Day 53 – The Puzzle – What If You Had A Marketing Platform For Your Restaurant That Did THIS!

As I sit in downtown Cincinnati enjoying a cup of coffee as I work for 3 hours with jazz music in my ears, away from the hustle and bustle of our office, I can’t help but ponder, ponder WHAT IF ?!

Now, really fast on that “hustle and bustle” comment above.  The office I avoid 3 mornings per week, so I can get some DEEP work done, was Me, Doug and Austin this time 3 years ago and now typically 30 people work out of that office daily.  When I’m there is really tough to dig deep into work due to my teams needs, my own distractions and of course ping pong 🙂 WOW, just WOW how things have changed.  When I bought that building in January 2021 It was to create a place I would love to be at every day (which I do), but also to challenge myself to build the company I knew I was capable of.

Ok, now back to the WHAT IF!

As we prepare to launch our new restaurant marketing platform this summer that will be a MASSIVE sales dryver, I constantly ask myself “WHAT IF” it did THIS!

And those “what if’s” are powered by the frustrations I’ve heard over the past 16 years of dealing with restaurant owners, from frustrations I’ve had with seeing how they use their marketing tools incorrectly and most importantly by the HUGE GAPS in every marketing softwar/ service that exists.

The UI, or user interface as you may know it will be so damn intuitive and easy to understand it will make you want to cry tears of joy:)  That’s what I’m sketching out daily on this notepad, ideas and flows of how it will look and function when you as a restaurant owner log into create or analyze a marketing campaign.  I want you to imagine this, 4 main funnels at the top of the screen: New Customers, Frequent Customers, Lost Customers & Loyalty Customers.  Now each of those funnels is telling you how many customers entered that funnel the past month, how many spent money that month and what your ROI is.  But more importantly, based on the sales goals you’ve input into the platform, how many customers SHORT that funnel is.  Meaning, if you want to hit that #, how many people we have to acquire into each funnel through your marketing.  And behind these 4 main funnels will be other funnels that customers are in, like your Birthday and Catering marketing funnels. 

Ok, now back to my ACTUAL what if conversation I had planned for this blog…

WHAT IF you could log into a marketing platform and create a campaign for a VERY specific segment of your database and NOT bother people who are already in a funnel?  Meaning if Matt Plapp is a loyalty customer who’s going to get a Smart Offer promotion that week, he does not need to be in your new “one-off” campaign you’re creating today. 

Let’s examine where this idea comes from for me and hopefully you’ll share my excitement for this restaurant marketing WHAT IF!

Every week I get emails that don’t relate to me.  And in many instances I get multiple emails and texts from the same restaurant.  Now I’m all for marketing to your list, but you MUST protect your list (insert Under Armor Commercial… WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE).

You must treat it with care and not abuse it.  Let’s be honest with each other, as much as we each love sending our stuff, customers don’t give a shit often.  So when you over market to people they go away, and you lose their attention.  

On top of that, everyone doesn’t need to know everything about your restaurant and they really only need to hear from you about 20-30 times per year.  So if we have these funnels created to cover our core 4 main customers (new, lost, frequent and loyalty) and our other lower level funnels, that means that aprox half of your list should already be in a marketing funnel every other week. In fact my personal goal for our new platform is for 3.5% of the database to be in a marketing funnel EVERY DAY. That means that as a customer in a restaurants database I’d get a pre-determined marketing campaign 100% based off of my journey with your restaurant.  If a restaurant has a 10,000 customer database (which is the MINIMUM you all should have after 2 years in business), then 350 customers are getting a message each day and you’re touching the entire database monthly.  

That means when you log in weekly to do something “one off” you can talk to the others.  This is my BIG WHAT IF.  I want our platform to have a filter set up that excludes anyone in the database that’s already in a funnel campaign inside of a 7 day window.  Meaning if Matt Plapp is getting a WIN BACK email in 4 days because I’ve went MIA the past 2 weeks, then I won’t get your Father’s Day Campaign.  

This will PROTECT YOUR LIST!  WATCH THIS is you don’t know the UA reference

The great part is, a lot of this work is already done!  You see, my good friends Kamron Karington and Joe Gratz had these same thoughts MANY years ago while creating Repeat Returns.  This is what made it so easy to acquire Repeat Returns, it had many of my wish list items in it.  

As an example, below is the current version of the daily marketing calendar that’s FED by the existing marketing funnels.  In this example about 5% of the restaurants database of 2,500 are getting a message today BASED 100% on their journey.


