Moe's Southwest Grill: Hot On Social, Mobile

Moes

For restaurants, social and mobile are increasingly indispensable channels for building loyalty and driving visits and orders on-the-go.

Case in point: Moe’s Southwest Grill, which is employing Facebook, Twitter, location-based social, mobile advertising and new mobile ordering apps.

One of Moe's latest initiatives is a Check-In Club that’s unusual for being nationwide and cross-platform (rather than local and single-platform, as with most restaurant check-in programs). Users register at a check-in area on Moes.com, connect to either their Facebook or Foursquare accounts, and accumulate “chips” toward earning prizes each time they check in at any of Moe's 440+ U.S. locations in 34 states.

To drive awareness and participation, the fast-casual chain ran a kickoff “Take the Queso to the Banko” sweeps, offering a grand prize of a $500 Moe’s gift card, and five prizes of $100 gift cards. The Check-In Club site features a leaderboard highlighting individual chip leaders, photos from fans, links to the chain’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and more. 

Since launching in late August, the club has seen strong response, particularly in key markets like Florida (nearly 127,000 check-ins to date), Georgia (74,000+) and North Carolina (nearly 52,000).

On Twitter, Moe’s recently ran a #sharethecheese campaign to drive awareness and participation in its annual Free Queso Day (this year, Sept. 20), during which all Moe’s visitors can get a free six-ounce cup of the chain’s signature cheese dip. The campaign encouraged its Twitter followers (currently 12,000+) to use the hashtag to tweet their favorite “cheesiest” jokes and pick-up lines.

On Facebook, a “Raise the Salsa Bar” contest run over this past summer -- in which fans submitted their own salsa recipes, with the winner’s salsa to be featured in Moe’s’ restaurants nationwide starting next year -- drew more than 700 entries, reports Moe’s Marketing Director Lauren Barash. 

Facebook fans (currently numbering 237,000+) were encouraged to vote to narrow 10 recipe finalists down to three, which were then prepared by Moe’s executive chef and a panel of judges, who picked the winner. The final judging event was used as a press opportunity. 

Moe’s supports its promotions with in-store signage and ample social postings.

In addition, it’s been using mobile advertising “heavily” since last year, according to Barash. For example, for Free Queso Day, the chain has run mobile browser-based banner ads served on the day of the event to consumers within five miles of a Moe’s location. 

While the upfront cost for such ads is more expensive than for broader-based media, the targeting pays off in significantly higher click-through rates – and Moe’s’ tracking of click-through numbers within a given area against the sales performance of the location(s) in that area has confirmed the mobile ads’ effectiveness, says Barash.
In April, Moe’s launched mobile ordering apps for Android and iPhone, which enable customers to order in advance and pick up at their nearest locations. (Customers can also order through location-specific ordering areas accessible via Moes.com.) 

While Moe’s corporate marketing hasn’t yet used mobile ads to drive use of the mobile ordering apps, franchisees in some markets have tested such ads -- and Barash says she’s planning tests that will allow Moe’s to track user mobile banner ad click-throughs to subsequent purchases through the online ordering solution.

A promotion on Moes.com encourages visitors to join “Moe’s E-World” by registering  their mobile phone numbers, as well as email addresses, birth dates, etc., with an offer of a free cup of queso for joining, plus a free burrito on their birthdays. The site also displays a live feed of tweets from Moe’s’ Twitter followers.

The overall results for 2012’s Free Queso Day speak to the combined power of the various marketing platforms. Visits to Moes.com on that day totaled 48,910 (including 12,881 hits to the mobile site), versus 15,982 and 18,675 site visits during the Free Queso Days held in 2010 and 2011, respectively. There were 2,200 Foursquare check-ins on the day of the event this year, and there have been more than 1,500 tweets about the event during the past 30 days (including more than 700 using #sharethecheese). 

System-wide, Moe’s gave away 165,440 cups of queso (averaging 352 cups per location) during this year’s event. 

And most important, system-wide net sales for 2012 Queso Day increased 18% versus last year’s event.

“We continue to see more and more interest coming from the mobile and social platforms,” sums up Barash, who adds that Moe’s has just begun to tap the possibilities.

 

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