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When you’re searching for new restaurant customers, you may not have to look further than the vibrant and growing Hispanic community.
Ignore the 57 million strong U.S. Hispanic population at your peril. They’re considered very brand loyal and eating is often a family event. The National Restaurant Association makes the case for attracting Hispanics:
“The U.S. Hispanic market is an incredibly important segment for the restaurant industry,” says Ola Mobolade, author of Marketing to the New Majority. “It comprises the fastest-growing segments while influencing the mainstream’s taste preferences. Drawing from Hispanic culture to innovate menus can attract both the rapidly growing U.S. Hispanic market and the millions of non-Hispanics in the multicultural mainstream.”
Here’s where to start if you’re serious about growing your Hispanic customers.
Some restaurants seem to think that all it takes to appeal to the Hispanic audience is to translate ads and signs into Spanish, and then to replace images of Caucasians with ethnic-looking people.
Such efforts are usually executed poorly, with translations written by people who clearly don’t understand Spanish idioms. Showing ethnic audiences in advertising images is a good thing, but not when they display stereotypes. It’s a good idea to keep your marketing story free of quinceañeras, fiestas or anything with a piñata. Focusing advertising campaign creative on such culturally significant events or symbols can imply those are the only things you know about our multifaceted Hispanic culture. And it won't help sales.
As with any business, it’s important to make your customers comfortable. For example, if the audience you cater to is Hispanic, you want your guests to see themselves reflected in your employees. This may mean hiring Hispanic workers. And certainly, your staff should speak fluent Spanish—even more so in some locations than others. This extends to overall restaurant concept, which should accurately reflect the culture you wish to attract.
When Hispanics patronize a restaurant, there’s a good chance it will be a multigenerational affair, with children, parents and grandparents. A survey by The NPD Group found that Hispanics visit restaurants in groups of three or more 13% more often than non-Hispanics. NPD’s Michele Schmal says, “Hispanic restaurant consumers tell us that they would visit restaurants more often if they made children feel welcome.”
No matter the ethnicity, all families prefer to eat together at one table. So be sure that your tables and chairs can be configured to accommodate larger groups of people.
Appealing to Hispanic tastes doesn’t mean simply adding a burrito to your menu. Hispanics, like most Americans, enjoy eating all cuisines. However, if your core menu is open to including some traditional Hispanic foods, go for it. And while you’re at it, consider offering culturally specific condiments such as guacamole, jalapeños and sriracha hot sauce.
In addition to the foods on your menu, get creative with attractive single-order family-sized bundles that cater to a variety of tastes. The easier the purchase, the better. Fare should include a variety of simple, decadent and healthier foods that will appeal to all ages.
Research from Technomic, a healthcare-based consulting firm, suggests that restaurants offer fresh and healthy food choices. A full 70% of Hispanics say that a healthy lifestyle is important to them, “and 43% of Hispanic customers said they choose better-for-you options when they dine away from home.”
Once your food and facility are Hispanic-ready, you’ll also want to make sure you’re technology friendly and marketing online. Nielsen reports that “U.S. Hispanics are now the most avid smartphone users around.” Nielsen underscores this fact: “The average Hispanic mobile user uses 658 minutes per month on their mobile plan, which is significantly more than the average of 510 minutes per month for all consumers. When broken down by Hispanic subgroups, bilingual Hispanics dominate in terms of minutes used, as they spend more than 762 minutes per month talking on their mobile devices.”
Take advantage of this technologically savvy audience by offering free WiFi in your restaurant, mobile coupons and apps that offer early “check in.”
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