Like any industry, the restaurant industry has always had its own set of marketing challenges. But, the onset of the new coronavirus has made those challenges exponentially more difficult. How can you adapt in the era of COVID-19 and get better customer engagement, despite the obstacles? Here are some restaurant marketing tips, geared toward how to get more sales in such a time like this.
Make your response to COVID-19 abundantly clear.
You’ve almost certainly sent an email or posted a statement on your website about how your operations have changed due to the new coronavirus. But, have you been clear enough? Particularly when it comes to restaurants, customers need details. First, they need to know you’re still open. Then, they need to know the specific health precautions you’re taking to protect them and their food, so they can feel safe eating it.
Since social distancing guidelines and government orders to shut down in-person dining were put in place, restaurants had to pivot to takeout-only. Your restaurant may or may not be set up to operate this way, but now there’s no choice. Make sure you share your takeout options with your audience, so people know you’re open and ready to give them high-quality food, safely and conveniently.
Increase the ease of pickup and delivery.
People are afraid to go out of their houses, so they may be hesitant to pick up food from a restaurant. But, with many grocery stores low on key items, and average households getting bored of eating the same meals day after day, people want good food. If you can make the process of ordering takeout easy, you greatly increase your odds of getting more sales.
If you can provide delivery (either directly or through a service like DoorDash or GrubHub), you’re providing a much-desired service. Decrease the barriers to entry with delivery by making sure customers can order their food online and pay without hassle. Even something simple like asking people to call in to place an order can kill a potential sale.
If delivery won’t work for your business, your focus needs to be 100% on takeout. But again, no one wants to stand in a takeout line next to other people, for fear of catching (or spreading) germs. Think through how you can set up your takeout service to limit person-to-person proximity.
Can you have customers text you when they arrive, and you put their food outside the door at that time? Can you allow customers to pay ahead digitally, so no cash or cards have to be exchanged? If people need to wait in line, is there a way you can structure the line and the pickup flow to limit exposure?
Once you have a plan, share that. Put these details on your website, on your social media pages, in your emails, etc. so customers understand what to expect with the new experience.
Offer discounts and specials.
As COVID-19 continues to impact the economy, one thing is clear: people are afraid to spend money. The new coronavirus has caused many to lose their jobs or otherwise take some sort of hit financially. But, we all still need to eat. Your business still has a purpose, and your customers want it; they just need to feel comfortable with the prices attached.
To this end, get creative with discounts and specials. Yes, it will reduce your margins. But that’s ok. Right now, we’re all trying to help each other. Customers will remember your kindness and they’ll want to patronize you more when all this is over, if you offer them help now. This doesn’t have to be drastic or completely shortchange your business, either.
Instead, start small. can you introduce a “buy three entrees, get one appetizer free” offer? Could you give 10% off for all takeout orders? Or maybe one night a week, you offer a “kids eat free” dinner with the purchase of at least one regular entree? Whatever you can do to give your customers a monetary break will be really appreciated right now – and will get more people heading your way.
But of course, you have to let them know about it. Send emails to your customers about these offers, post about them on your social media channels. Dedicate a conservative budget to Facebook ads, and target your key demographics online.
We hope these restaurant marketing tips help you get better customer engagement, and keep your restaurant humming until we get through this time. We’re here to answer any marketing questions you have, and support our fellow businesses however we can. Wishing you and your customers well.