Day 45- The Puzzle – My Biggest Puzzle Piece EVER, Employee #1 Ashley

12 years and 11 months ago the plan CHANGED!

In 2008 when I decided to start this company I was adamant on being a “one man show” and have NO EMPLOYEES!  At our boat dealership the prior 9 years I’d seen first hand how hard it was to manage people and more than that, how bad I was at hiring the right people.  So when I started the goal was simple, just me.

WELLLL within 2 years I could see how that was a terrible idea.  I could start to see the cracks forming, the work piling up and wall that I was about to hit.  So in early 2011 I decided Batman needed a Robin.  I knew that in order to over deliver to clients and help more small business owners that I needed someone by my side, someone that could keep up with me and honestly, PUT UP WITH ME 🙂

One of the big reasons I dreaded hiring an employee was from my prior bad experiences of hiring at our Boat Dealership.  Everyone I’d ever hired, basically got FIRED…literally.  I don’t know what it was about my past of hiring, but I seemed to not be too good at it.

That was until NOW!  

Or maybe I got damn lucky.

In the Spring of 2011 I stood up at weekly BNI meeting at asked for what would become the MOST VALUABLE REFERRAL EVER!  The ask was simple “I’m looking for someone who’s computer savy, understands Facebook, learns fast and who would like to work 5-10 hours per week starting off and work towards full-time.”

As luck would have it Peggy Sparks, who was one of the top members in our group and a rockstar referrer said “I’ve got a referral for you, it’s my daughter Ashley.”

And like that, I had a lead.  I had someone who might end up being my Robin, but could she keep up and handle my interesting nuances 🙂

The meeting was set, Tuesday May 31st, Panera Bread in Crestview Hills Town Center. 

The meeting was simple, she was actually on her way to the pool to relax for the day and the meeting went great.  I wasn’t concerned with resumes or past experience, the proof would be in the pudding as they say.  I emailed Ashley logins for a few clients Constant Contact email accounts and instructed her to look at what I’d created in the past and give it her best shot.  

I figured it would take a few days and didn’t expect a lot, to be quite honest I wasn’t really sure what I was going to get back from her.  Up to that point I controlled everything and delegating the marketing of our clients seemed like an impossible task. Then a few short hours later BAM, an email arrives and DAMN is it good.  Actually, it was AMAZING!

It was better than anything I would have done and I DIDN’T have to do the work!  

And with that, Ashley was hired!

She started off at 5-10 hours, then quickly moved to 20-30 hours and by the end of the year she was FULL TIME!  

How I got so lucky with my first ever hire for this company is beyond me, but I’m damn glad I did.  As I sit here today, 12 years and 11 months after she started June 22nd 20211 I am beyond thankful for what she’s done for me, this company, our clients and her co-workers.

To say Ashley is a ROCK STAR would be an understatement.  What she’s become within our company is what building a business is all about.  

And she did this without much direction from me. I’ve never been an overbearing micro manager, I’m quite the opposite.  Which, ironically has caused our only two flare ups in 13 years.  

As I was typing yesterdays blog about what’s happened since the NRA show in 2015 to now, I can’t help but think NONE OF IT would have been possible without Ashley. 

I can still remember my excitement in 2016 when I figured out the ROI Engine and Ashley and I met at the gym office to review it.  I sat down with her to show her the marketing automation I’d built in Zapier and what the future was going to be for our company.  She would later tell me on her drive home she called her husband crying that scared she’d be fired because what I just showed her was not something she understood. 

Well, that was short lived.  Within weeks she was crushing it and that allowed me to put my energy in other places.  And ever since that day, that’s how it’s been.  Matt creates something, Ashley makes it happen and Matt moves onto the next idea.  

Today Ashley leads the entire marketing company and software.  She’s the driving force behind what will become the ultimate restaurant marketing platform.  One that drives sales to restaurants where they need it the most.  

Peggy (Ashley’s mom) THANK YOU.  Your referral that day in BNI is easily the most valuable referral EVER in the history of BNI.

Ashley, THANK YOU. 

Thank you for being a rock star.

Thank you for putting up with my lack of leadership and directions.

Thank you for staying by my side as we’ve navigated rocky waters the past few years.

And thank you for always being willing to learn something new and run full steam ahead.


Day 44 – The Puzzle – My Dream For Restaurant Marketing And What We Are Building

The journey of building this company and the services we offer to restaurants has been quite a journey.

