By Adrian Johansen, Contributor
At the beginning of 2020, none of us could have imagined how the year would unfold and how COVID-19 would affect our lives. As a restaurant owner, simply surviving the year took incredible creativity.
As we now move forward into 2021, it’s more obvious than ever that digital marketing is essential in this industry. Communicating online and making sure your patrons know your hours, offers, policies, procedures and more can keep things going strong even if you’re only offering takeout orders.
We’ve mentioned how important it is to maintain your website, but there’s more to online success than that. You also want to optimize your online marketing outreach.
Here are some tips you can use today!
Take Advantage of Your Restaurant’s Google Business Page
Hopefully, you’ve already claimed and updated your Google My Business page. This gives your customers essential information about your business, including hours, a link to your website, and even a link to your menu.
Keeping this information up to date is vital so that your guests know what to expect from your restaurant. When someone Googles your restaurant name, often your Google My Business information will come up first.
Make sure you select whether you’re currently offering dine-in or only carryout. There are also options for curbside pickup and no-contact delivery.
Share Health & Safety Measures
Running a restaurant has never been easy, and COVID-19 only added new challenges. The health and safety of both your employees and your customers have taken center stage. You have new cleaning procedures, distancing rules, and more.
Sharing the steps you’re taking to keep things clean and safe can help customers feel comfortable coming to your restaurant for a meal. You can use social media, your Google Business page, and other digital tools to spread the word.
Make sure patrons know whether they need to wear a mask in your establishment and help them understand the other steps you’re taking to keep everyone secure. It can make a big difference in your orders!
Have Rotating Specials
Almost every restaurant has cut the menu down due to COVID-19. You can take this difficulty and turn it into a marketing strategy. Instead of having customers realize you no longer offer specific dishes, have a rotating special each week.
This allows you to cater to customer favorites without having to keep everything in stock all the time. Plus, a commonly-ordered dish can become a novelty again simply by being offered as a special once in a while instead of living on the menu permanently. You can even share the recipe to up the ante.
Use social media, email marketing, and your website to build excitement about your specials and have a specific “reveal day” where they are unveiled each week. The anticipation will help boost orders and keep your restaurant afloat — and even growing — until things can become more normal.
Emphasize Your Restaurant’s Specific Niche
Standing out from competitors is even more critical when overall restaurant visitorship is down. Think about what makes your restaurant unique. Do you emphasize sustainability in your menu, products, and practices? Do you have a specific ethnic niche? Then be sure you are using sustainable marketing practices to share what you’re doing.
Use your digital marketing to tell more of your story. Why did you start your business, and what made you decide on this specific niche? Do you have a family history of a specific ethnic food? Did a particular experience impact your view on the environment?
The more you tell your story, the more people will relate to you on a personal level, which is a stronger bond than simply enjoying your food. It will give people an emotional reason to come visit your establishment over others.
With everyone feeling the economic pinch of COVID-19, entertainment budgets are limited. When you share more about what makes you unique, you give people a reason to spend with you.
Review Your Restaurant’s Workflows
Having efficient work processes is always important, but it’s easy to overlook tuning them up when things are going well. With COVID-19, you not only have a slimmer budget, but you have new procedures to work into your days.
Think about how you can restructure the workflows in your restaurant to improve the customer experience as much as possible. You might need to rearrange staff, have some employees take on new responsibilities, or emphasize customer service.
Only you know what the processes and checklists are in your restaurant, but it’s worthwhile to take some time to review them to make sure they are still serving you well. If you make changes to improve the customer experience, communicate that through your digital marketing! Customers love being put first.
Digital Marketing is Vital in 2021 & Beyond
If you didn’t already have a digital marketing presence, 2020 probably moved you well out of your comfort zone. Fortunately, you now have a foundation in place that will serve you well this year and going forward.
More and more people are comfortable with using technology to find out everything from your restaurant’s hours to how you’re handling sanitation. They may want to order takeout from your website and even look for a restaurant-specific app.
The more you can leverage digital marketing for your restaurant, the better positioned you will be for the challenges of today and the years ahead.