The next part of the journey for this Marketing Calendar is to tie in a few new funnels, tweak a few of their funnels and then build a more robust filtering system.  

As you can see below, we can filter based off of MANY customer tags now.  My goal is to for restaurant owners to have more choices here and then to be able to choose a few of these tags to create a very specific audience for a marketing campaign while NOT interrupting the customers who will get a message already.  

As an example, National Dog Day .  Let’s say a restaurant is doing a contest where customers comment on a Facebook Post with picture of their dog in the comment LIKE THIS ONE CLICK HERE.

So on top of making that Facebook post you want to email or text some customers.  But of course I don’t want to send it to everyone (and the system won’t let me either), but I want to drive some solid traffic to it.  So I could log into the platform, choose create a marketing campaign.  Choose my mediums, email, text and messenger.  Then choose my audience, say customers who’ve visited in the past month who are also in my top 25% of spenders lifetime.  This gives me a very good audience and that’s who’s likely to interact with such a targeted post. Then it’s as simple as taking my image I created for Facebook and popping it into the template, adding 1 line of text like ” Do you have a dog?  If so, we’re having a contest, click below to go to Facebook and comment for a chance to win.”

My goal of this audience would be to give you 300-500 customers to choose from every time.  That way you have a large enough audience to choose from, while not bugging your entire potential audience every time you do a 1-off promo like this. 

That my friends is ONE of my many WHAT IFs

Stay tuned, an announcement and CONTEST is coming soon for our new restaurant marketing platform that’s going to become your #1 dryver of sales!

Day 52 – The Puzzle – Do You Want To Be The Songs Or The Commercial Break?

The irony of situations in life makes you smile.

This morning it took me changing the station 3 times to land on my 4th pick, 103.5 WGRR to find a song.  Why’s this ironic?  WGRR is where I started my career in marketing back in 1999.

Here’s why I’m telling you this.

While driving to the office today my blue tooth was off, so I reverted to good ole fashioned radio vs messing with hooking it up while driving. When I it the “band” button it started me off on 700 WLW.  That station was on commercial break, so I hit 550 WRKC, again commercial break.  Next I thought, let’s listen to some sports radio, maybe they’ll be talking about the Celtics game last night….COMMERCIAL.  Ok, maybe, just maybe WGRR is playing music.  

BINGO!  They’re playing Prince, turn it up and keep driving. 


This is the problem with restaurants and how they use Social Media.  They are the commercial EVERY POST!

Let me ask you a question, how many likes, comments and shares do your Facebook posts get, basically NONE right?  Most restaurants get under 1% engagement on all of their Facebook posts.  WHY IS THAT?  

First, it’s because your customers tuned you out a while ago

Second, it’s because the algorithm saw that your customers tuned you out and did the same.

Meaning, by you treating every social media post like a radio commercial EVERY POST, you’ve effectively ruined the your Facebook following.

BUT there’s hope!!!!

You can easily reverse this, you just need to start using Social Media correctly and we teach exactly that in the ABR U RGA Guide.  This is a paid DIY course and 400 page guide that will help you learn how to take your social media, email and text marketing to a whole new level.

CLICK HERE to buy your guide today.

In episode 618 of my podcast, Restaurant Marketing Secrets, I talk about the journey in my car from my house to the office, HAVE A LISTEN, CLICK HERE!

Day 51 – The Puzzle – I Was Wrong About Building Your Brand…Kind Of

The fact is BRAND drives sales.  

Brand makes customer acquisition 1,000,000 times easier, but most of us never make it to the level of brand that we need for that. Especially local restaurants. 

Think about it this way.  When Apple announces a new iPhone there’s ZERO sales pitch and in many case no info, yet their customers FLOCK to buy it.  When Nike rolls out a new Air Jordan shoe, same thing.  People line-up to buy the shoes sight unseen.  When Tesla showcased an insane cybertruck to it’s fans, they had 1 million pre-orders in year one and 2 million by year two!  NONE of that happens without a BRAND that people love and support, and building a brand takes a LOT of marketing.

And I know what you’ll say along with that “Matt we are not Apple, Nike or Tesla”, we’re a small independent restaurant. I get that, but honestly you have it much easier.  You don’t need to sell people worldwide, you just need to dominate a few miles around your restaurant.  Y

S0 why aren’t customers rushing to try your new dish, your new trivia night, etc?  It’s because your brand is not big enough and you don’t command the level of respect you need to get those lines.   You’ve never consistently done the leg work on the streets, through digital marketing and in your store.  Yes, you’ve had spurts of hustle, but it can’t happen occasionally, it has to happen ALL THE TIME and when you see traction you go HARDER!  You never stop!

