COVID-19 Recovery Series: Digital Marketing Management for Restaurants

For restaurants, it’s important to stay in touch with customers now and as you begin to reopen and adjust to the “new normal” after this COVID-19 pandemic. Your customers are as eager to return to your restaurants as you are to start serving them again.

Just because customers can’t dine with you doesn’t mean they still can’t enjoy your dishes. Communicate clearly with your customers about the delivery or takeout options you have. As restaurants begin to open dine-in services at reduced capacity, take-out orders will likely continue to be an anchor for the business in the near term.

Engaging with your customers in every way possible will keep your brand top of mind and get them excited about your reopening. Communicating with your customers should be a mix of what you can do for them, what you have available to them, and the steps you take to keep them safe.

Below are some tactics to consider when creating and implementing your digital response strategies.

Strategic communication on social networks

Social media usage and engagement has been on the rise since lockdown began (increases can be as high as 61% in some studies), meaning your restaurant’s social media channels are a great opportunity to connect with your loyal customers and entice new customers to try your food. But reopening your restaurant doesn’t mean restarting your social media accounts and posting similar content that worked long before the coronavirus. Here’s what to know when marketing your restaurant resumes:

  • Relevant updates:
    Post updates on any changes to your availability. Encourage online ordering by posting photos of popular entrees with links to your takeout menu.
  • Paid ads:
    Since screen time and engagement have increased dramatically, supplementing your organic posts and content with paid ads is a great way to expand your reach and start repopulating your marketing funnel. Use ads to promote special offers and takeout or delivery options.
  • Food and Beverage Spotlight:
    Host live videos that allow your social audience to engage with your team as they would in person at your bar or restaurant, such as a highlight video of your bartenders making signature cocktails for people to watch. house can follow and prepare themselves.

    This same approach can be used to showcase your chef making popular entrees or appetizers. Another engagement format that works well is for the chef to host a “cook at home” series where the most popular menu items are created using a live video tutorial. If you do this, be sure to give your audience a few days notice and a list of ingredients so they can prepare. Encourage your audience to post the results of their own cocktails or menu items, including the best and worst of them with small prizes given out like a free appetizer or cocktail.

  • Creative challenges:
    Social media challenges are another fun way to get your customers to interact with your restaurant or bar. By coming up with your own challenge, it brings your restaurant’s name to your customers’ minds. Whatever your unique style/selling point is, you can create a challenge around it. However, it’s important to consider your tone and not challenge anyone to do anything that might contravene social distancing and mandates currently in place, or you risk a backlash that could harm your brand.

Website Content Strategy: Special Offers and Driving Online Conversions

Over the next few weeks and months, catering businesses will need to put more emphasis than ever on communicating their cleanliness and social distancing. Anyone looking for a restaurant will need to be fully convinced that it is safe before considering a sit-down dining experience again.

  • Takeout orders:
    With extensive social distancing restrictions for restaurants and bars likely to be in place for some time, combined with consumer hesitation about the safety of dining in public, take-out orders are now an essential way to maintain a viable business until you can fully reopen your restaurant seating.

    Restaurants need to consider take-out as a fundamental aspect of their service and it is something they will need to turn to and become familiar with as soon as possible. Updating your website to direct customers to a pickup or delivery order is the first place to start. Make sure this option is visible on your site and easy for visitors to follow.

    Having a smaller selection menu can also help streamline your takeout operation, especially if you weren’t equipped to handle it before. When choosing a clean menu, choose your most popular items that are also the most reliable from a food cost and margin standpoint.

    Consumers will understand if your menu is different from what you previously offered, but they will understand less if their order is wrong or takes too long to prepare and deliver. Also consider which menu items travel well and how you intend to pack and transport your food. Although presentation is less important with takeout, it is still a factor in experiencing great food, just as plating is important with in-person dining.

  • Grocery orders:
    Allowing customers to buy groceries from you (i.e. meat, produce, bread, dairy, sanitizers, etc.) is another great way to generate revenue and grow your business. also help your local community. This option may be for curbside pickup or delivery to allow for limited contact.
  • Gift Card Incentives:
    Gift cards are a great way to instantly increase your revenue when you capture the sale in advance, no matter when/if the gift card is redeemed in store. It also promotes a community spirit to support local businesses and makes an easy birthday or anniversary gift. Gift card purchases can be further incentivized by offering add-ons each time a gift card is sold, such as spending $50 on gift card purchases and getting a free appetizer or cocktail
  • Maintain open communication:
    Using a combination of social media platforms and your website, maintain consistent communication with your guests. Also, make sure your Google My Business page is updated with the correct hours of operation and phone numbers if these have changed since the coronavirus.

    You should be aware of any website that displays your menu, making sure it is updated to the most recent version. If you use a centralized system like Yext and SinglePlatform, make sure those platforms have the correct information that can then be passed to all the major directory and review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

  • Precautionary measures:
    Keep customers up to date on how you are handling the adjustment to this “new normal”. Notify customers of any adjustments to hours of operation, standard offerings, and capacity mandates as we navigate this pandemic.
  • Health and Safety Notice:
    Make sure your customers know what you are doing to help prevent the spread of germs. Things like reduced hours to allow enough time for sanitation measures, limiting the number of people in the dining room, increasing space between diners, etc.

    This can be done through a combination of pop-up messages on your website, email sends, social media posts, or even a more in-depth landing page. Your updated procedures can also be printed on inserts to include in takeout orders.

Convincing someone that your restaurant is low risk will require frequent and repeated messaging about how safe your business is operating and is likely to include positive user-generated content from customers who come to dine with you . Be sure to monitor social channels for positive feedback and reuse this content on your own social channels and website (with permission from the content owner).

For more information on building your digital marketing recovery plan, contact the Vizergy experts Where visit our blog for more helpful tips.

About Vizergy® Digital Marketing

Vizergy serves the global hospitality industry with conversion-optimized website design and highly competitive tools to maximize revenue. Our formula for success includes leading technologies, proven digital marketing programs and the best professionals in the industry. At Vizergy, hotel marketing is not only our mission, it is our only objective.

For more than 20 years, Vizergy has been tirelessly developing and deploying the best technologies and marketing talents to serve thousands of hotel customers with excellence. The company deploys complete travel lifecycle marketing solutions, from responsive website design and development to award-winning digital marketing programs, reservations solutions, media planning and deployment. Vizergy’s platform has long been touted as the #1 digital marketing system for hospitality customers that is easy to deploy, turnkey and SMART, enabling customers to win in the complex and competitive hospitality industry of today.

For more information, please visit www.vizergy.com.

Contact: Ryan Ridge | Vizergy | +1.904.389.1130 | [email protected]

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