Back in 2015 when I realized I’d created something unique for restaurant marketing, I thought “what if I had a brewery in every state using my system.”  You see, back then I had 9 restaurants as clients, 3 breweries and 6 others.  We had 1 deli style restaurant, a 4 casual dining restaurants, 3 breweries and 1 fast casual concept that we were helping to market.  I was their “at large marketing director” and Ashley was my team member who helped me carry out their ENTIRE marketing plan (my 1st employee and only one then).  I bought their mass media, spending North of $1.3 million annually for them, I created the marketing strategy, I kept them ahead of the technology curve, we did their graphic design, sent their emails, managed their social media and at the end of the day IMPLEMENTED EVERYTHING!

You could say that Ashley and I were their marketing department, and we loved it.  

When I say we did EVERYTHING for these restaurants that would be an understatement.  

CLICK BELOW to check out a Facebook Live in did for them in March 2014, yes we were doing LIVES and video 10 years ago for restaurants:)

 I would do every month for each of the 3 Hobrauhaus Breweries we worked with.  I knew the importance of video marketing back then (you know the stuff most restaurants STILL are not doing) and I also saw the power of using Facebook Live to own our own “media outlet.  So every opportunity I had, I did live and recorded videos for our 9 restaurant clients.  This was the Newport location who had a Keg Tapping the last Wednesday of every month.  I would show up and broadcast it live on their Facebook page from my iPad and then download the file and make a quick video in the restaurant that night to post the next day to hype of the new beer and use as the post for a paid ad that month.   And yes it’s grainy, nowhere close to perfect and it’s really poor editing by todays standards.  BUT we were the only ones doing it and these videos would DRIVE sales and customer traffic.

And on April 26th 2015 all of that changed. 

It all changed with one promotion.

That day was national pretzel day and up until that point I’d never had a promotion that gained such TRACKABLE traction.  Meaning, we could 100% see that it drove traffic and sales.  We saw $18,000 in incresed sales only from that lame “show this Facebook post or email” to get this offer promo.

When I saw how well it did and realized “what if I knew who all of those 500 or customers were?”  


– what if I knew their name

– how often they visited

– when they were 1st time customers

– when they went missing AKA stopped coming to the restaurant

– when were their birthdays

– why they came to the restaurant (bier, music, food, etc)

– And WHAT IF I could use social media to gain the customer data needed to build this program….

The ideas started to flood in.  And I wondered HOW could I take this promo to the next level with all of our restaurant clients.  But more importantly I also realized that much of what worked for my restaurant clients was due to massive insights we were gaining every week by having 9 total.  You see, at this time I was a local marketing firm with 34 clients who had 200 or so locations across 31 industries.  So many times, we were re-creating the wheel for each client every new promotion since what worked for a restaurant did not necessarily work for a car dealership.

But when I did something for 1 of the restaurants, it typically worked for all 9 of them.  

So with this idea I figured there was only one place to go to find the solution I needed, the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago in mid May, just a few weeks away.  I thought that a show dedicated to the restaurant business boasting 4,000 exhibitors and close to 400 marketing/technology booths surely the software I needed build this marketing program.

Below is a picture of my very first NRA show on my Birthday in 2015!

As I walked the show floor I was AMAZED!  

The marketing companies and marketing technology were so far behind.  I had booths bragging to me about their direct mail strategies, ones we were doing 7 years earlier when I started my company.  

There was NO ONE there for Social Media! 

NO ONE talking about customer engagement online!

NO ONE talking about how to gain customer data!

 NO ONE talking about customer acquisition and ROI.

In fact when I mentioned marketing ROI they looked a me like a dog when it turns it’s head sideways. 

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with the only loyalty and technology booth that impressed me.  I told him I was looking for software that could be triggered through a comment on Facebook, which took the customer to SOMEWHERE and we would get them to give us their name, phone number, birthday and email address.  Then we would put them into an email and text marketing campaign that had trackable promotions they could redeem.  Then I could segment the database and funnel the best customers into a loyalty program and the others would be in a marketing funnel based on their frequency.  The guy looked at me like I was on drugs and said “that doesn’t exist and it’s not possible.”  In fact most of the marketers I spoke with at the show could not figure out why I’d want to have a program that showed the sales that came from the marketing campaigns.  They were honestly scared to have their clients understand the ROI.  

I guess the big difference between me and them was the fact that I looked at marketing success and failure the same.  If we were not getting the ROI we needed on a campaign, we optimized it.  They looked at it as “oh shit, this client is going to fire us.”  And now 9 years later I get it, I understand why they were scared to have that level of marketing transparency with their restaurant clients. Restaurants simply did not understand marketing at this level.

So as I headed home to NKY from Chicago I called everyone I knew in the business, excited and bummed by what I’d found out.  First I was bummed since what I went to the show for apparently did not exist. But next I was excited to prove these people wrong and create what I knew could exist.  

