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National Restaurant Association - Catch onto mobile app crazes to drive restaurant traffic

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Catch onto mobile app crazes to drive restaurant traffic

Video games come and go, but every now and then, one will strike gold and earn a longtime fan base. Nintendo’s Pokémon made its US arrival in 1998 when GameBoy was popular and has retained a devoted, nostalgic following. In July 2016, the Pokémon Go mobile app debuted, and approximately 213 million people talked about it that month on Facebook and Instagram. Via their smart phones, millions of users are still actively catching Pokémons out in their communities and sometimes even at restaurants, thanks to location-based augmented reality and savvy restaurant owners.

At our 2016 Restaurant Innovation Summit, two staff members from Austin-based VERTS Mediterranean Grill – Jordan Beckvonpeccoz, designer, and Sarah Pendley, public relations manager – shared how the brand capitalized on the Pokémon Go craze by quickly assembling an action plan days after the app launched.

Since one of the VERTS locations is a PokéStop – a real-world location selected by Niantic Labs, the game developer – players could visit their restaurant and receive game accolades within the app. To attract customers, VERTS’ staff decided to throw a Poké party. For less than $6, they purchased an 8-pack of lures – temporary beacons of sorts that allow Pokémons to appear more frequently at a Stop for 30 minutes – and gradually released five lures during the nearly 3-hour event. During this period, restaurant staff gave away food samples and branded swag, scoring a 114 percent increase in traffic.

VERTS later partnered with a local comic book store that was a designated Pokémon Gym – also a real-world location selected by Niantic Labs – for a charity event. VERTS staff handed out food samples and branded swag, too, raising brand awareness.

To keep getting your restaurant brand name out there, Pendley recommends reaching out to media and letting them know about your fun Poké events. Invite media to attend on Facebook, and encourage players, staff and media to take Pokémon photos at your restaurant and post them on social media. Send reporters high-quality photos from your event, and be prepared to share numbers, such as the resulting percentage increase in traffic, associated with your event after it takes place. Act quickly to ride the wave!

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