The first wave of COVID-19 has passed; businesses have resumed, restaurants are preparing to make dine-in safe for their customers and food deliveries are at all-time high and most importantly, people are stepping out of their homes to adapt to the new way of life. All said and done, life after COVID-19 and with COVID-19 is a lot different than what we left behind, what we have been practicing for ages, and what we had planned for the future.
Talk about business strategies, growth strategies, five-year plans, marketing goals, sales goals - all of this, and a lot more will have to be reconsidered because what worked for your business two months back, may not work in the New Normal.
So what really works in the post-COVID-world for restaurants? What is it that you need to subtract from your list of annual goals? How can you adapt your marketing strategies to meet the new expectations of the new world? Let’s find out!
First things first, if you have always been a dine-in only establishment, and thought delivering would not justify the kind of experience your customers are used to, take a pause, think deep, and realize that your customers are voluntarily choosing to get that experience delivered to their doorstep.
If you are not going to pivot to online ordering and takeaway, your competitor will steal all of your customers. And in the food industry, we know, a lost sale means a lost customer.
This doesn’t mean that you should completely shut your dining rooms for walk-in customers. Some might just want to step out of the house for a fresh breath of air and a new experience, but that won’t suffice in the long run. A business needs a regular flow of sales and transactions to stay afloat.
So facilitate your customers with online ordering and delivery. Let them know that you are open to take orders online and make sure that you follow all safety protocols to deliver hygienic, safe, and delightful experience to your customers at all times. This is the only way to keep the business running, staff employed and customers loyal.
Yes, 80% of your regular customers are spending a good amount of time on the internet, every day. So if your social media strategy earlier involved posting a picture or two of the most sumptuous dishes from your restaurant kitchen, then you might want to do over your content plan.
For a restaurant business, Instagram is your target social media platform. You can find all your customers on this platform, scrolling through millions of pictures of food and drinks every hour.
Your customers are curious to know how is their food being prepared. They want to know if your cooks are wearing protective gear while preparing their food. And they want to know if delivery boys are following all the protocols to ensure safe deliveries.
In short, your new social media marketing strategy should focus on winning customers’ trust and retaining their loyalty through, real, authentic, and conversational content.
Even if you don’t have a team to work on the new strategy, pick up your phone, take a few good videos of your kitchen and staff, and post it on Instagram on a regular basis.
Speak to your customers directly through IGTV videos or Go Live with Instagram Stories to assure them that your team is doing their best to deliver to their expectations.
At such an unprecedented time, you can’t afford to waive off delivery charges. Every penny earned or lost matters.
Yes, such marketing gimmicks may have worked in your favor in the pre-COVID-world, enticing customers to order from your website against third-party aggregators’, but now things are different and you need resources to keep your doors open. Your delivery fleet needs the incentive to work round the clock with all the risk that there is. Most of all, protective gear for staff and tamper-proof packaging to keep food from contaminated is going to cost you a bomb over the next few months.
Free Delivery will be off the charts for a while and your customers understand that. They’ll not abandon you for being charged for deliveries and packaging. In fact, food delivery platforms like GrubHub and UberEats are also charging their customers for deliveries to keep the momentum going.
So keep aside Free Delivery banners, and focus more on meal kits, bundled offers, family packs - play with the prices of your menu, make them economical for your customers to encourage repeat orders throughout the week.
This would require you to make some changes in how the food is prepared and delivered to the customer, especially if you are open for takeaway and curbside pickup.
Minimal contact is what your customers are looking for and to deliver to this expectation, operators are coming up with creative and effective methods to send clear visible clues that sanitization and distancing are being practiced at all steps.
Keep masks and gloves at the entrance so anyone who forgets to carry their load can use them before entering the premises. Floor stickers and parking cones can be really helpful to maintain adequate distance while customers wait in line. Invest in apps to allow for ordering, payment, and pick up with the goal of frictionless service.
By this we mean, cutting down on exotic dishes and drinks that demand procuring ingredients from various parts of the country. Stick to the basic menu. Use analytics to shortlist the most popular 40 items from the menu and be innovative with them.
For instance, a platter of Mac and Cheese can be made interesting with entree add-ons, or innovate with Fruit Sushis to capture people’s attention. Stock on rich flavors and flexible-use ingredients that can be incorporated into multiple recipes and buzz-worthy LTOs.
The goal is to optimize the kitchen for the delivery-model and for that you would need to direct your focus towards creating dishes that can easily be delivered in effective, safe, multi-use take-out packaging.
We now have a great opportunity to help more restaurants and build better relationships!
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