So here we are with restaurants slowly beginning to reopen their doors to the public to dine-in. Of course, not every restaurant is making this choice. For some, they’ve opted to continue just takeout and delivery. Regardless of the approach restaurants choose to take, one of the biggest hurdles is marketing and messaging to diners who have spent the past few months isolated at home.
Whether you want to believe it or not, there are many customers that are wary of dining out, regardless of the various precautions your restaurant is taking. Restaurants can no longer rely on foot traffic to keep their businesses top of mind. Instead, restaurateurs need to take advantage of where customers are right now: The new reality for restaurateurs is that going digital and using the latest technology is no longer a unique differentiator. It has now become (I hate to say it), the New Normal.
I’ve listed several online restaurant marketing tactics that will help keep you connected to your existing guests and hopefully introduce you to new ones.
Create Compelling Content
There is no better way to build your brand and keep your ADD customers attention than by creating unique and personal content. It’s never going to be more important than in this post-COVID era.
What most fail to realize is that creating content is not that difficult. Even an old fart like me can create relevant content.
So, what kind of content makes the most sense for your restaurant marketing efforts?
1. Behind the Scenes
I’m preaching this one all the time. People love your food, but more importantly, they most likely love you. One of the big reasons your guests dine with you is because of the experience you provide and how you make them feel, not just because of how delicious your food is.
Don’t be afraid to take your audience behind the scenes into your dining room, your kitchen, or even your living room. Here are a few ideas:
- Tell them the story of how you got started in the restaurant business
- What was the inspiration behind starting your restaurant?
- Virtually interview members of your staff about what they love about your restaurant and what it’s like being a part of your team
- Ask regulars and other members of the community to share what your restaurant means to your city or neighborhood
- Show everyone the precautions your taking to ensure their safety
2. Share How You’re Coping
There’s no denying that the past few months have been tough on everyone. Though you may not be used to sharing some of the struggles of running a restaurant, this is a great opportunity to show customers and loyal fans how you’re dealing with what’s going on – especially since so many people are online right now. Vulnerability helps to create trust.
For instance, if you’re taking extra measures to support your staff in some way, you can share that on your website, social media, or by email. There are so many stories of restaurateurs finding creative ways to help their teams. There is generally a real and very human story behind every restaurant, especially at a time like this. Don’t be afraid to let people see that side of your business – they might even be able to help.
3. Share Recipes, Tutorials, and Live Cooking Shows
As mentioned previously, even as restaurants reopen, some customers are still more comfortable staying in. Why not keep people at home entertained and engaged by giving them a show? Teaching your audience about some of your beloved dishes could help build equity in your brand and an appetite to dine with you when they feel comfortable doing so. This doesn’t mean it has to be you. It’s great opportunity to have one of your Chefs showcase their talent.
Publish one of your recipes with stunning images of it being prepared, step by step. Does your food lend itself to some great family meals? Go live on Facebook each week with a cooking show that engages that whole family.
4. Reach a New Audience on a New Social Media Channel
Now maybe the time to test different social media channels and features as part of your COVID-19 marketing strategy. The reality is, as mentioned previously, this is where your current and future customers are.
Have you been curious about trying to live streaming on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube? Or have you been inspired by what other restaurateurs are publishing on TikTok? TikTok is the latest craze in social media. Many TikTok users have been creating their own recipe videos using this rapidly growing video platform. Because of its recent popularity, this could be just the space for you to try and reach a new audience.
Again, if you’re not comfortable with the utilization of these various platforms, I guarantee you, there is someone on your team that is.
5. Use Your Smartphone
If the expense of hiring a professional team has been an obstacle for your restaurant marketing in the past, it no longer has to be. That smartphone in your pocket is powerful enough to create some amazing content.
To perform any of the above marketing tactics in this guide, all you need is your smartphone, an Internet connection, and occasionally something to prop up your phone.
6. Update Your Website
Beyond all these great ideas, you should also be updating your website. When auditing all of the pages of your website, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is all the information up to date?
- Does your menu view well on desktop and on mobile devices?
- Do you have a reservation system integration on your website for easy booking?
- Are your images up to date?
- Are you capturing emails and building a mailing list?
You can also make sure to include information people may need to see now regarding your operations, including:
- The current status of your operations (e.g.. completely closed, open for dine-in, open for takeout and delivery only, etc.)
- Your updated safety and sanitation precautions
- Any government-mandated procedures you need to follow (e.g. collecting guest information for contact tracing purposes)
- How guests can support you (through gift cards, relief funds, direct online ordering, etc.)
- How to stay connected with your restaurant (email sign-ups, social handles, etc.)
Part of updating your website should also include adding online ordering (if you don’t already have it) to maximize your takeout and delivery business. And remember, anything that goes on your website should be consistently reflected across your social media channels. For instance, if you add direct online ordering to your website, update your Instagram, Facebook, and other social profiles with the appropriate link.
The transition to the “new normal” will be a long and careful process for many restaurateurs. Take advantage of the time to give your marketing plan a much-needed update.
If you need some help, give me a shout.