According to the latest research, the share of consumers dining at restaurants has declined by 85.2 percent since the first reported case of coronavirus in the U.S. This marks one of the most substantial behavioral shifts in the restaurant industry. Also, with this shift, we’ve simultaneously witnessed unprecedented marketing innovation as restaurants of all kinds have adjusted to continue meeting customer needs.
The Flip-side of Prolonged Dine-In Restrictions
Economists had recently predicted that if the no-dining-in trend were to continue, it could’ve meant that up to 75% of independent restaurants would permanently close its doors. And sadly, those who couldn’t make effective adjustments and updates to their marketing strategy would have fallen into that percentage of closures.
Fortunately, all is not lost! There are several ways restaurateurs can keep their establishments afloat right now. Below, we’ve provided a few marketing strategies restaurants can use to help their business survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practical Marketing Approaches for Restaurants During the COVID-19 Pandemic
One of the most significant aspects of keeping your business going is seen in how well you stay virtually connected to your customers. Throughout every adjustment, promotional offer, and update you make to your operations, it’s crucial to keep consumers aware of them.
For example, as restaurants change the way they do business, they need to find new ways to let customers know they’re still operating. They also need to keep them informed of how they are operating to maintain quality, service, and overall safety. Check out these practical online marketing tactics you can try for your restaurant:
1. Partner with Third-Party Delivery Providers
Food delivery services continue to present various restaurants with the opportunity to keep running. Whether diners deliver the food themselves, or partner with a delivery company, customers not only continue to eat but also have the convenience of staying home.
Even before the pandemic, 37% of restaurants already had operational delivery apps. However, if your restaurant doesn’t yet have an app, you can always partner with third-party delivery providers. At least for now, partnerships allow you to continue meeting the needs of your customers who are sheltering-in-place. Just a few years ago, economists predicted that food delivery services would have a huge marketing impact on the restaurant industry. We are certainly seeing this now!
In fact, reputable services, like Grubhub and Uber Eats, have helped usher in what we now know as the Great American Takeout. Besides the cost convenience, their service apps will help bring more eyeballs to your restaurant. On the app, you can also showcase some of your best dishes and attract new customers in different area codes.
2. Use the Power of Social Media
More people are staying online longer and there is no way around that. As such, this fact presents an ideal opportunity to engage and convert your online audience to new customers through different social media platforms.
For example, Facebook ads can help you with specific geo- and niche-targeting. This means that your ads are only seen by people in your geographical area or those with particular interests, like veganism or Mexican food. You could also post about specials and incentives that your restaurant offers and create quality videos on specific recipes. Lastly, you can request customers to leave reviews on your business social media pages.
3. Utilize Your Email List
Email is the best way to stay directly connected with customers. Utilizing your database is also a great tool to –
- Keep patrons informed of what’s happening
- Attract new followers, and
- Show appreciation to existing ones
Email marketing automation is a great way to help you maintain strong customer relationships during and even after the pandemic. Overall, emailing is the best way to promote restaurant deals, discounts, and coupons. Don’t forget to incentivize your customers for forwarding offers to their peers. This will help grow your email list for future lead generation campaigns.
How One Local Northwest Houston Restaurant is Staying Afloat
Recently, BUILDINGBLOCKS had the privilege of speaking with local restaurant owners, Connie and Dana, of Kings Blu Jam Café. Their breakfast and brunch dishes have quickly become a family favorite in Spring, Texas.
During our conversation, we learned that, like most small and privately-owned restaurants, the pandemic had presented a real challenge. From the moment state and local officials released shelter-in-place orders for Texans, Kings Blu Jam immediately began making operational adjustments.
Kings Blu Jam Adjustments and Marketing Innovations Included:
- Turning to social media platforms and email databases to keep loyal patrons informed about adjusted hours and updates. Facebook proves to work well!
- Promoting and ramping up on Call-in orders for curbside pick-up orders.
- Opening their Drive-Thru lane next to the diner to accommodate customers.
- Applying their “Fresh & Untouched” guarantee seal on every prepared and packaged order.
- Partnering with meal delivery services, such as DoorDash and Uber Eats, for mobile orders.
- Displaying restaurant signs and traffic directives for drive-thru and curbside pick-up services.
Open for Business Again in May
And now that restaurants are back open in the state of Texas, but at lower capacities for dining in, they continue to practice social distancing and other regulations by rearranging seating and adding customer sanitation stations. Their team has always worn hair coverings and gloves, but now they’ve taken extra precautions to ensure that staff consistently wears a mask while working, and stay home if they feel ill.
The single most essential thing these restaurateurs want customers to know is that King’s Blu Jam Café is still safely serving up their favorite foods. Their meals are “made-fresh-to-order,” and served at a socially-acceptable distance.
We asked Connie about lessons learned through this process and what tips she’d share with other restaurateurs regarding marketing their business. She explained, “Expressing the health and safety of our customers and staff will always come first. You have to have a little patience while everyone is learning to adjust to the changes and new regulations. Overall, we want our customers to continue to enjoy their food and have peace during this difficult time.”
What Truly Matters When It Comes to Restaurant Marketing
Perhaps one of the best things that come from marketing innovation is the genuine creativity and generosity of the human spirit. We’ve seen significant changes during the Coronavirus crisis here in the U.S. and great kindness coming from the restaurant industry. At BUILDINGBLOCKS, we’d like to say “Thank You” for continuing to feed Americans with great tasting healthy food. Restaurants, grocers, farmers, and processing plants remain an essential part of our daily survival.
KHOU News provided an example of what’s been going on in Houston as restaurants continue to adjust their marketing efforts. We are all about helping each other get through this crisis.
Also, we express our sincere thanks for staying open through these difficult times to serve on the front lines. Our nation sees how you continue to provide meals to all our first responders, healthcare staff, facilities and public sanitation workers, and officials. We are forever grateful!
Getting Help with Marketing Your Business
We pray these tips will help you make the appropriate marketing adjustments and operate smoothly as you continue to face challenges. We know you care deeply for your communities and families. And with equal sentiment, we’re also sensitive to the fact that this is a tough time for everyone – not just restaurant owners. Rest assured that we’re here to provide marketing assistance and insight if and when you need it.
If your restaurant or small business could use an innovative marketing solution, let’s meet online when you’re ready.