The fast casual restaurant trade is quite a tough market to be at the best of times, but when we take into consideration E-tolls, increasing petrol prices, interest rate hikes, the climbing Dollar and so on, maintaining and growing a restaurant business is not for the faint hearted.
The upside of this doom and gloom for the local market is that the as people are more likely to be traveling and eating less internationally due to the strong Dollar, and more locally. It also means paradoxically that while many are conscious about rising prices, we have more disposable income.
There are generally two reasons why a fast casual restaurant grows in this type of market. Customers might be migrating down from higher end restaurants, secondly that Ocean Basket plays in the envious space of being a first dining experience for many emerging middle class customers, basically creating a new tranche of customers.
In the clutter of the market many restaurants focusing heavily on price promotions, but at Ocean Basket it is not about discounts, it is about value and a great dining experience. Discounting a brand is not recommended as it sets a precedent reducing your potential to increase your profit in the long run. Ocean Basket has been quite clear and consistent in its messaging that the restaurant already offers great value, so a customer will not necessarily come in just for a 10% discount, that is not what drives them. This is where innovative and immersive marketing comes in.
Getting a message to a potential customer at the right time and in budget is one thing, converting this into sales is another. Ocean Basket has run two through-the-line marketing campaigns focusing on delighting customers and getting feet through the door.
It is not enough just to have a promotion, but a new innovation so tempt customers. As unbelievable as it sounds not everyone is a lover of raw fish, especially in the South African market, so to get the taste of sushi onto the palate of reluctant converts, Ocean Basket developed a range of cooked sushi. This really shows that they understand the changing market they are catering to, without losing the humour and taste that they are known for.
A product does not sell itself though, so a full humorous through-the-line campaign was developed based on a band of wicked Ninjas trying to get their sushi back. Digital was a core component of driving awareness, the website, HTML mailers and Social media promotion was key to the campaign. High impact promoted ads and Facebook placements were also heavily used. The campaign took into consideration the huge number of people on social media playing games online, so a Slapem sushi game was developed. Having a digital presence is a must, however customers also live in the real world, so the campaign also
used cinema and tv advertising, rolling it out onto radio, truck branding, posters and quirky in-store activations where Ninjas were used to steal sushi from unsuspecting customers, resulting in much mirth and sharing of these experiences on social media. All in all the Ninja campaign resulted in Ocean Basked being entrenched the brand that stands for fun, innovative and above all, great seafood. It has also cemented Ocean Baskets position as the leader in accessible sushi in South Africa.
Which leads us to February, the month of love!
Ocean Basket has taken Valentines Day and stretched it to cover the whole month of February with their Oceans of Love campaign. Being a digitally savvy brand, Ocean Basket has created multiple touchpoints to reach customers with naughty but nice competitions on their website, mobi-sites and a strong Facebook presence for the chance to win a couples dinner at one of their restaurants as well as the grand prize of a stunning Portuguese Ocean cruise with MSC Cruises. With prizes like these, no wonder love is in the air!
Ocean Basket is not waiting to be pulled along kicking and screaming into digital and social media marketing. These campaigns show a restaurant brand that is progressively engaging with customers in the way that they want to be communicated to and when they want it. The brand also takes into consideration that not everyone is going to see their messages on digital formats, hence ensuring that all campaigns have a through the line component to them. So there you have it, great marketing, great fun and most of all great seafood!
Ocean Basket is South Africas largest chain of seafood restaurants, with its 175 franchised outlets (of which 21 are international) commanding a 60% market share within its niche. Coming of age at 18 in 2013 the business was started by brothers Fats and George Lazarides, together with current partner Pedro De Sambento. It is currently taking its wildly successful concept to the rest of Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
The restaurant model is premised on bringing seafood (previously the preserve of the chic) to the man in the street. It achieves this by having a simple, focused menu removed of all frills and an obsession with generosity and a warm and welcoming environment.
By removing the frills associated with silver service it found a gap to reduce margins for the consumer. In addition, through clever product sourcing and its simple business model, affordable meals such as sushi and prawns have acquired mass appeal in South Africa and now elsewhere helped along by Ocean Baskets tongue in cheek marketing campaigns.
Ocean Basket is a SASSI participant.