It took me 2 years to create it and I called it the ROI Engine. The ROI Engine was a one of kind restaurant marketing customer acquisition took leveraging Facebook and Instagram to build a customer database and then drive them into the restaurant with trackable marketing promotions.  The idea was simple, we’ll leverage the front-end advertising restaurants should be doing anyways (like Facebook ads) to “double dip” and gain customers contact information.  Then we’ll use that to email and text them one off promotions to gain the sales needed on the frontend to recoup our advertising spend and second to prove we had the right customers on our email and text list.  

In fact, my first book, Don’t 86 Your Restaurant Sales, was based on the entire program.  I spent 1st Quarter of 2018 writing the book, 2nd Quarter proofing and tweaking and then it was launched in August of 2018. 

By the time the book was published we had restaurant clients from all over the USA.  From 2015 to 2018 I spent 3 years building a new company 100% dedicated to helping restaurants and winding down my highly successful local marketing firm. It was a crazy tough decision.  I’d become such good friends with my local clients like Evans Auto Care and Jeff Wyler Automotive Group that I didn’t know how to end these relationships and walk away.  Slowly but surely we did it and It was nerve racking. 

And the crazy part was, I found out along the way why all the marketing and tech firms from the 2015 NRA show wanted NOTHING to do with showing proof.  

Since 2008 every local client we helped with marketing viewed us much differently than the restaurants who hired us for the “ROI Engine Program.”  Our local clients viewed us as their marketing partner.  The bad results were not a reflection on us, just the result of trial and error.  And we used good and bad to optimize the marketing plan.  We were a part of their teams and we NEVER LOST A CLIENT!  Firing Matt Plapp wasn’t an option, we were too valuable. 

But that was the exact opposite with our nationwide restaurant marketing program.  You see, these restaurants only viewed us as a vendor, not a partner.  And if there was a bump in the road, YOU’RE FIRED!  In fact we lost all 19 of our first 19 restaurant clients within 6 months.  And what was even crazier about that was their results were great.  

The issue was, restaurant owners did not understand the type of marketing we were doing.  They were so accustomed to either seeing no form of tracking with their marketing or massive shot in the arm results like Groupon.  They were only comfortable with knowing nothing, or seeing crazy results from one of marketing campaigns like Groupon that did not help the restaurant long term, but drove cash in today.  

It was scary as shit for me.  To think that I’d just stopped working with 30 clients that understood our vision and goals to go all in with restaurants that didn’t grasp what it takes to drive sales long term with their marketing.  

In 2020 I got smacked in the face with this harder than ever.  I had a client in Washington who was spending $6,000 per month on radio ads for their multi location pizza chain with zero proof it was working, yet when we showed them how the $30,000 they spent with us and Facebook in prior 12 months turned into $400,000 in sales THEY FIRED US!

Have a look for yourself below at their customer acquisition dashboard.  1 MILLION social media impressions in a year that gained a database of 17,000 and drove 11,000 visits and $400,000 in sales, and that was ONLY THE FRONT END!  I was blown away…sorry the image is kind of dull, it was a screenshot from when the client did a testimonial video on our marketing program while we were in Washington meeting with them after working together for 12 months.  A month after this video they cancelled and my mind WAS BLOWN!  

To be 100% honest with you, it was the biggest gut punch ever.  But not because we lost them as a client. It was tough because I could not grasp how someone would see these results and not think the glass is HALF EMPTY.

The sales we’d driven while also growing a massive database AND getting them the most social media exposure they’d ever had.  CLICK HERE to watch a case study video on their program, it’s WILD.  But like all failures, this was a learning lesson.  This showed me that no matter how awesome our front-end marketing was, we had to be able to show the ENTIRE story, which is why we acquired Repeat Returns in November 2023.  We had to be able to show the customers lifetime journey. 

This was when I truly understood what was wrong with restaurant owners and the industry.  They were so scorn from marketing of the past, so behind the times and so committed to todays results, that they could not understand how to create a long term marketing relationship with a vendor like us.  

Now, here we are in 2024 and my company has grown from Ashley and myself to 64 team members.  And I once again find myself at the NRA Show in Chicago.  It’s 9 years late and the same is true, the marketing companies here DO NOT GET IT!

Yes, there are some badass loyalty programs here.  

There are some POS companies that are highly advanced.  

And yet, no one is talking about customer acquisition.  No one is talking about customer ATTENTION retention, you know NOT being forgotten.  No one is talking about how to leverage social media, email, text and messenger marketing.  

Then it hit me, we are just that far ahead and what comes next from our company will SHOCK the industry.  But honestly they won’t truly even understand that for another 9 years.  