For years I’ve been preaching the reasons you need to build a brand and I’m here today with my tail between my legs to tell you I was wrong.  You don’t need to focus on building a brand, you need to focus on DRIVING SALES and then allow the marketing that drives sales to slowly build your brand.  What I know is possible for all of you, simply isn’t on your priority list and it took me 9 years to realize that. 

I’ve been wasting my time with so many restaurant owners, trying to get them to do what I want with regards to social media.  Every 10th client will listen and see massive results and that’s what I would always lean into.  But then one day I thought “Matt, that means 9 are not listening, or don’t give a shit.”

So that forced me to sit back and re-evaluate our company goals. It made me ask myself a deep question, WHY don’t restaurant owners care about building a brand.

The answer, you need sales now.  They need relief from the pressure of not having money to pay themselves and their bills.  The restaurants that have taken my advice to heart are in a much different financial position.  They have the room to breathe, and that gives them the patience to focus on building the brand.  

David Scott Peters always says in his seminars when asked what owners should focus on first, marketing or operations “BOTH.  It’s the chicken and the egg.  You have to do both.”  And as I sat in Las Vegas at his most recent Restaurant Transformation Seminar I thought about what he said and realized that when owners ask that question they are talking about marketing that drives sales NOW, not in 3-5 years like branding will do.  

So with that we changed our company tag line to “Drive Sales & Build Brand.”  We decided to go all in on creating a restaurant marketing platform that is focused 100% on driving sales. 

But the good news is, that when done right (how we’ll show you), you’ll also be slowly building your brand.  And my hope is that after a few years of consistent sales growth and a renewed belief in marketing that you’ll say “I get it, I have the time and breathing room and NOW I’m going on all in on my brand.”

See you tomorrow,


Day 50 – The Puzzle – Building A Platform That Drives Predictable Restaurant Sales

This was a note I made in my journal:

“We need your help to build a product that helps you drive predictable sales on demand while you accidently build a brand” … at least that’s what I meant to write 🙂

I made this note as the headline of the video I want to make for a survey to send to our restaurant clients.  The goal is to find out what they love, like, don’t like and hate about our services.  But it was to also give them a vision for the changes we want to make.  We are taking Repeat Returns Software and Restaurant Marketing That Works, my restaurant agency, and combining them into the Ultimate Restaurant Marketing Platform.

I want a platform that allows restaurants to plug in their current sales and their sales goal in 24-36 months and have numbers spit back at them of what it will take to get there.  As in “you need 3,546 more loyalty members to hit that number.” 

I want a platform where a restaurant can go in and create a campaign that will drive a predictable result every day, you know “I need $1,000 more in dinner sales today…CLICK.”

I want a platform that automatically creates a marketing plan every day for 50% of your database, so they are on a specific path based on their use of your restaurant.

I want a platform that is easy for you to see your ROI in every funnel.

I want. a platform that you trust, one that creates massive belief in your eyes for the power of marketing.

I want a platform that when the clock strikes MIDNIGHT your marketing dashboard creates a plan for the next day where 7% the customers in your database are in a funnel for that day.  That would leave 51% to be marketed to that week with a unique one off program and you’d have your bases covered 52 weeks per year FOR YOU!

I could go on and on about what I want, but at the end of the day I’ll need to merge that with what YOU WANT!  What restaurant owners want in order to get what they need, SALES!

Day 49 – The Puzzle – An Exciting Restaurant Promotion, The Money Bucket

Today I was reminded of a time 8 years ago when I was at a clients restaurant running what I call the MONEY BUCKET promo! 

I’ve been doing this promotion with clients and my own business for over 20 years and I can remember EXACTLY where I learned it from.

The year was 2000 and I was working two jobs.  One for WGRR as an advertising “account executive” AKA salesman and the other was my side hustle of building our boat dealership through online marketing.  Yes ONLINE MARKETING in 2000 🙂

The money bucket came from WGRR and our sales manager Kim Wiest.  We would have a sales event once per year called the One Day Sale where we would do our best to liquidate our first quarter inventory in November since radio sales was relatively soft after the holidays.  We’d spend a few weeks prepping our clients for this one day sale and then the day of DIAL FOR DOLLARS!  

