As businesses continue adapting to the changing times, marketing plans are some of the first to face the chopping block. Restaurant marketing during coronavirus has taken a hit due to cost cutting measures. But restaurateurs would be remiss to pause their marketing efforts, especially online, where web browsing has increased by 70% and social media usage is up 61% according to Kantar, a data and insights consulting company.
The key for restaurant owners who are looking to adapt to the changing times is to resist the urge to be reactive. We know that this is an especially stressful time for the restaurant industry. The pressure to protect the livelihood of your employees and maintain your business might make you want to try as many new things as possible, all at once. Instead of repositioning your marketing efforts, and possibly confusing your existing patrons, get creative with the online tools at your disposal.
Here’s how you can adapt your restaurant marketing during coronavirus.
Good Proactive Steps for Restaurant Marketing During Coronavirus
With the coronavirus keeping many people indoors and foot traffic dwindling to a trickle, your customers will be turning online to get information and place orders. Now is your opportunity to take stock of the online platforms you use to market your restaurant and ensure that you’re checking every box of a strong restaurant marketing plan that will take you through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
Audit Your Restaurant’s Website
Your restaurant’s website is more than a billboard on the internet. During the coronavirus, patrons of local restaurants will at the very least use your website to find out if you are open for delivery and take-out. And while you’re updating your pandemic hours of operation, make sure you do everything you can to keep your audience captive. Answer these key questions:
- Have your hours of operation changed?
- Do you offer order delivery?
- Has your delivery zone expanded?
- Do you offer curb-side order pick-up?
- Do you have an adjusted menu?
- Are icons that link to your social channels in the header or footer?
Make sure the information on your site is up-to-date so that your customers are not confused or alienated. The last thing you want is to have someone show up, because your hours weren’t changed on your site.
If you are offering a limited menu or specials, make sure that these are listed clearly on your website. Many website platforms allow for banners or pop-ups to be placed on your site; a great way to let your customers know that you have something special for them. While restaurant marketers have been advocating for the abolition of pdf menus, this is a time for agility. If your menu will require frequent changes due to availability of produce, revert to pdf menus that you can quickly replace as needed.
Review Your Restaurant’s Social Media Strategy
There’s a reason why so many diners let their phones eat first. That Instagram photo of your delicious dish goes a long way in marketing your restaurant. You didn’t even need to do anything beyond what you always did, make good food and plate it well. But with diners staying home, you’ll need to go the extra mile and become your own photographer.
If you haven’t already, create a schedule around your new operating hours and menu updates to showcase your meals and ingredients. Food safety is front of mind for diners and sharing photos and videos of your menu items is a great way to show that you’re preparing food in a safe environment, the quality is still there, and that there’s even something new in addition to items they know and love.
Keep your Facebook hours of operation up-to-date and be sure to post (at least) once a day on all of your platforms. Make your content as visually impactful as possible. Remember that your customers can visit your channels at any time, 24/7. If you last posted in 2017, they’ll assume you’re no longer around and might not return.
Also, be sure to adapt your captions and content dimensions to the platform you are using.
Leverage New Online Platforms to Market Your Restaurant
Very few restaurants have turned to YouTube to market their meals. This is a missed opportunity as YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, after Google. Creating short clips of food preparation or plating — especially for food that has that “viral” look — will help promote your restaurant to customers who are cooking at home for the first time and searching for new recipes.
Burger King France had the same idea when they tweeted the recipe to a “quarantine version” of their famous Whopper. While you might not have a menu staple that’s as well known, you can create a piece of video content around a local favorite, or even your take on a common homemade dish. Be sure to include calls to action in your content to funnel those viewers to your site or anywhere else you want them to order from.
Twitch is another platform which hasn’t received enough attention from restaurant marketers, but with 15 million daily viewers. Host a weekly cooking show and let your patrons know to follow along. A one hour long stream will let you engage directly with your customers, teach them a recipe that they can recreate, build good will in the community, and remind them that you’re going to be there when their own version just doesn’t turn out as good as yours! Twitch can also act as a new revenue stream as followers can subscribe (for a fee) and send something called bits (of monetary value to streamers) while you cook.
Do Good with Your Food
Partnering with local organizations and other essential services is a great way to let your food do good in the community. Get in touch with a local hospital, transportation organization, or other service that has hungry mouths to feed. You can strike up a partnership for weekly lunches at discounted rates and share the deeds on your social channels. If the food is delicious, and the service impeccable, the word of mouth will turn into online orders from grateful family members.
Final Thoughts on Restaurant Marketing During Coronavirus
Not everything will work in your particular situation, so be sure to adapt this advice to the needs and bylaws of your area. With regions opening up all over the United States, keep your channels and website up-to-date with what’s coming. Will your patio open up? Will you serve take-away alcohol for a new happy hour? Local customers will want to know. Document your journey and create content your clients will devour.
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