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PROMOTIONS | Staff Reporter, Australia
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TheFork Country Manager Gary Burrows reveals why it's crucial for QSRs to join TheFork Festival this year

It’s a measurable, cost-effective way to acquire new customers quickly with no upfront marketing costs.

Gone are the days when restaurants are incredibly crowded during lunch or dinner time, and when bars are teeming with life as people chat and enjoy drinks at happy hour.

COVID-19 has dramatically changed life as we know it. People are forced to work or study from home, those who do need to go out have to follow strict social distancing rules, and businesses are mandated to implement COVID-safe plans. Such a challenging landscape left businesses, especially those in hospitality and retail such as quick service restaurants (QSRs), fighting hard to survive and stay afloat.

According to Gary Burrows, Country Manager of TheFork Australia, COVID-19 has taken away the speed and spontaneity of fast food.

“QSRs now need to manage their customers and ensure they’re following COVID-safe rules. Diners need to plan more than ever, when previously they
were always walking past and happy to stand in line. Now they’re making decisions based on where they can safely order meals and have somewhere to sit to enjoy their food,” he says.

TheFork is helping both restaurants and customers find each other especially during these difficult times. QSRs can join TheFork, Australia’s #1 restaurant booking app, to boost their online presence to millions of unique visitors each month and get more diners into their venue.

Burrows says TheFork’s marketing levers, such as special offers, Yums loyalty program, and annual festivals, help increase restaurants’ occupancy rate. TheFork Festival, one of the largest dining events in the country, is now ongoing until the 28th of March. In an online interview with Burrows, QSR Media sought to learn more about the
Festival:
 
QSR Media: What inspired the launch of the very first TheFork Festival? Can you take us through your journey from the first Festival till today?
Burrows: It initially came from restaurant owners. They were asking us to help them and do something to help boost their bookings, particularly in the quieter shoulder periods. We know that January and July are often quieter months, as people are watching their spending post-Christmas or staying home in the colder months. But restaurants can’t decrease their floor space depending on the weather, they have to factor in margins to accommodate.

Restaurants were already running offers but needed to reach a wider audience. They couldn’t only rely on customers finding them direct. Through TheFork Festival, we can promote their offers to our large audience and extend their reach. As well as promoting via our own channels, we now invest in media to further support the festival and drive the messaging to even more potential customers for our restaurant partners.

If you were to describe TheFork Festival in one line, how would you do it?
For diners: TheFork Festival allows diners to discover great restaurants, at the best price, at the right time. For restaurants: TheFork Festival gives restaurants the ability to tap into a large base of engaged diners in a cost-effective way.
 
What are you doing differently this year?
There are two major differences this year. Firstly, we’re encouraging all Australian restaurants to join the Festival, even if they’re not a customer of TheFork or if they’re using an alternative software provider. Restaurants can sign up to TheFork Festival and they’ll be available to book for the duration of the 6-week event, getting exposure to millions of diners. They can then stop taking bookings at any time post-festival.

The second thing we’ve done is open up a variety of discount options for restaurants, including up to 50% discount and specially-curated menus. 
 
Why should QSRs participate in this year’s festival?
TheFork Festival is a measurable, cost-effective way to acquire new customers quickly with no upfront marketing costs. What are your thoughts on how the pandemic affected QSRs? What strategies do you think they should implement in the coming months in order to recover?

QSRs need to be thinking about customer acquisition. They can no longer rely solely on people walking past their venues, they have to be where the customer is when they’re making a decision on where to eat – and that’s online! They also need to ensure they’re following all COVID-safe rules and letting their customers know the measures they have in place, otherwise diners won’t feel safe to return.
 
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
QSRs should reach out to us. People see us as a platform only for seated diners or fine dining, but we want to engage with all restaurants because we know that diners want to be able to book their restaurant. We’re a marketplace for diners and there is space for everyone!

Interested QSRs can still sign up for TheFork Festival. Click here to join the Festival now.

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