurant category has created a competitive environment for franchisors.

To overcome this challenge, Muscle Maker Grill turned to 3E Public Relations with two goals: raise awareness of the brand nationwide to drive traffic to existing restaurants, as well as support the brand’s franchise expansion plans. In addition, the brand wanted to provide its franchisees with ongoing public relations and social media support to demonstrate the franchisor’s investment in each location’s success.

Strategy for Integrating Public Relations and Social Media

Our tactical approach included an aggressive consumer and trade public relations campaign combined with a social engagement strategy. A consumer public relations program targeted regional print and online media, as well as national and regional broadcast outlets to increase consumer awareness and demand at all restaurant locations. Public relations support included a media outreach push leading up to a franchise Grand Opening, as well as consistent local support to keep the chain top of mind in each community. The trade public relations component of the strategy included proactively reaching out to the leading industry publications with news about the brand’s expansion and system-wide initiatives, as well as nominating the franchise for key industry awards.

3E Public Relations reinvigorated the chain’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages with engaging content and utilized the channels as customer service platforms. A dedicated engagement team offered ongoing access to the brand through the social pages and prompt responses to comments/inquires.

Public Relations and Social Media Results 

The robust online and offline presence through media coverage and social media proved effective in driving sales at individual locations and attracting franchisees. In three years, the results-driven PR and social media campaign helped to triple the franchise system and grow the number of franchise units from 22 locations to 70 locations.

A steady stream of consumer media coverage drove awareness of the brand and its unique healthy offerings from the East Coast to the West Coast. Trade public relations efforts resulted in feature media placements in Fast Casual, QSR Magazine, Nation’s Restaurant News, Food & Beverage Magazine, and Restaurant Business. Our nomination of the franchise for industry awards earned the brand recognition as one of Fast Casual’s Top 100 Movers and Shakers three years in a row, Technomic’s Top 150 Fast-Casual brands, and Restaurant Business’ Future 50 fastest growing chains. This national media coverage and industry acknowledgment built credibility and directly resulted in franchise deals across the country.

The social media program significantly increased both engagement and fans/followers on all the brand’s platforms, while also helping to engender customer loyalty, build relationships and monitor the performance of individual locations.

Essential Elements of a Public Relations and Social Media Strategy

If you’re considering adding an integrated public relations and social media strategy to your centralized marketing plan, here are the seven elements of each tactic you should include to achieve the greatest impact.

Public Relations:

  1. Quality content development
  2. Media training program for key executives
  3. Aggressive consumer and trade media relations
  4. Robust Grand Opening outreach
  5. Ongoing community relations and grassroots efforts
  6. Industry awards program
  7. Reputation management

Social Media:

  1. Brand and franchisee guidelines
  2. Robust image and video library
  3. Steady stream of compelling, original content
  4. Dedicated monitoring and engagement experts
  5. Influencer marketing campaign
  6. Listening and measurement tool
  7. Paid strategy

To learn more how a centralized marketing plan can help you achieve growth and accomplish your goals through media relations, social media, digital and mobile strategies, download our Franchise Marketing e-guide.

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