By Christina Lyon, Contributor
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic persists across the globe, governments have started easing lockdown restrictions and allowing restaurants to reopen finally.
The news may raise concerns for both customers and operators alike because it’s no secret just how contagious COVID-19 can be in public places.
However, as long as you keep the spotlight on food safety – sanitization, employee health monitoring and personal hygiene, and social distancing – your restaurant will remain safe from the contagion.
Though expecting business as usual to be “usual” is a little far-fetched, many restaurants are opting for innovative ways to counter the virus – some even becoming part of the solution.
If you want to familiarize with the new restaurant marketing landscape post-COVID-19, PosterMyWall is hosting a webinar with Daniel Woodman, a senior marketer with a knack for helping small businesses flourish, to talk about what restaurants can do stay relevant on re-opening, and to tackle the many novel challenges they will face.
The webinar is on May 28th, 2020 at 4pm ET. Don’t miss out, sign up now.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you make safe choices while ensuring business continuity:
Redesign Your Restaurant’s Offerings
High-end restaurants that tend to have a pricier menu should look to add more affordable “fast” food to their offerings. The reasons are two folks — lower exposure time to staff and other guests and to stay relevant while unemployment rates are at record highs.
Let’s face it, many of our guests aren’t doing too well given the lay-offs and financial hardships resulting from the pandemic. People that may have been loyal customers in the past may also be looking forward to cheaper options.
Moreover, chances are that the lockdown will have affected your suppliers, and many crucial ingredients for your dishes may not even be available at the moment. With less inventory and even fewer customers coming in, we recommend that you widen your margins and revamp your offerings.
Evaluate your profit and loss statements and identify where your restaurant is making the most money. Rid yourself of the non-essentials, get back to the basics, and work smart.
Be part of the solution; keep your local communities fed. Take the Flights restaurant, for example:
Partnering up with the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce, Flights started “Feed the Need Bay Area” to leverage accounting support and marketing talent so that they could support the Bay Area community. This is a great example of the purpose economy and looking for ways of being relevant outside of making a profit.
That does not mean you have to alienate your current customer base. If your guests expect you to offer a fine-dining experience, they won’t be pleased to know that you’ve upturned your entire restaurant.
Instead, you can reach a compromise in your menu. Identify your most well-received dishes, and continue to serve them. You can save up on ingredients by discontinuing the more niche dishes that rarely get ordered. You may also consider a rotating menu that serves in-season and readily available dishes to keep costs down.
Offer Safe & Contact-Free Services
Before opening up, it’s crucial that you’re aware of local laws and regulations regarding reopening. If you’re in the US, have a look at the reopening rules your state has put forward.
Start by enforcing a no-contact protocol, so you can reduce interpersonal contact and make your customer experience safe. Here are a few pointers to help you do that:
Use Cashless Methods & For Delivery Survives
For their safety and convenience, enable delivery and payment services that allow customers to pay without cash (such as tableside tablets), as well as choose when and how their order should be delivered.
Offer Disposable Menus
Disposable menus are a great sanitary alternative to traditional menus. They are cost-effective and reduce the likelihood of contamination – buy disposable menus in bulk and recycle them.
Install Plexiglas At the Host Stand or Check-Out
Minimize the risk of contact between the guest and the host or cashier by installing a protective Plexiglas screen at cash registers. This way, there’s always a barrier between your staff and your clientele.
Use Disposable Bottles for Condiments
Take additional precautions by taking off reusable items such as ketchup bottles and salt and pepper shakers. Replace these with condiments in packets that customers can get rid of after touching them.
Allow Limited Entry
It might be wise to open your restaurant to limited capacity to test out the waters and keep customers as far away from each other as possible. Depending on your local regulations, expand restaurant seating to ensure as much space as possible. Additionally, keep customers from congregating in waiting areas by adopting a reservations-only business model.
Protect Your Employees
Be open and transparent with your employees – tell them about the changes in your operations as well as any threats to their safety. Use these additional measures to keep your employees safe:
Provide Safety Gear
Encourage all employees to wear face masks at work – especially around guests. The kitchen staff should have hairnets and gloves at all times when on duty.
Ensure On-Premise Sanitization
By sanitizing appropriately, your staff can reduce the spread of pathogens from restaurant equipment to the food you serve diners. Alcohol-based sanitizers and disposable wipes will be more than enough to maintain hygiene.
Maintain a Cleaning Schedule
Adjust your standard operations procedures to implement a cleaning schedule to sanitize all contact surfaces like tables and chairs, as well as food-contact surfaces. Moreover, you can maintain a routine for frequent hand washing and make it part of your renewed work culture when you reopen.
Ask Staff to Do Their Bit
You can delegate sanitization tasks between staff members so that responsibilities are spread out evenly.
Hire Specialists If Necessary
Take every initiative you can to disinfect and sanitize your restaurant. However, if you feel like you require additional help or your premises are too big for your team to handle, you can hire specialists to help.
Have a Marketing Plan for Reopening
Given the unpredictable nature of circumstances today – and for your team to enjoy a successful reopening – you need to promote and market the event.
