Marketing your restaurant has just become ten times harder amid the Coronavirus pandemic. It doesn’t matter whether you got the OK to open your outdoor location or you’re still closed. You need to invest time and resources into your marketing efforts if you want your restaurant to survive.
The main areas you need to focus on when it comes to restaurant marketing during COVID-19 are online ordering & perks, and social media interaction. Reaching out to customers over social media is vital when you can only communicate online. You can use your platform to promote online ordering, offer coupons, gift cards, and discounts to reward loyalty and attract new customers.
Without further ado, let’s get into the seven restaurant marketing tips and ideas you can implement during the Coronavirus pandemic.
1. Get Online Ordering ASAP
Now that dine-in is scarce to nonexistent, it’s time to focus your efforts on another venture that can bring you profit: online ordering. With people working from home and most being over the home cooking phase, online ordering is on the rise. The best solution for you to have full control over the process and hire your own people to deliver is to invest in an in-house online ordering system.
Here are the top 15 online ordering systems on the market. Find the one that works best for your business and start taking online orders to put your restaurant on the map.
2. Offer Discounts and Coupons
Especially if you’re just getting started with online ordering, the best way to draw customers in and get repeat business is to offer discounts and coupons exclusive to online orders.
For example, you could offer a 30% discount on the total order value for first-time buyers. Another potential offer could be a free dessert coupon redeemable on their next order, so you encourage them to order again. Meal bundles are also popular because they allow people to eat more or eat with friends and spend less.
The choices are endless, so think about your target audience and try to customize your offers to fit their needs. If your restaurant is near an office building, make your main offer a lunch bundle to encourage people to order from you during their lunch break.
3. Sell Gift Cards for When You Reopen
A similar idea is to cash in money now by selling gift cards that customers can redeem when you reopen. Now more than ever, people are inclined to support local businesses they love. Take advantage of this opportunity to get creative and offer gift cards for menus, meal bundles, 1+1 free, groups, and so on.
Encourage customers to buy them for themselves, friends and family, or even front-line workers as a thank you for keeping us safe and healthy during this pandemic.
4. Become Active on Social Media
Social media should be your weapon of choice when fighting to keep your business alive in the face of the COVID-19 threat. There are many things you can do with social media, chief among which communicating with your customers and followers. Post often and think of posts that will engage people and get a conversation started. Ask questions, do polls, or start a giveaway – there are plenty of tricks you can use to gain engagement and followers.
An idea would be to take your customers behind the scenes. People love sneak peeks at what their favorite restaurants are up to behind the curtain. Plus, that way, you can show them the safety measures you are taking against the Coronavirus and how you’re preparing food safely.
If people tag you on Instagram, share that on your stories and thank them for supporting you. This will go a long way to making them feel special. If you’re willing, share some of your most popular recipes on Facebook, or cooking tips and tricks from your chef on TikTok.
5. Reassure Customers About Safety
Every single one of your social media profiles should contain detailed information about all of the precautions you’re taking to cook and deliver food safely. Not just that, but you should also offer your customers some fulfillment options that will limit the risk of contracting the virus. For example:
- Zero contact delivery (rider will ring the doorbell and leave)
- Curbside pickup
- Online payments
6. Partner with Influencers and Industry Professionals
Every industry is affected by the Coronavirus pandemic and the HoReCa one in particular. This means you’re not the only restaurant that’s suffering and needs to come up with out-of-the-box ideas to make money and draw customers in. Not just that, but people are more willing to help out fellow restaurant industry colleagues, and the community in general.
Have you considered getting in touch with industry professionals and brainstorming ideas to help the HoReCa industry get back on its feet? They might be more than willing to lend a helping hand. You could organize charitable events or lobby for relief in the community.
The same goes for food influencers. Although they usually charge for promoting your food on their platform, reaching out is still a great idea that could lead to a long-term partnership. Some of them might agree to help out in exchange for a delicious meal. Even if they don’t, getting on their radar might still help you if you ever want to reach out again because influencer marketing is a growing trend.
7. Spruce up Your Menu
Your menu should reflect the changes we’re all going through because of this pandemic. First off, your takeout menu most likely won’t be the same as your dine-in menu, because some things don’t travel well and will have to be removed from the menu entirely. However, don’t think of this as bad news. This is your chance to experiment and introduce some new menu items that cater to today’s needs.
For example, meal kits are starting to become popular right now, and with good reason. You can offer your customers the opportunity to prepare their own meal, but with restaurant-quality ingredients. Plus, this is an activity the entire family can get involved in. And for the adults, consider offering cocktail kits as well.
The Coronavirus pandemic has posed a real challenge to the restaurant industry. Still, you can take that challenge head-on if you learn to adapt to new circumstances. The restaurant marketing landscape won’t go back to normal soon, if ever, but this allows you to learn new things and perhaps discover a new trajectory for your restaurant. The restaurant marketing tips above are just the starting point but they can save your business during these trying times.
Laura-Andreea Voicu is a marketing specialist and content writer at GloriaFood. Her creative writing and SEO background help her craft online experiences for restaurant owners looking to raise engagement and boost profits in the competitive restaurant industry.