EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Staff Reporter, Australia

How the pandemic shifted marketing spending, as told by Oporto, Menulog, Seagrass Boutique Hospitality Group, Motto Motto and Bubba Pizza

Industry leaders offer their take on engaging customers during this time.

How have restaurant brands been wisely spending their marketing dollars amidst this period of uncertainty?

For Bubba Pizza, putting it on social media and direct-to-consumer communication was the answer.

“It was all about communicating to our customers,” Managing Director Damian Hopper said at the marketing panel of the QSR Media Sandhurst Conference & Awards. “In recent years, we have had success in building our brand reputation, but when COVID-19 came to Australia it gave us the opportunity to use our recent success to engage in direct marketing to our newly-acquired customers and it was a success.”

Oporto, which took a step back from above-the-line marketing and doubled down on promoting their core menu and bundles through social media, online videos and streaming channels, approached it by focusing on preserving brand salience and emotional connection.

“For us, it’s important that we continue to maintain that level of mental availability of why customers fell in love with us in the first place,” marketing head Samantha Bragg explained. “What that media channel is [per se] is hyper-dependent on our target audience...and the media they are consuming.”

Motto Motto chief commercial officer Matt Fickling said the Japanese fast casual chain is finding success in engaging customers through its Facebook and Instagram pages, but opted to spend more of its resources on brand-centric messaging to regain customers once it reopens its outlets.

“We spent the time and the money...on content creation, redesigned menus, photography - all ready in the next four to six weeks,” he explained.

Ribs & Burgers’ parent Seagrass Boutique Hospitality Group also opted to push its Facebook and Instagram channels, shutting its SEO (Search engine optimization) and SEM (Search engine marketing).

“It’s given us time to sit back and think about the content. As marketers, we have to be continuously dissatisfied with your content, no matter what it is,” chief marketing officer David Ovens remarked. “Keep looking for better content, more organic stuff.”

Offering a delivery platform’s point of view, Menulog - which opted for more above-the-line marketing to promote itself and its restaurant partners - highlighted its partnership with Australian Esports League as a means to market to a growing e-sports community.

“A lot of the research suggests that people who are in that industry actually don’t consume a lot of other forms of media so there is a lot of incrementality in targeting a lot of people in this category,” marketing director Simon Cheng explained.

(If you were a registrant during the QSR Media Sandhurst Conference & Awards, you’re able to watch the full panel by going to

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