Fine dining making a shift to online ordering? These promotional tactics can help

Despite the booming online delivery market, fine-dining establishments had long resisted the digital pull, insisting on exclusive in-restaurant experiences. However, the current COVID-19 pandemic has forced these restaurants to rethink their stand.

It’s not easy for fine-dining restaurants to take their businesses online because they’re usually not set-up for delivery services. Moreover, the sudden lockdown has not offered the luxury of time for thought and planning either.

Though the transition may be difficult, it’s not an impossible one.

We’ve witnessed successful passage from offline to online across cities in America. Michelin-starred restaurants like the Morris in San Francisco, n/naka in Los Angeles, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in New York, and Canlis in Seattle are all providing online delivery and takeaway services with small tweaks in their traditional business models. Alinea in Chicago, named the best restaurant in America, had made $5,600 on sales of margarita kits alone by the first week of April.

Offering online ordering services is not only a temporary model necessitated by present circumstances but will be a prerequisite on the other side of the pandemic as customers’ dining habits are expected to witness sweeping changes. Early adopters of digital technology will definitely be in the best position to effectively manage this transformation.

If you are a fine-dining restaurant looking to promote your online ordering services, here are some key tips to help you translate the unique atmosphere of your dining room to delivery.

Reimagine your menu

Besides concerns like retaining heat, delicately crafted meals might not render well when recreated for a delivery model. Intricate tasting menus, for instance, will not have the same sophisticated experience when people are dining at home. As we’ve learned from several restaurants during the current crisis, it is imperative for fine-dining establishments to adjust menus for online deliveries.

A regular meal at the famous Alinea would cost $300 per person but they’re now providing to-go meals for $35, which includes beef Wellington and mashed potatoes. The first batch sold out within five hours. n/Naka has also simplified their menu and instead of their usual 13-course tasting menu which costs over $200 without alcohol pairing, they are now delivering $38 Bento boxes.

Art of the Table in Seattle, too, has been delivering $60 family meals, which has been hugely popular so far.

Online sommelier experience

One of the significant aspects that add to the dining experience at a high-end restaurant is the recommendations of sommeliers about ideal food pairings. Alcohol sales also provide a much bigger profit margin than food items. It, therefore, makes sense to replicate this experience online as best as possible.

How about allowing customers to do live chats with sommeliers when ordering online? If that’s not possible, then you can do live videos on Instagram to retain the notion of luxury in the digital space. Both Facebook and Instagram have live capabilities.

Again, taking a cue from the present situation where chefs, including the likes of Ferran Adrià, have been communicating with people through social media, fine-dining restaurants can promote their online ordering with similar interactions. Adrià, through his Twitter feed has been whipping up cocktails and garlic prawns.

Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana has also opened up his kitchen to his Instagram followers in a series called Kitchen Quarantine. Chefs like Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, and Laura Vitale already had popular YouTube channels even before the lockdown.

This strategy is, especially, suited for chef-led restaurants and allows customers to get to know your brand and the faces behind it more closely.

Share your culinary journey

Now more than ever, people are conscious about the food on their plates and you could use this opportunity to take diners along a special culinary journey. Email newsletters are a great way to send personalized messages.

You can analyze customer data to see what each individual has ordered and send them a note on how and from where the ingredients are sourced and take them through the entire process of preparing the dish.

For luxury brands, personalized marketing must be on a top-notch level, with a core focus on one-on-one relationship building.

Have your own online ordering service

Any luxury brand’s reputation rests on its unique value proposition. When a fine-dining restaurant partners with a third-party aggregator, there’s every chance that it will lose its exclusivity among a sea of other brands from every category including fast-food to quick-service restaurants. The sense of a personal connection is also lost when a customer has to order from a different platform. This is why building your own website and mobile app for online ordering is essential so that you have absolute control over your brand identity.

Branded eco-friendly packaging

Speaking about life after the pandemic, chef René Redzepi of Noma said, “The long term trend for cooking should be an approach that takes in the climate and the environment into consideration. As for me, I hope other fine dining restaurants will come to the same conclusion.”

Think of delivery packaging as a channel to communicate your brand’s ethos and commitment to environmental sustainability.

According to Bain & Co, 89% of consumers expect brands to publicly communicate their sustainable efforts, particularly in the luxury industry.

Show care and concern

Despite all the negativities, the COVID-19 outbreak has also inspired a sense of solidarity. As a luxury brand, meaningful experiences shouldn’t be limited to diners alone. Loyal customers will be drawn towards brands that genuinely care for their community and their workforce.

Develop ethical work practices and make giving back to the community a priority. You can then create marketing strategies to communicate these efforts with your customer to inspire loyalty. For instance, Michelin-starred restaurant Ora in Finland led by chef Sasu Laukkonen is open only from Wednesday to Saturday. “Having three days off allows for my staff to be energized and fully focused come Wednesday,” Laukkonen says.

The COVID-19 outbreak has necessitated a shift in how restaurant owners conduct and promote their business. Everyone is staying at home and online. You want to reach out to them and communicate with them. Let them know that, first and foremost, that you are open for curbside pick up and home delivery. Next is to ensure then that it is absolutely safe to buy from you. The more you communicate with your customers, the more comfortable they'll feel placing orders with your restaurant.

Optimizing your online presence, collaborating with local influencers, and performing a few marketing activities, will help you stay top of your customers’ minds.

Let them enter your world and they’ll reward you with loyalty.

In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions about restaurant marketing that we can help you with. In collaboration with a full-service marketing agency, Brand My Startup, Restolabs is offering 30 minutes of free one-on-one sessions on how to phase a soft-launch approach to build and amplify awareness ahead of the digital launch.

If you are new to the digital world and don’t know where to start, get in touch with us and we’ll help you get off on the right foot.