Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and abstinence, is feted in all Muslim countries around the world. As the diaspora continues to grow stronger — Muslims are the fastest-growing major religious group, projected to grow 70% between 2015–2060 (compared to 32% global population growth) — many brands are standing up and taking notice.
Ramadan is not only a good time for restaurants to advertise products, but it can also be an opportunity to promote corporate responsibility and show gratitude to employees and customers. This is especially significant in the current times. With the coronavirus crisis, the foodservice industry is facing unprecedented challenges.
- There have been more than 80k COVID-19 cases in the GCC with a 0.6% mortality rate (as of May 7, 2020)
- The IMF estimates GDP growth for 2020 will plunge to -2.3% in the KSA, -3.5% in the UAE, -4.3% in Qatar, -1.1% in Kuwait, and -2.8% in Oman
- In Dubai, business confidence in March 2020 was the lowest since Q3 2016, and the tourism sector activity index dropped by 28% over the previous month (as soon as February 2020, the number of Chinese visitors to Dubai fell by 72% year-over-year — a significant impact as the city receives about a million tourists from China every year)
- The Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina were closed for tourists, and the umrah pilgrimage was canceled
- Malls, restaurants, cafes, and parks were closed for weeks in most of the GCC countries (the KSA shut down on March 15th, dine-in operations in Dubai were closed down starting March 23rd)
- Expo 2020 to be held in Dubai was postponed by one year
- Countries are taking measures to ease the economic blow; in Saudi Arabia, businesses were given discounts in utility bills and support to pay contractors and wage assistance for certain jobs
- Online grocery shopping spikes: orders at Carrrefour UAE increased by 300%, 700% in Egypt, and 1,000% in the KSA
- Restaurants same-store sales plummeted, wit Herfy (one of the QSR leaders in the KSA) reporting a 5.3% drop in year-over-year sales
- Tourists and expat workers who have been fired or furlough can not get back to their home countries; more than 200k Indian citizens have registered for repatriation flights in the UAE, about a quarter of them are expats who lost their jobs
In a lot of ways what we anticipate for the restaurant industry is an acceleration of changes that were already in motion. Some of that being adoption of technology, corporate moat building, some of the expansion strategy, location strategy, alternate foodservice formats and channels (things like delivery, curbside, more emphasis on takeaway).
Even more in times like these, marketing and promotions can help restaurants improve the top-line. Here’s a look at successful Ramadan restaurant promotions from a few powerful brands over the years that welcomed the Holy Month with strong messages and even stronger promotions.
1. Nando’s Double Whammy – A “Peri-fect” Analogy & Incentive
Nando’s UAE drew up an interesting analogy to invite – and excite – customers to their special edition of Ramadan 2015 iced cappuccinos in locally preferred flavors. The underlying message, though a tad tricky, seemed invigorating enough to match a product’s quality to the spirit of a people who revere the month and its blessings.
If that wasn’t enough, Nando’s donned its Peri-[chari]table avatar on Twitter and pledged to donate proceeds from its “Altogether Now” platter to the philanthropic institution Dubai Cares.
2. TGI Friday’s Tantalizing Top-Up
TGI Friday’s Malaysia stepped up its game in Ramadan 2013 with RM 10++ for endless soup and salad with the purchase of a main course. It presented Iftar – the post-sunset meal – with endearing positivity and warmth.
3. Pizza Hut “All-You-Can-Eat”
Pizza Hut Pakistan offered an “All-You-Can-Eat-and-Drink” Iftar in Ramadan in 2018, including unlimited pizza, salad, garlic bread, and beverages. Family deals and other promotions were also in place, donating meals for each one bought.
4. Chili’s Makes Iftar All About Sharing
Chili’s Qatar made the Ramadan evening meal a sharing event, be it with friends or family. Its Facebook page attracted consumers with incentives, healthy tips and the joys of bonding.
For the entire Holy Month in 2015, Chili’s offered a starting with soup, sharing an appetizer and enjoying a full-size entrée with complimentary dates and Ramadan beverages, all for Qatari Riyal 69 per person.
5. KFC’s Midnight Call
KFC Pakistan offered valued deals for Suhoor – the pre-dawn morning meal – during Ramadan 2015 starting at midnight. KFC generally offers deals for two or four for Iftar and Suhoor.
6. Coke Strikes a “No-Label” Chord
In 2015, the global beverage company beaconed the holy month with a social message – that of removing labels by abandoning its own. The campaign that ran in the Middle East during Ramadan discouraged prejudices by scraping its own logo name from the cans.
Labels are for cans, not for people was a strong message to foster a world free of stereotypes.
In 2018, Coke released a follow-up ad to support Muslims fasting around the world during Ramadan in countries where they are a minority. The video has more than 3 million views on YouTube.