Your audience may or may not know that you are back in business and ready to cater to their cravings. A solid marketing plan can renew consumer confidence in your brand and inform customers about the services you are providing.
Here’s what your marketing plan should do:
Inform That Your Restaurant Is Now Open For Business
The chances are that your patrons are tired sitting around at their homes.
So send out emails, revamp your social media pages, put up the new menu and deals on your website, and do all else you can to announce the reopening of your restaurant.
Be sure that your graphic designs are professional and on-brand. If you lack a dedicated graphic designer, there are a number of services that help create flyers, posters, handouts and menus on the fly.
More than that, assure your guests that you’re taking every measure within your means to provide them with safe, clean food. One way to build their trust is to market your cooking processes, packaging, and delivery options and that you’re taking risks seriously.
Enlighten Guests on How You Provide a Safe Dining Experience
Some people will have a difficult time trusting outdoor spaces, too.
Openly communicate the actions you are taking to make your venue safe. Reassure customers that you regularly engage in all of the fore-mentioned safety precautions and disinfect surfaces often.
Consequently, market your dining experience so that customers know your venue is a haven from the outside world. Wiping down surfaces after each guest leaves. Hang up signage boasting your committed sanitizing efforts.
Make caution part of your branding and incorporate the language on your website and your booking flow. Broadcast your efforts on social media – your customers need to view your dine-in venue as a place of retreat – not a war zone.
Pick the Right Marketing Channels
At this point, you don’t have the facility to rely on cash reserves to splurge on marketing. Social media platforms are an excellent tool for budget-friendly marketing, and you can do it on your own.
Experiment with design programs to create event announcement posters to use for your digital marketing initiatives. Social media post templates for reopening are easily customizable and you can use them to promote your reopening in quick and creative ways.
Publicize Your Restaurant’s Reopening
Use Food Directories
The best way to bring in more customers, especially for your relaunch, is for your customers to find them online. For this to happen, you should list your restaurant on food directories.
Take the time to set yourself upon each of these:
Potential guests can explore your offerings and easily keep track of their favorites. Moreover, you can notify them with updates on your services and manage your social media more efficiently. Software like Taphunter and Allmenus also simplify pricing calculations and inventory reviews at a glance.
Get Foodies to Talk About Your Reopening
Entice food enthusiasts and bloggers who may have an interest in your offerings to visit your venue and try out your food. Provided that you offer a stellar experience, you can ask them to review your menu online or leave you a kind note on your website.
Positive reviews have a significant impact on an individual’s opinion on your service.
Spread the Word On Popular Foodies Facebook Groups
Facebook has many groups that bring together food enthusiasts from across the globe, giving you opportunities to market your brand and target the right customers.
Joining popular Facebook groups such as Artisan Bread Bakers, Kefir Group or the Food Bloggers Central can help you improve awareness of your restaurant, its services, and how your business is enabling a safe experience by engaging with these groups.
A simple way you can do this is to type topics or keywords into the group page’s search box, where you can view the kinds of questions your target audiences have regarding the Food and Beverage Industry.
Respond to those that allow you to demonstrate your industry expertise, and build authority within these community spaces. Share an insightful blog post or redirect members to your services. Facebook food groups are powerful because they enable you to target customers and prospects with laser-like precision.
Ad campaigns on Facebook, Waze, Instagram, and other social media networks are a great way to promote the reopening at nominal costs and amplify your reach.
Moreover, now is a great time to experiment with paid advertising on digital platforms such as Yelp, Google, and Facebook. These platforms enable you to promote your business based on your audience’s demographics, such as gender and region, as well as hobbies and interests.
Hang Flyers & Banners Locally Announcing Your Relaunch
Flyers and Banners are one of the most cost-effective ways to market your restaurant. That said, it depends on you promoting a strong message that resonates with your customers. Combined with creative design, you can quickly gain your audience’s attention.
Of course, it is critical that you distribute them in places where your audience is most likely to notice them so that you can yield a good response.
Promote Your Restaurant’s Gift Cards
65% of gift card recipients spend 38% more than the value of the gift card.
The revenue from gift cards will help you keep your business afloat, allowing you to make use of cash now rather than waiting for customers to come in.
Sell more gift cards: look back at some of the past promotions you handled with gift cards and offer the same or similar deals to your customers.
Taking measures to protect your employees and customers, marketing to highlight this fact, making use of online ads and directories to broaden your reach are some of the many strategies you can use to keep your eatery running in a post-pandemic restaurant industry. The crisis has hit restaurants hard, and the consequences are substantial, but smart business strategies can weather this storm.
Don’t forget to sign up for our webinar dedicated to tackling the problem of restaurant marketing and management during the COVID-10 pandemic. In this webinar, David Woodman, a senior marketer and an expert in startups will provide actionable items to give restaurants the competitive advantage they need.
The webinar is on May 28th, 2020 at 1:00 AM PKT. Don’t miss out! Sign up for the webinar now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christina Lyon is a writer and musician from Southern California. She’s passionate about writing engaging content that enlivens readers and grows online businesses. Christina is an avid reader, fiction writer, storyteller, songwriter and beach bum.