In July we are going to roll out our new company, new brand and crazy new platform.  It will be the product of merging Repeat Returns restaurant marketing software with our marketing services firm Restaurant Marketing That Works. 

We will create an industry first restaurant marketing platform that gives restaurant owners predictable marketing funnels that drive sales EVERY DAY.  They will wake up every morning and have a daily marketing plan built for them that takes customers on a journey to visit more often, spend more when they visit and COME BACK when they forget about the restaurant. 

And maybe in 9 more years in 2033 when I visit the National Restaurant Association Show there will be 10 booths knocking of what we’ve built and restaurants will FNALLY understand what I figured out in 2015.

Day 43 – The Puzzle – This F1 Red Bull Car Is Out Of Gas, Just Like Your Marketing Programs

As we walked the aisles of the National Restaurant Show we couldn’t help but notice a GLARING problem with every marketing and point of sales booth. 

The issue they had was the same as the Red Bull F1 car above, NO GAS!

Literally, this car has no gas in it and every marketing opportunity being pushed on restaurants at the NRA show shared that.  There was ZERO focus on customer acquisition AKA gas to your marketing programs.  

As an example, there were COUNTLESS Loyalty programs and restaurant point of sale companies touting loyalty.  But they never talk about HOW you’re going to get members for said loyalty program. You know, your loyalty members.  Because I can tell you this, after the 3 month honeymoon period is over and your hard core guests are all members and your staff has quit or forgot, YOU PROGRAM IS DEAD!

Whether it’s your loyalty program, new customer program or birthday program, they all need traffic.  They need new people coming into that world every day and somehow that’s a topic that companies in restaurant marketing never want to talk about.  

You might say “Matt, why is that?”

Part of me says, damn I don’t get it.  But the other part, the majority, knows why.  They don’t understand customer acquisition and it’s hard to do.  It’s much easier to build a software and sit back and let it do it’s magic vs go out and build a team of experts that help restaurants find new customers every day through Facebook, Instagram, Google, Your Website and inside your 4-walls.  

My point being, they don’t want to spend the time or money to figure it out and it’s not scalable to them.  Which excites the HECK out of me, because we know how to do it and we are going to take the industry by storm over the next few years with our restaurant funnel programs that drive customers into the every single day on auto pilot. 

Day 41 – The Puzzle – How To Work With Charities To Drive Sales & Their Donations

The days of the traditional Dine-To-Donates are DONE!  They don’t work for either party, the restaurant or the charity.  In 2014 these were a novel event that would drive massive traffic to a restaurant through the charity, but that’s when very few restaurants and charities were doing them.  Now, every restaurant in town has one every night and charities are doign them all the time as well.  

So what’s the solution, to me it’s a LONG TERM donation campaign that helps restaurants gain new customers and drive repeat visits from those customers, not one that donated to a charity just because their regulars come in for their normal visits.  And for the charity, they should be rewarded to introducing new customers to the restaurant and they should also benefit from the future sales of those customers. 

In November 2023 we purchased Repeat Returns, known in the industry as a Restaurant Loyalty Program.  But what we found over the next few months was that Repeat Returns was WAY MORE than that.  One program I saw that wasn’t being used by enough restaurants was their Community Connections program.  This was a charitable marketing platform built 100% for restaurants and WOW the results were insane for the restaurants using it.  

The image above are the results for one year from April 2023 through April 2024.  This shows the 19 charities that had signed up for the program and their results.  These 20 charities drove 7,694 new members to the restaurants loyalty program.  Those new loyalty members would visit 14,198 and spend $283,687 in sales to the restaurant all while donating back $8,500 to the non-profits.  

FIRST lets discuss some of my issues I’ve had with charitable programs restaurants have done in the past.

1st – Charities do too many fundraisers per month and don’t OWN many of them. If they are doing 5 dine-to-donates per month, they are looking at the global results, not your restaurants results. So many times very few people show up.  Which doesn’t really hurt your restaurant since you were already open, but it’s certainly disappointing to see a night you’d hope would do we, flop. 

2nd – Telling people what night they have to visit a restaurant is tough.  I know this from being a parent of athletes.  I missed 75% of the dine-2-donates due to having prior obligations.

3rd – We’ve found charities standing out front of the restaurant and passing out their flier to every customer that walks into the restaurant.  So now they are getting credit for all of my customers, and that’s not fair. 

These 3 reasons are why I really like the Community Connection program offered by Repeat Returns.  The program gives the charity a unique link for their supporters to use to join the loyalty program.  If they are already a member, it doesn’t count, but if they are new, BINGO!  Then you set the parameters.  The example shown here allows them to earn 3% from every dollar spent from these members and they don’t put a timeline on it.  The donations added up when these new members spend money.  Now you can change the % donated and you can alter dates, it’s all up to the restaurant.  

