3 Things Restaurants Can Do Right Now to Overcome Coronavirus Concerns
Fears about the coronavirus have turned the world upside down in a matter of weeks. Here in Denver and many other parts of the world, restaurants are closing their doors to dine-in customers. Some restaurants have closed indefinitely as a result, but savvy restaurateurs are pivoting to a takeout and delivery-only model.
As more and more people stay indoors to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy, the ability to pick up a quick meal from a favorite restaurant is a major draw. Rather than waiting on orders, take the following THREE steps to boost business:
1. Bridge the Social Distance
Social media is becoming one of the best ways to keep in contact with friends and family. Businesses can use their social media profiles to keep fans and followers apprised of what and how they’re doing in the wake of the coronavirus, but boilerplate updates and links to the CDC website won’t get you anywhere.
Instead, if you’re only doing takeout and delivery, get people excited about placing an order. You can do this with all kinds of content:
- Candid photos of top dishes with enticing captions (i.e., “Imagine taking THIS home for dinner”)
- Thoughtful posts on community news, including what you’re doing to get involved and help
- Pictures of your kitchen staff at work and having fun in the back of house
- Humorous, shareable videos
- Snapchat-style videos with eye-catching filters and text
- Staff quotes on why they love working at your establishment and their excitement to continue serving the community – these could even be video clips
- Promoting five-star reviews and positive comments from satisfied customers.
Marketing and advertising on social media gives restaurants a multitude of options for reaching people who spend more time online than outside. You can even go a step further and launch ads that are hyper-local and refined in their targeting.
Right now, people are sick with worry. Compassion and cheerfulness are the cure. Although eating out may not be an option for a lot of people right now, a positive social media presence that brightens people’s day is going to deliver a much-needed break from bad news.
And, if they’re hungry, online engagement can become a real life order.
2. Reaching People Where They Live
Even if they’re stuck at home, people are tied to their devices. They might sign off of a laptop for work and immediately check their phone or break out the tablet. Your customers are “always-on,” and they don’t have to be on the go for you to reach them.
Proximity marketing is based on geotargeting. You determine where your audience is, and then your ads are delivered to their wireless device.
You may have used proximity-based ads in the past to earn customers’ attention when they were within sight of your doors. Now that foot traffic has dwindled, you can still capture their attention by widening the target area.
If your restaurant is located in a busy metropolitan area, a geotargeting ad distributed to devices within 1-2 miles of your establishment will earn you a lot of attention. Messaging, however, is key to an ad that generates orders and one that puts off a potential customer.
Given the concerns about coronavirus, you would do well to modify your usual ad messaging:
- Image selection: Pictures of the dining room or patio might have paid off in the past, but you aren’t selling the experiential component of your business right now. Instead, high-quality shots of the food are most likely to resonate with people craving a particular item.
- Verbiage: Promote what customers get if they decide to take action on the ad (i.e., takeout and delivery options, safe and convenient service, enjoy the food you love in the comfort of home, etc.).
- Clear next steps: If the purpose of the ad is to generate orders rather than getting customers in the door, give them the option to call or place the order online directly from the ad.
- Don’t overemphasize price: It might be tempting to offer a discount as an incentive, but this could actually do more harm than good. If people are going to leave their homes to pick up food or have a delivery person arrive at their door, they want the best choice, not the cheapest.
Location-based marketing in the midst of dwindling foot traffic benefits your customers and your business. Customers only have to travel a short distance (or none at all) to get great food. If you offer delivery, limiting proximity to within 1-2 miles of the restaurant means your drivers will spend less time on the road, enabling you to fill more orders.
3. Engage with Email
In the last few weeks, every brand you’ve ever done business with probably sent you one or more messages on COVID-19. Although it’s crucial to keep customers informed, messages like this get lost in already overstuffed inboxes.
However, email and database marketing can still work for your restaurant. It comes down, once again, to messaging:
- Present the shift in operations not as a fallback position but as a way to continue serving customers in changing circumstances
- Emphasize your availability to take orders and make deliveries
- Tantalize your database with what you have available, highlighting top-selling dishes
- Provide updates as they arise, maintaining a positive and engaging tone
- Ask satisfied customers to leave reviews
You probably already have an email database, but now is the time to start growing it. Your customers are at home and online, so update your website to make signing up easy. You can also integrate call-to-action elements on social media and in ads so customers can stay continuously updated.
Don’t Be Nervous, Start the Service
The brands that succeed in tough and uncertain times are the ones that work smart and double down to reach consumers when they really need a positive experience. Your restaurant can deliver that experience, and the key is to make the most of a marketplace where delivery and takeout are the new norm – for now.
If you have questions about how to implement effective digital marketing strategies to reach customers online, contact Twelve Three Media today. Our team is happy to help you find the best ways to thrive!