Restaurant Guide: How to communicate with customers on COVID-19 safety protocols

In the last couple of months, if there's one thing that the restaurant industry has learned is that nothing is forever! Change is constant and no matter how successful the business is, there would always come a time when we’d have to adapt and innovate to meet the changing demands of the market.

2020 has been the year of crisis - one after the other, and there’s no other industry than the food business that has been severely hit. Facing a loss of $250 billion a year, this community has taken every step to survive through COVID-19 and beyond. And voila, most of them have managed through this period and how!

85% of the restaurant businesses that pivoted to Online Ordering and Food delivery have managed to weather the storm with dignity and persistence. Another 15% that did weren’t as successful, but have managed to stay afloat if not profitable. Why? Because they did not have a strong communication strategy to reinforcing that the food customers love is prepared and delivered with utmost safety.

That being said, if you constantly don’t remind your customers that you and your staff are following all necessary safety procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you’re likely to lose out your customers to the competitors who are!

Smart restaurant marketers have been doing these rounds of communication since the beginning of the outbreak to build an environment of trust and convenience for their patrons.

If you are yet to create a strong communication strategy to inform your customers about effective revival and safety plans, these tips will help!

Be Empathetic and Authentic

Social distancing is not easy for anyone. Your customers are as affected by it as you are, and they need their favorite brands to understand their anxieties instead of profiting from them. In simple words, they expect empathy at all touchpoints.

For Instance, McDonald’s used its iconic logo to encourage their customers and employees to practice social distancing, and to assure them that they care for them.

McDonald's Brazil separated the golden arches

Social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook must be effectively used to inform customers that you’re are open for business and committed to the heal]th and safety of your employees and customers. It is also important to outline clear steps being taken to address the changes you have made to meet the new health and safety challenges.

Do share information about what you're doing to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of your employees. (e.g., taking frequent temperature, providing protective gear for work, supporting them and their families in case of illness, etc.).

Direct them to where they can order — online or via phone.

Brands must also leverage these platforms to highlight all dining/ordering options available such as contactless dining, curbside pickup, and online ordering with contactless delivery.

Email them, twice a week!

Email marketing can be your biggest friend if you know how to use it the right way. Checking in with customers frequently and consistently promotes trust confidence in your brand. Pick two days in a week in which you will be sending out newsletters to your customers to update them with core safety, density, and cleanliness messages. Inform them on what’s new on the menu, share with the details of new packaging material, encourage them to share their feedback on delivery services to help you make it better.

Be sure to deliver new information as it becomes available. Be sure to mention a date on your communication to help people know how recently you've updated your messaging. And don’t forget to extend your thanks for their ongoing support and loyalty. This will help you build a lasting relationship with customers.

Backed it up by actions

If you really want to be the brand of choice, listen to what your customers are saying. Take their feedback seriously and assure a satisfactory resolution.

For instance; if someone is skeptical about the curbside pickup, given them an option of contactless delivery. Assure them that your staff is equipped to deliver their food in the safest manner possible.

On the other hand, if you find a customer wanting to have a look at your kitchen, be open to it. Posting a video on social channels on a daily basis on how your staff handles food in the kitchen, or how inventory is cleaned before putting on the shelves for use could be beneficial for sales.

If you’re offering contactless experience, demonstrate the plan of action you are considering to implement through all aspects of the customers’ journey. The focus should be on being clinically clean from aesthetically clean.

All of these efforts play an important role in reducing customer anxiety by building trust and validating your brand as one that customers like to do business with.

Answer the Phone!

Automating and digitizing all operations to create a swift, contactless experience for customers might have you forget the most simple, yet effective mode of communication - your phone!

During such tough times, there could be many people who would want to reach you via phone to enquire about whether you’re are open and ready to save. Just make sure you are available to address their concerns.

Make your staff your brand ambassadors

Who knows your restaurant better than your employees! They are going through the crisis with you and committing every day to help you and your brand navigate the unprecedented.

They can be the most valuable brand ambassadors during such unusual times. At a high level, your employees talking about the safety protocols being followed to prepare food will infuse positivity around your brand, making your customers fall in love with your brand all over again.

The goal of creating such content is to share a behind-the-scenes insight from the perspective of employees and celebrating their real stories.

You don't need to invest heavily in brand ambassador programs. Just providing your employees with the right tools and resources can make it easier for them to reach out to your customers.

Only specific, appointed people from your team should be communicating about the COVID-19 related plans. This is to ensure consistent messaging across different platforms.

Plan for the future, now!

As the situation continues, providing a proactive, compassionate, and strategic response to a crisis can portray a genuine message transmitted to customers with humility. Developing a protocol system for monitoring and sharing the latest information related to the crisis can provide customers with assurance and peace of mind when they order from your brand.

A well planned and executed communication strategy can give restaurants a fighting chance to come out on the other side of the pandemic, as well as validate the trust of their customers for a return to normalcy.