In November of 2000 Kim broke out a paper bag and loaded it with CASH.  She would walk around the office and let you reach in when you closed a deal.  That was my first big one day sale and I dominated, I was #1 out of our 4 stations by a big margin and I got to reach into the money bag A LOT!  And that memory stuck with me.

So a few years later when I was looking for a way to spark the sales team at our boat dealership I turned to the money bucket. And then around 2010 when I was looking for a way to help some retail clients of my marketing agency, I did it again.

Since 2010 the Money Bucket promo has been a staple with my clients.

In episode 173 of my podcast, Restaurant Marketing Secrets, I did a deep dive into how we did the Money Bucket at Backyard Grill in Houston Texas, CLICK HERE to listen and get a tad more insight.

So WHAT IS THE MONEY BUCKET and how can it be used to increase my restaurants sales, because that’s what we all aim for.


– You create a promotion

– You get some cash

– You get a bucket, bag or box

– You let customers or employees reach into the “money bucket” as your CTA, call to action.


– Drive traffic from your marketing

– Create excitement in the restaurant

– Incentivize and reward customers and employees.

Here are two examples of how you can do this.

First example, this is for your customers to drive enrollments in your VIP or loyalty program.  You create a marketing campaign and let your customers and following know that on a particular day and time when they visit and sign-up or PROVE they are a member they get to reach into the money bucket.  Ideally you create a video of you with the bucket and some cash and then use that on Facebook to get their attention.

A few notes:

– Pick a time and day when you’ll be busy, it’s a HUGE in-store excitement promo

– Don’t use big bills, I found that a $5 and $50 create the same amount of excitement at the table

– Have one person dedicated to this, no other job at that time

Ok, then you’re going to walk around to every table in the restaurant and let them know “we are letting current members or new signups reach into the money bucket for some free cash, are you game?”

Second example, this is for your employees.  Create an intenal contest like whoever sells a dessert today gets to reach into the money bucket every time one sells.  This is a great way to build excitement with your team and around the money bucket.  

Lastly, when you do this for your customers, make sure to post some pics and videos on Facebook to PROVE that you did this and excite people for the next time you do it.  I have done this across many concepts and it’s NEVER not worked.  Customers and staff, LOVE IT!


OH, and the YouTube video below is a VLOG we did around one of our trips to see a client where YOURS TRULY did the money bucket for the client, so scroll down and watch. 

Day 46 – The Puzzle – Another 48 Years, That’s How Long


That was the question that hit me this morning as I was leaving a business meeting and observed an older gentleman jogging through Loveland.

When I saw him jogging, weights in hand, I thought “I wonder how old he is?  Probably 70-75, he looks good.  But I wonder, what’s he do all day…what would I want to do all day then?”

And with that the thought popped into my head “how long will I work and what’s possible?” 

I just turned 48 last week and I can see the effects of not working, not thinking, not grinding has on people.  When you stop or even slow down YOU GET OLD!  And I don’t want to get OLD like that.  

Plus I freaking love the conversations I get to have with restaurant owners and other entrepreneurs. Just yesterday I got to spend some time with a good friend of mine, Jim, who was in town for a conference.  We spent about 90 minutes together and the conversation was amazing. The insights he gave me, the energy I pulled from him, ALL TOP NOTCH!

Then later in the afternoon I hopped on a call with my team and two restaurant owners.  During that call I got the exact same feeling.  I WAS ALIVE!  Talking about what I love, restaurant marketing, and helping small business owners get what they want out of it.  Plus, the collaborative conversation we had is what really fuels me.  

So with that thought this morning it instantly hit me “How old is Warren Buffet?  That dude is a freaking rockstar and he’s got to be pushing 90.  If he can be that damn sharp and impactful at that age, so can I.”

So off to Google and BOOM, he’s 93…according to Google (sidebar, crazy how we instantly trust one source these days right).

Now the question some people will have is “why would you want to work until you are in your 90’s?”  My answer, TO STAY SHARP!  To keep my brain running full speed and squeeze every ounce out of life.  Now will I be putting in 60-80 hour weeks and traveling all the time at that point, of course not.  But I will be contributing to the vision of this company, YES YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT, this company!  Selling to the highest bidder doesn’t appeal to me, building a legacy like Warren and Charlie did DOES!  I want to drive down streets and see campuses with our company brands on them.  I want to fly to conferences that we own. I want to see millionaires come out of our companies, and I want to do it for the next 48 yerars.

See you tomorrow. 

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!