Before coronavirus hit, the most anxiety-inducing aspect of going out was beating the happy hour crowds for a drink. Now, there are a lot of variables diners have to consider before they embark to their favorite bar or restaurant.
Given the drastic changes in the restaurant industry, there is a certain apprehension associated with going out—and as a result, people have a lot of questions.
The best way to communicate with your clientele and answer some of those lingering questions is to implement an updated restaurant marketing strategy.
Even if you already had a solid marketing strategy prior to Covid-19, the needs of your consumer have changed—you should prepare to make a few adjustments.
We'll outline some best practices to get you started.
1. Show Your Guests That You Are Following Safety and Sanitation Guidelines
First and foremost, your marketing strategy should reflect a safety conscious mindset if you want to appeal to diners.
In a survey conducted by VIP insiders, they asked consumers whether they'd prefer to see their servers wearing masks, gloves, or both; an overwhelming 62% want servers to be wearing gloves and masks during service.
These results prove that even more than great service or tasty food, safety is a top priority for those that are dining out—showing your guests that you're adhering to guidelines in your area will make them feel more at ease while dining with you.
You can take a cue from Summer House Santa Monica; their instagram account has gone to great lengths to incorporate safety and sanitation into their marketing.
Posting this photo is a brilliant strategy for a few reasons: it manages to normalize a situation that is inherently not normal, while also making safety conscious guests more likely to dine with them.
2. Update Your Website, Google, and Social Media Pages Frequently
"Have your hours changed? How many people can I dine with? Do I need to make a reservation? What is your mask policy? Are you taking all necessary precautions?"
While it may feel overwhelming to get these kind of questions on a daily basis, consumers are looking to you for guidance.
If you want to maintain a great relationship with your clientele, you have to communicate with them frequently across your channels.
While over-communication is generally regarded as a no-no in marketing,
guests are craving that interaction right now. Consumers are expecting you to relay a lot of information in a timely and relevant manner, especially with heightened safety concerns.
If you want to avoid spending a third of your day answering emails and phone calls, you can make things easier on yourself by updating your website, google, and social media pages with correct, relevant, and important information.
Here are some things you may want to include with those updates:
- New hours
- Changes in service
- Dine-in policy
- Reservation policy
- To-go options
- Dining etiquette
- Restaurant safety guidelines
If you're still skeptical, Toast conducted a study in which they asked respondents how they are communicating with restaurants in the age of coronavirus—48% said they are engaging with restaurants on their website.
So, if you haven't already done so, consider giving your website a face lift, or including a FAQ section regarding coronavirus. You'll save yourself a few phone calls.
3. Promote Your To-Go and Curbside Options
As we've discussed, not everyone is ready for the dining out experience. And you definitely don't want to alienate the curbside crowd—right now, many restaurants are relying on to-go options to stay afloat financially.
All Together Now has done a great job of promoting their to-go options on their social media. This photo illustrates the ease in which customers can grab and go. If you have a to-go window, be sure to show it off.
Takeout has become such a necessity, even restaurants that didn't offer it previously have dipped their toes into the game.
Alinea (a Michelin starred experience with no incentive to offer a takeout menu), started offering affordable, comfort food meals to-go at the start of the pandemic—it allowed them to appeal to a wider base and stay relevant.
Their marketing surrounding their new options was so effective, their to-go options sold out in advance for months.
Offering to-go options, and being vocal about it in your marketing, will allow you to generate extra revenue, and make sure you're not isolating consumers that aren't ready to dine out.
So, don't forget to show some love for the to-go crowd.
4. Use Social Media to Promote Your New Digs
Every restaurant is looking somewhat different these days—with social distancing requirements and safety standards set in place, many had to re-do their entire layout.
The Darling is making use of greenhouse tents to keep their guests safe and contained during outdoor dining, and their adorable set up makes a big statement on their instagram page.
Featuring your new outdoor patio on your websites is a great way to entice guests (both new and old) to join you for a socially distanced experience.
5. Reassess Your Voice With Covid-19 in Mind
A little empathy goes a long way. And in some cases, that means making a big change to your brand (even if it is only temporary).
Recently, KFC decided to rethink their infamous slogan, "It's finger lickin' good." In an effort to be more mindful of the hand-washing climate, they've decided to put it on pause.
While it may seem silly to change a time-tested slogan, KFC's move actually shows a great level of brand awareness and compassion. Restaurants are seeing how their marketing strategies need to change.
This doesn't mean you have to entirely overhaul your brand or voice—just be socially conscious about how things sound given the current circumstances.
6. Use Your To-Go Packaging as a Branding Opportunity
Don't limit your marketing to the digital realm—there's a marketing opportunity nearly everywhere, including your to-go packaging.
Adding thoughtful designs and logos onto your to-go cocktails will delight your guests and entice them to order with you again.
Three Dots and a Dash has some of the cutest designs we've seen for to-go cocktails, and the thoughtful packaging is bound to make guests feel special.
Keep in mind; anything your restaurant or bar produces and sends out into the ether is a marketing and branding opportunity. Don't skimp on the cute packaging!
7. Use Lots of Signage at Your Physical Location
While it may seem like overkill to plaster signs everywhere, you have to see it from the guest's perspective.
Dining out has become confusing and overwhelming—where should I stand? If I have to use the restroom, what do I do? What is the proper etiquette for interacting with my server?
Don't let your guests figure it out on their own; while the rules are generally the same across the board, every restaurant has differing guidelines, based on their size and style of service.
Frasca Pizzeria has taken advantage of prominent signage to help their guests out during this stressful time. They have signs on host stands, in the windows, and they have a great sidewalk set up for curbside drinks.
Even a simple sign that says "We're open!" is becoming a necessity nowadays—not every business has had the luxury of reopening their doors.
Use signage to let consumers know you're open for business, and we promise, you'll have guests lining up outside (at a safe distance) in no time.
Key points to remember:
- Promote safety and wellness on your social pages
- Over-communicate with your guests
- Don't forget about your to-go options
- Show off your new patio
- Reassess your voice with Covid-19 in mind
- Use to-go packaging as a branding opportunity
- Signage is your friend