At the beginning of the pandemic, Paul Dioguardi, owner of Colorado-based Hickory House Ribs, realized there was only so much he could do with the amount of available restaurant tables so he decided to focus on growing the catering side of the business.
The brand has two locations – Aspen and Parker– and specializes in Danish baby back ribs and in-house smoked meats with homemade side dishes.
“Our marketing plan has always been to get new people to try our food,” he said. “We feel that once they try us once, they will be hooked and they are a customer for life. We advertised in local papers, supporting youth sports and wrapping our vehicles. With COVID, restaurants were shut down completely, only offering takeout and delivery. We continued to advertise and market our food, focusing specifically on takeout and delivery to drive business.
His updated marketing strategy included new wrapping for their catering van. According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), the average vehicle driven 15,000 miles per year will pass in front of nine million other vehicles – a marketing opportunity for food and beverage business owners with mobile operations.
“Our vehicles are on the road a lot; Vehicle graphics helped us get out in front of customers during COVID-19 by enhancing our current strategy rather than trying to develop something from the ground up. I love that the wrap is always working for you even if it is just parked out front of the restaurant.”
He said the design was meant to have that “Wow” factor, not just a name of a business and a phone number. And it has gotten people’s attention.
“While working takeout, people drove by and said, ‘I saw the van, I called the number, I need a takeout order for tonight.’ Just having this van parked out front drove that sale.”
To help businesses get their vehicles wrapped, Wrapmate, an end-to-end digital platform, takes an owner step by step through the process from design to pricing and installation. The company helped Hickory House Ribs visualize their vehicle graphics using an augmented reality (AR) app that shows the vehicle graphic mockup on a 3D digital image placed virtually in their driveway or office parking lot.
“We have a variety of innovative tools that play into the hands of small businesses looking to execute their marketing campaigns while remaining socially distanced,” said Chris Loar, Founder and CEO of Wrapmate. “In addition to our AR app, we’ve developed an online price calculator specifically for vehicle graphics with real-time pricing coming in the near future. Wrapmate also partnered with 3M Commercial Solutions to provide all the graphic products used to ensure these wraps are built to last.”
Dioguardi said the vehicle wrap paid for itself within the first month.
“So many calls to the restaurant referenced they had seen our truck out front or driving around the town. I even got calls from current customers who didn’t even realize that we did catering.”
Dioguardi feels it’s important for small businesses to try new marketing techniques, particularly now.
“Do what you can to get your name out there,” he said. “Wrapping a vehicle sounds expensive but the payback is huge. Work with a vendor you trust to ensure that your vision comes through in the final design and that your vehicle is only off the road for as long as it needs to be for the installation. Do what you can to let people know you are still out there working hard and surviving this crazy world.”