Understand your Hispanic Audience and Connect with them Their Way

Published by the National Restaurant Association

US Hispanics: Prepare your marketing plan and use the language that fits

You understand your Hispanic audience and are ready to connect with them in their way. Now it’s time to prepare your marketing plan and language according to your customer segment.

You can reach Hispanics in multiple ways.

Word of mouth is strong among them. A good experience with your restaurant could result in a customer’s friends and family visiting you to discover it all for themselves. To help spread word of mouth, make your restaurant as professional and friendly for Hispanics as possible. You might also have Hispanic employees extend invitations or distribute special offers to Hispanics in the community.

For your wider marketing plan, Hispanic-marketing specialists Firefly Millward Brown advise integrating the ethnic guest perspective early in the process. Successful ethnic creative will engage consumers, incorporate the brand, communicate clearly and evoke a response, all in a cultural context.

Restaurateurs should also keep in mind that non-Hispanic whites don’t mind ethnic-targeted creative geared to someone other than themselves. Most expect it and are rarely turned away by it.

Build your customer profiles too.

“Gather as much information as you can about your Hispanic restaurant customers,” says Art Director Marcela Laphond of Spectrum Advertising in El Centro, California. “That can include name, address, e-mail, birthday and favorite dishes at your restaurant. Create a special database and use it to communicate with those customers.

“Social media is another great way of communicating promotions, special events, and new dishes and discounts, especially when marketing to second-generation Hispanics.

“If you are marketing to traditionalists, you’ll typically utilize TV with some radio and printed materials.”

TV ads on Spanish television are often a better buy than on English stations. Hispanics listen to Spanish radio and watch Spanish TV more than they do English media. Billboards can also be effective in neighborhoods with a large Spanish-speaking population.

It’s equally important to use the language that fits. Many U.S. Hispanics are bilingual. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2010, 37 million U.S. residents age five and older (12.8% of all residents five and older) spoke Spanish at home. More than half of them spoke English “very well.”

“Being Hispanic is more than speaking Spanish,” says Ola Mobolade, managing director of Firefly Millward Brown and author of Marketing to the New Majority. “In fact, non–English speaking Hispanics are in the minority, as the population of U.S.-born Hispanics grows dramatically and biculturalism remains on the rise.

“But speaking English doesn’t mean cultural nuances aren’t at play in Hispanics’ preferences and behaviors as they pertain to restaurants. For a restaurant brand to grow, it’s important to become well acquainted with the bicultural consumer segment.”

Additional information provided by the Pew Research Center suggests that 40% of Hispanics are more comfortable speaking Spanish than English.

“In-language communications are not just for transcending a comprehension barrier,” says Mobolade. “Seeing a restaurant has made an effort to connect with Hispanics in their own language is appreciated, even among English-speakers in the segment.”

Red Lobster is but one restaurant chain reaching out more to Hispanics in their native tongue. With 10% of its consumers being Hispanic – in line with the casual-dining industry average – it recently launched a $3 million Spanish-language TV ad campaign.

Tailor to the segments identified by Spectrum Advertising’s Laphond as well.

“Because traditionalists usually speak Spanish as their primary language, they like to get and receive information in Spanish,” she says. “If this is the target, you should communicate in Spanish. Second-generation Hispanics like to receive information in English that also reflects their cultural diversity.”

U.S. Hispanics will be an expanding customer base that can enhance restaurant profitability for decades to come. Understand them and then connect with them in their way through targeted language and marketing. In the end, both you and they will say gracias.

Tactical Takeaways

  • Remember that word of mouth is strong among Hispanics.
  • Integrate the ethnic guest perspective early in the marketing process.
  • Build a Hispanic customer profile database and use it for personalized communication.
  • Use English or Spanish according to the audience you’re targeting.