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Restaurant Advertising during COVID-19

Consumer habits have rapidly changed, and leading advertisers have been quick to pivot their strategy to match. The restaurant industry has been hard hit during the pandemic. With stay at home orders being enforced by state government, dining rooms are closed, and servers are being laid off. For those food service establishments able to turn to delivery and takeout, advertising strategy has never been more critical.

The Restaurants: Quick Serve category is comprised of fast food brands that usually have a drive-thru system already in place.

Burger King has been quick to air several different creatives that specifically highlight increased safety and minimum contact procedures being used for deliveries and drive-thru orders. Each spot in this campaign also has heartfelt messaging sensitive to the current situation; “We know you may not be thinking about Burger King, but we’re thinking of you.”

Popeyes has aired a brand new creative with the theme of considering customers “family,” and also putting a spotlight on their new safety procedures to minimize contact in the drive-thru.

Taco Bell took a familiar humorous approach to its advertising with a spot offering free tacos on March 31st because they can’t hug their customers right now “due to a long list of reasons.”

Restaurants are fully aware that many customers are choosing to stay home altogether. KFC even mentions that customers are currently juggling working, teaching and parenting while staying at home. In hopes of reaching those consumers, Chipotle, KFC and Wendy’s are currently focusing on creatives that advertise free delivery.

For the last two weeks, the Restaurants: Quick Serve category has chosen to focus airings on these networks and shows, likely as a result of TV viewership trends shifting:

3/26/2020 – 04/09/2020

Top Networks: VH1, Freeform, Paramount Network

Top Shows: Ridiculousness, Friends, My Wife and Kids

While fast food customers are used to grabbing their food on the go, the Restaurants: Casual Dining category has had to adapt to empty dining rooms, usually without a drive-thru option established at these restaurants. Brands like Golden Corral and IHOP have shifted focus to delivering family meals at home while gatherings at their restaurants have come to a halt. 

Some restaurants, like Outback Steakhouse and Olive Garden, already had curbside takeaway options available before the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve now chosen to focus on offering pickup and delivery in their newest creatives.

As the Casual Dining category pivots to focusing on deliveries, brands like Denny’s and Chili’s have chosen to advertise that they’ll be waiving delivery fees.

Denny’s is currently offering waived delivery fees until April 12th, and this creative has COVID-19 messaging aimed at those who are social distancing and staying home.

True to the Chili’s brand, they reworked their theme song to sing about waiving delivery fees and “being in this together, but still not too close.”

For the last two weeks, the Restaurants: Casual Dining category has chosen to focus airings on these networks and shows, likely as a result of TV viewership trends shifting:

3/26/2020 – 04/09/2020

Top Networks: Great American Country, Freeform, FX

Top shows: College Basketball, Flea Market Flip, Law & Order: Criminal Intent

During more routine times, busy families leaned on restaurants when the balance of work, school and extracurricular activities left little time or energy to cook at home. Now, as families are spending much of their time at home and cooking most (or all) of their meals, these restaurants offer a break in the quarantine routine and a family dinner to look forward to.