One thing to keep in mind, not every non-profit is created equal.  As you’ll see below, the results will vary.  Some drive a lot of new members, some very few.  Some drive a lot of repeat visits, some very few.  The image below are the stats for the past 12 months. 


Another thing to keep in mind is that not all “new members” are going to come in and come in often, just like any customer acquisition funnel your restaurant has.  In the example below there are 320 new loyalty club members for this restaurant from one charity.  But only about 150 of those customers are repeat visitors and under 100 were hardcore loyal customers.  But the results speak for themselves.  828 new customer visits and $17,082 in sales.  That’s HUGE and when you find 20-30 non-profits to help like this restaurant did, then you’ve struck gold!

The final point today is to supply these non-profits with the right assets.  If I was you, I’d create custom graphics with them and help them understand how to market this partnership.  And I’d also have a page on my website dedicated to the overall program and each non-profit.  You should even do this inside your restaurant and frequently share the posts the non-profit makes, but not only the ones about your program.  Actually share their normal posts about the great work they are doing. 

I also cover this topic on my daily podcast, Restaurant Marketing Secrets, in episode 607…have a listen CLICK HERE!

Day 40 – The Puzzle – What’s This Blog About & How Will It Help Restaurants With Their Marketing?

This week I was in Las Vegas speaking to a room of 100 professionals in the restaurant business.  Owners, GM’s, Kitchen Managers and Marketing Directors.  were in the room and many had questions.  So I decided to change it up a little.  I sent them a survey to find out what was on their mind and after getting rid of the duplicates we listed out the 14 questions and tackled every one of them.

The 14 questions are WHY I’m doing this blog and my podcast every day.  These questions are the PUZZLE pieces that you need to systematically grow your restaurants sales and FIND the promised land.   My goal with my content is to help you build your PUZZLE as it relates to marketing your restaurant. 

FYI, here are the 14 questions:

1.  What are the first steps in marketing for a new business?

2.  How do we create offers for new customers without discounting the product?

3.  How can we incentivize returning customers to buy more, without skewing our costs too much?

4.  How can we better track customer metrics and target them based on their actions?

5.  What are the efficient ways of capturing data from customers who’ve never eaten at our establishment?

6.  How to create authentic and engaging content, especially on social media platforms like Instagram?

7.  How do we avoid over-emailing & posting on social media to the point where customers ignore us?

8.  Where will AI fit into our marketing strategies?

9.  Is Facebook only viable for older marketing demographics now?

10.  With limited resources, where should I focus my time and money?

11.  How can we track the results of our marketing strategies?

12.  What is the best way to promote a small town local business?

13.  How to market special events like wine dinners and catering effectively?

14.  Can we automatically text people once they give us their number from a reservation, or do we have to legally ask them permission1.  ?

Day 39 – The Puzzle – Restaurant Loyalty Done WRONG By A MAJOR BRAND

Here’s what I love about restaurant marketing in 2024, EVEN YOU, the “little guy” can beat the BIG DOGS!

Yes, the mom & pop restaurants and small chains are on the exact level playing field as massive chains like Dunkin Donuts.

This week is my birthday and this morning I got a strange random email from Dunkin Donuts and it got me thinking

#1 – I’m a member of their loyalty program?  Since when and why don’t I recall seeing any past emails.

#2 – This is REALLY my birthday offer?  

#3 – If I am a member and I know it’s been at least 8-10 months since I visited, WHERE are my “win back” emails and texts? 

So that got me hunting for emails and I found 3 tied to this rewards program.  As you can see above from the screenshot of my gmail inbox I have 3.  The first was from 2019, the second on the day before my birthday last year and the third on the day before my birthday this year, TODAY!

Now I’m not here to slam Dunkin for their bad loyalty program, because once I logged into the portal, it looks like it’s really well thought out from a rewards stand point.  BUT who the hell is WATCHING?  Who’s paying attention to make sure it’s working.  And this is relatable to me since we are in the process of adding a brand new account analyzation team for Repeat Returns.  A team that looks for issues like this inside of restaurants programs to make sure they are running correctly and programs are optimized.  

You’d think Dunkin would have a MASSIVE client success team handling this.

Marketing isn’t always about wins or losses, it’s about if you’re even watching.  And in this case a member of Dunkin’s loyalty program is a GHOST, or a MINO….

 “Member In Name Only”

Meaning, my name is in there but nothing happening.  If I did in fact join in 2019 then there should have been at least 20-30 emails the past 4 years.  They have my birthday and they have that message programmed, where’s the rest?

