The pop-up restaurant is just one of a number of initiatives Lidl has run aimed at “surprising” people with its products. Its original #LidlSurprises launch in August showed people trying products at a market that was selling Lidl goods, while its Christmas campaign focused around a Christmas dinner.
The pop-up restaurant, which was open for a month in Shoreditch but closed on Sunday (14 December), marked a slight change in tack. It was not filmed or used as part of a wider TV campaign.
Instead Lidl hoped to attract as many people as possible to the restaurant so they could experience its products for themselves. There was no hint that the restaurant was being run by Lidl, with the grocer only revealing that when people got their bill.
Pickhardt tells Marketing Week the initiative was a success. At its peak, the restaurant was handling 70 reservation requests an hour and was fully booked at both its lunchtime and dinner settings and people have spread the word about the restaurant through social media.
“We thought a pop-up restaurant was an exciting way to surprise people – get real people in a real place and surprise them with the quality of our food. We are always on a mission in terms of opening people’s eyes, there are still misconceptions that good quality has to be expensive.
“What we are trying to do is strip away all the packaging and the brand so that what remains is the pure product. The moment when we present the bill – the surprise moment – you can see in people’s reaction that they can’t believe it.
“We wanted to keep it a secret because it is only when you take away what could lead to misconceptions – the Lidl brand – that you get an honest reaction,” he adds.
He said perceptions of Lidl’s quality are improving, a claim backed up by YouGov’s BrandIndex which shows customer perceptions of the discounter’s quality have increased by a statistically significant 9.4 points over the past year to 14.6.
That is why, said Pickhardt, Lidl is planning more of these events, although he would not be drawn on what they might look like for “fear of spoiling the surprise” He said the whole LidlSurprises campaign has shown that, for a brand like Lidl, the honesty of the marketing is key.
“People trust real people more than they trust a brand and that is the idea – handing over the voice from us as a brand to real people.”
Arnd Pickhardt, advertising and marketing director, Lidl
“We have learned that communication with customers is the key thing – to hear what they have to say and for them to get involved with the brand is vital for us. People trust real people more than they trust a brand and that is the idea – handing over the voice from us as a brand to real people.
“For those that already shop at Lidl they feel reassured that what they are doing is really smart. For those that don’t yet it challenges them to come along and find something they might not expect,” he says.
The pop-up has also been important in showing off Lidl’s expanding range – with products including lobster and reindeer carpaccio all on the menu.
This expanding range, said Pickhardt, means that growing numbers of people are coming to store not just for specific items but to do their entire Christmas shop. Lidl sends all its staff into stores over Christmas for a day, with Pickhardt saying that during his time in store on Sunday it was “terribly busy” and that Lidl is on course to have its best Christmas ever.
“All our numbers – transactions, numbers through the doors, turnover – have all seen uplift. More and more we are seeing people come in for the full shop because we offer the full Christmas dinner – from fresh turkey to all the trimmings – and basket spend is growing. It’s phenomenal,” he said.