7. Ferrero Rocher Sits Tight at Heathrow
Ferrero Rocher launched its limited-edition Ramadan-centric chocolates poised at London’s Heathrow airport. This garnered a positive reaction from the growing Muslim population in the city and more so, of the number of Muslim passengers that transit through one of the world’s busiest airports.
8. Olper’s Wins Hearts with Message of Peace & Solidarity
Olper’s video commercial of a unified Muslim ummah and its invite for peace and solidarity hit a sweet spot. Regarding all Muslims as followers of one God and his beloved Messenger (peace be upon him), this commercial superficially extended the message to celebrate the blessings of the Holy Month with all and sundry. But in its undertone, it tried to remove all differences – cultural, religious, national and otherwise – that continue to litter the current Muslim diaspora.
9. KitKat Captures One & All
KitKat’s Facebook status reflected its ubiquitous affection towards all in an endearing yet smart way, breaking stereotypes and biases. It greeted the holy month with a simple, powerful social message.
10. Kellogg’s Goes the Happy “Appy” Way
Kellogg’s launched an augmented reality app for its Ramadan campaign across the United Arab Emirates. Every day, a new recipe using Kellogg’s cornflakes would appear on the mobile using the hotspot on the pack. A “how-to-make” video came with the recipe and so did a daily notification popup.
11. Eastern Mangrove Suites Focuses on Families
Eastern Mangrove Suites, an Abu Dhabi luxury hotel, focused its Ramadan promotion on creating personalized, individual offers for each guest to distinguish its property from other hotels in the area. It offers a free upgrade from a one-bedroom suite to a two-bedroom suite, allowing families to stay in one suite instead of two. This promotion helped drive occupancy up 6.5 percent between 2012 and 2013, enabling the hotel to achieve an occupancy rate of 82 percent in 2013.
12. Lulu Supermarkets and Hypermarkets Go Luxury
Lulu Supermarkets and Hypermarkets (the Middle East’s largest retail chain, with 104 locations in the GCC and India) featured its BMW Dream Drive for Ramadan event in Saudi Arabia. During this annual campaign, multiple luxury cars and over 100 Samsung products ranging from tablets to televisions are given away a month or two after Ramadan is over. Customers can only get raffle coupons by shopping at Lulu. Thanks in part to its Ramadan promotion, it rose 14 places between 2013 and 2014 on the Deloitte global top 250 retailer rankings, from 183 to 169 and earned revenue of $4.25 billion in 2013.
13. Lipton Gulf Takes to Twitter
Lipton launched a Ramadan Twitter campaign in 2014 that encouraged followers to share their special family moments from Iftar and Suhour using the hashtag #TeaMoments. The hashtag was promoted through in its TV ad campaigns, posters, and social media. The best submissions each week earned the users who had created the videos and photos the chance to win an Apple iPad Mini, and the videos and images were incorporated into a TV ad that ran during Eid. Many Muslims are wary of revenue-driven commercialization of the holy month, which made this family-focused campaign a success. By the end of Ramadan, Lipton Gulf had received more than 11,000 competition entries, 3.36 million trend impressions and a peak engagement rate of 13.71 percent. Its sales also increased 21.1 percent, 11 percent above its target for the campaign.
14. Domino’s Emphasizes Compassion
Domino’s Pizza in Saudi Arabia emphasized compassion for others and connecting with family members for its Ramadan campaign, allowing customers to purchase any medium or large pizza and get one of the same size free from Iftar to Sohour. Furthermore, each time a pizza was sold, Domino’s donated 3 SAR to the Saudi Cancer Society.
The Saudi Arabian locations also altered opening and closing hours during Ramadan, closing during the day and opening half an hour before Iftar. The promotions and altered opening hours allowed many Saudi Arabian locations to increase profits during the holy month.
Domino’s has also offered buy-one, get-one deals during past Ramadan seasons — and combined promotions with purpose by matching purchases with contributions given to underprivileged homes during the month.
15. Whole Foods Features Halal
In 2011, Whole Foods teamed up with halal products retailer Saffron Road to offer Muslims in the U.S. a special Ramadan promotion including sales on certain traditional Muslim foods and wider availability of halal meats and other Islamic staples. While the campaign was controversial among many of Whole Foods’ American customers, the digital coupons, product giveaways, and Ramadan-centric ad campaign caused Saffron Road sales to increase by 300 percent and its Facebook fan base to increase by 200 percent.
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Islam continues to spread as the world’s fastest-growing major religion, coaxing restaurants and food & beverage companies to approach the Holy Month with renewed marketing strategies.
About Aaron Allen & Associates
Aaron Allen & Associates works alongside senior executives of the world’s leading foodservice and hospitality companies to help identify, size, and seize opportunities to drive growth, optimize performance, and enhance enterprise value. Our clients span six continents and 100+ countries, collectively posting more than $200b in revenue.
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