NOW onto the lame ass Birthday offer.  

The offer they sent me was for 3x points for 2 days around my birthday.  Now there’s a few ways to look at this and honestly, no matter how you look at it, IT’S BAD!

First, I’ve not used ANY POINTS in 5+ years as a “member” so why would points even matter to me?  You should be working your butt off to simply drive a visit and a FREE DONUT is what’s going to make that happen.

SECON, let’s imagine I was a hard core Dunkin customer, then yes TRIPLE points is legit, or is it?  If I’m that loyal of a customer that I care that much about triple points, why in the hell would you not give me a FREAKING FREE DONUT!

My friends, the streets are lined WITH GOLD!  The big brands have no clue what they are doing and this levels the playing field for all of us. 

Day 38 – The Puzzle – Restaurant Loyalty – How To Drive Sales Increases

Loyalty marketing for your restaurant, let’s talk about a deeper WHY and HOW to use it correctly. 

First – Loyalty programs apply to a very small, but powerful segment of your customer base.  Research shows that only about 15% will become members of your loyalty program and within that group of customers 50% of the members will make the vast majority of the spending. 

Second – Your going to see a HUGE spike in signups when you start, massive momentum in months 1-3 and then THE BRAKES!  Loyalty programs early members are your best customers.  They are commonly called “early adopters” and the bad news you run out of them fast.  PLUS your staff loses excitement to get new signups and 

Third – The second point above leads to the biggest reason restaurant loyalty programs fail, lack of consistent traffic.  Your program is like a Ferrari, but just like every other car…IT NEEDS GAS!  At the end of this blog post we’ll talk about that more in depth. 

Forth & todays main topic – Loyalty programs should NOT be used to push discounts and promos.  It should be used to push your best customers to spend more money per visit and visit more often.  They should be incentivized to support you in more ways than other customers.  And COUPONS are not the right incentives.

The screen shot above tells a really cool story.  The right side of the image is a report dashboard inside of Repeat Returns Smart Offers system.   Smart offers are a segment of the loyalty program within Repeat Returns, and honestly one of most powerful parts. 

Smart offers are designed to take the very best customers and get this to take a VERY specific action.  In this case, a dynamic email was sent to a segment of the loyalty members.  

DYNAMIC EMAIL = This is an email sent to a list of customers that is DIFFERENT for each segment of customers. Meaning, this email had a segment of customers who typically spend under $30 and a segment that spend under $40.  The “spend bump” incentive that each of them saw was different, it was based off of their past. 

SPEND BUMP = The email for the customer that spends $30 would have said “When you spend $40 or more this week get double points.”  Whereas the email for the customer that spends $40 normally had the incentive bumped up to $50.  The idea behind this type of loyalty email is to get them to buy something on their next visit that they may not normally buy, like an appetizer.  That gets them to a higher spending thresh hold, which then gives them their “bonus loyalty points.”  PLUS you’ve now introduced a new menu item that you hope they really enjoy and start buying more in the future, which drives up your check averages. 

In the example above the Repeat Returns Smart Offer got 94 customers to visit that week (2 came twice) and $3,810.  These EXACT customers normally would have spent $1,700 on the same visits, but with this new incentive they now spent $2,121 MORE!!!!

That my friends is LOYALTY!  

We drove our best customers into the restaurant to spend more than they normally would and WITHOUT A DISCOUNT!

That $2,100 is aprox $1,500 in net profit to your restaurant. 

Now last but not least, I mentioned I’d talk about gaining more traffic to your loyalty program. I want you to imagine that this same restaurant had DOUBLE the members it currently does. Common sense says we would have gotten double the net profit.

That my friends is why you must have your 8 restaurant funnels running, so you can put gas in this Ferrari. 

Day 36 – The Puzzle – How To Grow Your Restaurants Catering, Loyalty, Charitable and Special Events Marketing

Today we’re going to talk about how to grow your catering sales, build your loyalty program, drive traffic to special promotions and have massive success with your restaurants charitable efforts. It all starts with having the marketing funnels built for each of these efforts, but MORE IMPORTANTLY having traffic to them.  And that traffic is likely going to come from your best customers, you know the frequent ones. 

For years I have railed on the ineffectiveness of Restaurant Loyalty programs due to the lack of consistent traffic after the initial launch.  Loyalty marketing companies make restaurant owners think their problems will be solved by having an app or loyalty program and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Loyalty programs are like having a Ferarri with a quarter tank of gas, you’ll only get so far.  BUT if you could have a full tank all the time, why not?

Well, the same goes for Catering sales, special events and charitable efforts.  You need to have a steady flow of new customers into that marketing funnel every month and you must have a solid nurturing program to make the magic happen. 

GROWLER SALES – Let me give you a really good example, back around 2015 one of our clients, Hofbrauhaus Newport, wanted to start selling Growlers and Crowlers.  So they did what everyone does, they put up some in-store signage and trained the staff on how to sell them to customers.  And guess what happened, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!  They did not sell. 

So they turned to Matt Plapp 🙂 In our marketing meeting I rolled out MY digital plan.  I had compiled a list of our top customers who were in the Stein Master Program, our newly created Loyalty Program and customers who engaged with our email marketing the most.  I did made them an offer they could’t refused and put them into a marketing funnel that included email, text and Facebook retargeting ads.  The result, over 2,500 growlers gone in a few days.  

CATERING SALES – Next let’s talk about the text above that I got from a client of Restaurant Marketing That Works & Repeat Returns.  Now I want to talk about a few items before we go any further. 

Marketing customer acquisition is made SO MUCH EASIER when you have a great brand.  People often blame the lack of success of advertising on the ads, the platform (like Facebook) or the company doing the work, but many times it’s the lack of momentum their restaurant has in their marketing.  PLUS there are many times marketing companies like mine take credit for success that is as much a product of a strong brand as their ads.  

This text message is a product of a great combination.  Yes, our ads are working amazing and this restaurant owner got 650 catering leads in 30 days.  But the reason our catering marketing worked that well was due to the hard work this restaurant owner has put into community marketing over the years.  

The next part of the success here is the fact that his catering sales, from these leads, has skyrocketed.  That my friends is a product of the catering marketing funnel.  We have emails, ads, texts and in this case a client willing to make the phone calls. And these phone calls are not all about selling the his next catering gig, it’s to build a relationship.  

This program and the other funnels mentioned above, like charitable marketing, are all a product of the frequent customers and brand ambassadors that you’ve already developed over the years.

See you tomorrow,l


Day 35 – The Puzzle – 8 Restaurant Marketing Funnels You Must Have

8 must have restaurant marketing funnels.

FIRST, what’s a marketing funnel?  A marketing funnel is the path you take customers once you know who they are.  In your restaurant you have customers walking in every day and spending money with you, the problem is you don’t ACTUALLY know who 90% of them are.  Yes you may know them to see them, but digitally you don’t have their name, email, phone and birthday logged anywhere.  And that’s a very dangerous path to take.  In my 25+ years of working with restaurants in marketing the craziest thing I see as their marketing plan is “Hope & Pray”.  They hope customers had a great experience and pray they come back.  

First, make sure you also check out episode 599 of Restaurant Marketing Secrets where I deep dive his topic as well. 

NOW, let’s dig into the items you’ll need to build the ultimate restaurant marketing plan through these 8 marketing funnels:

1st – You must have a restaurant marketing platform that does the heavy lifting on the marketing side. 

2nd – You need a marketing plan for each funnel.

3rd – Inside the marketing plan for each funnel must be a SOLID call to action, the massive WHY that makes customers not question clicking or commenting

4th – Train your staff of the importance of gathering customers data to fill these funnels at the points you control, like in-store and out in the community.

5th – Time to analyze the results and make adjustments.  

Your main customer acquisition funnel is going to help you fill each of the 1st four funnels:

– New Customers

– Frequent Customers

– Lost Customers

– Customer Birthdays

In your customer acquisition funnel you’re going to ask ONE simple question that has three answers “how often do you visit the restaurant.”  Then you’ll give the three possible choices:

– “I’ve never been” = NEW CUSTOMERS

– “I come all the time” = FREQUENT CUSTOMERS

– “I don’t come often” = LOST CUSTOMERS

It’s also a great idea in this customer acquisition funnel to gain their birthday, and now you’ve knocked out four tasks in one.

OK, lets dig into these funnels and a few specifics

– New Customers – By knowing they’ve NEVER been you have the chance to WOW their brain with specific language like “on your first visit”, “when you stop by for the first time.”  The brain catches these things and the fact that you’ll be one of the only businesses using this tactic will help you stand out in the customers mind.  You also want to include items like directions, menus and videos that take the on a journey through your restaurants brand, since they’ve never done business with you.  You also want to give customers who’ve never been to your restaurant more than one reason to visit.  Research shows that by giving them a few offers, you increase their likelihood of visiting.  We suggest four offers: high value free offer, bogo offer, dessert offer and appetizer offer.  This allows to relate to many needs they may have an not pigeon hole yourself into one opportunity with these new customers. 

– Frequent Customers – For these customers you don’t need to four offers.  They already love you.  This is just your chance to finally gain their contact information and reward them with a nice bonus.  PLUS, like new customers, they language should change and let them know you know they are a big supporter. 

– Lost Customers – Treat these customers just like a new one with regards to the “ethical bribe” you’re going to use to drive their visit.  You want to use language like “we miss you” and “where have you been.”  On top of that, the same type of emails and texts to reintroduce the restaurant are very important.  

In tomorrows blog, we’ll dig into the last four funnels: Catering, Loyalty, Specialty & Charity

Day 34 – The Puzzle – Converting Facebook Fans & Website Visitors To Customers For Your Restaurant

The Instagram comments never let me down!  This week it was @jaymckinley123 telling me we couldn’t do what we’ve been doing for around 10 years…HMMMM


Here’s how the story goes.  Back in 2015 Nick, a client who owned 3 restaurants said “Matt I can’t deposit likes.”  This comment was in response to me showing him how we’d grown 1 of the restaurants Facebook following from 3,000 fans to 39,000 fans.  To put this in perspective, his 3 restaurants did about $24 million in annual sales and I was in charge of an advertising budget over $1 million annually.  When I started helping them as their marketing agency and consultant we spent 99% of the budget on Radio, TV, outdoor and direct mail coupons.  WHY?  Because that’s what they’d been doing for years and I don’t change things until I understand what we have.  By 2015 I’d been able to work in digital marketing.  We were DOMINATING Facebook with Live videos weekly that yours truly was doing for them.  We’d also been collecting a ton of customer data in-store through a Kiosk I bought and started building loyalty programs to funnel their best customers to.  

BUT, they had not yet me move much of the paid advertising money over to Facebook and YouTube.  I won’t go down that road, for that you can watch the YouTube video below about how we built this company into a nationwide powerhouse for marketing restaurants from this conversation. 

So let’s break down HOW your restaurant can take Facebook comments, website visitors and people you find through paid Facebook ads and turn them into a customer database, but more importantly drive SALES. 

First, to do what I’m talking about here, you need to have a tech stack for your restaurant that does some fancy stuff.  We have all of this built into Repeat Returns, so it you want it done for you, simply ask us. or CLICK HERE.  And on top of that, you could really use help from a marketing expert or some education.  In case you don’t know about the Restaurant RGA Guide, CLICK HERE. It’s an amazing training from ABR U!

Now back to the blog 🙂

1st – You need to have 3 items in place outside of the tool to make this magic work. You need to have a website pop-up, the Facebook Comment Growth Tool and paid Facebook ads.  All 3 of these items will have an offer so good people would feel stupid saying no to.  Once they engage it will start the process of gaining their data and driving them into the restaurants. 

2nd – The stats below tell the story.  This 1st picture is of one of our BEST restaurant clients.  This owner has 1 pizza restaurant and he listens to every we say and he takes massive action.  These results are from aprox 2 years.

– The 1st line shows where 6,548 customers opted into his marketing program that we built through paid ads on Facebook.  That drove 2,145 visits and $60,000 in sales!  

– The 2nd line is exactly what it says, his website pop-up.  This gathered 2,045 customers information and drove $35,000 in sales from 1,185 visits.

– And the next 3 lines are all through comments on Facebook Comments. We gained 1,986 customers into their database and 835 of them visited and spent $24,567.

Now keep in mind, ALL OF THIS is only the front end of the customer journey. I can call you that these customers are responsible for HIGH six figures in annual sales and millions in lifetime sales.  By the end of 2024 we’ll have all of our systems built into Repeat Returns (new name coming soon) and we’ll be able to show the customers entire journey. 


I don’t think I need to dive deep into the #s below.  This is the 2nd restaurant I spoke about in the podcast that inspired this blog (link below)..  They have worked with us for about a year and take some of our advice.  But, as you can see, they still have great results and are ROI positive.  

So now that I’ve 100% squashed the online hater and proved without a reasonable doubt that you can show Facebook conversations, meaning taking customers from Facebook and depositing cash in the bank, let’s look at the big picture.

Below is a screenshot of our Restaurant Customer Acquisition dashboard. This shows the lifetime numbers that this customer has received through this program on the FRONT END. So in 1 year we were able to build a database that was 46% new customers and 22% lost customers.  When you take the $38,000 in total sales and pull out ONLY the new and lost customers along with the food cost, that part of the program drove aprox $18,000 in net incremental PROFIT plus gained a boat load of customer data.

That’s it, that’s all I got for today, see you tomorow.


P.S. I did a podcast on this blog post, check out episode 598 of Restaurant Marketing Secrets for more insight on how you can do this for your restaurant.  CLICK HERE