MAY 7, 2020
An April 1 brief from Bain & Company, How to Come Out Stronger from the COVID-19 Crisis: Accelerate Simple and Digital, identified several key areas where the COVID-19 crisis is accelerating our digital future. One of those accelerations related to movement patterns. The authors summarized, “Movement patterns have flipped. Previously, customers were on the go and enterprises stayed still. Now, customers are housebound and enterprises must find ways to reach them.”
This is true more than ever for restaurants. It’s not a new idea, but it does mark a necessary shift in thinking that can be difficult for restaurants, which are inherently an in-person experience. Your website and social media channels are not only your most important marketing tool, they are your first point of guest contact. It’s how guests are first experiencing your restaurant. As the digital space becomes even more where people “live,” their online interactions with you will shape how they feel about you. It is no longer the person greeting them at your door sets the tone for their experience, it is your online presence.
WEBSITE CONSIDERATIONS & INTEGRATIONS
Was your site built to be ADA compliant? Has it been maintained and regularly scanned?
Is your site responsive to various browser sizes and devices?
Is your reservation process clear and easy to find?
Have you considered a pre-ordering experience to help reduce costs, manage table turns and provide a contactless ordering process for the guest?
How will you keep your menu pages updated and also ADA compliant?
Is delivery ordering integrated into your site or are you simply directing them to another party’s (unbranded) portal? (Most delivery parties offer the ability to have a branded integration.)
If you offer carry-out, is it integrated into your site in a way that makes it easy for your guests and your operations team? (Some POS systems have branded integrations that can help you maintain a consistent look and feel on your site.)
How can guests order catering? Do you have a drop down form, and if so, who will monitor those inquiries? Can guests easily view your catering menus?
Can guests sign up for your emails? How does your email sign up integrate into your reservation platform?
How easily can a guest purchase a gift card?
Sharing is Caring
Does your instagram page reflect the same care that you have put into your restaurant design? When someone new follows you, does your instagram grid communicate how you want guests to feel about your restaurant?
Have you updated your open days and hours on your Instagram and Facebook pages?
Do you have highlight buttons that communicate your menu, private event spaces, deliver or retail offering?
Are you using Stories effectively? Are they highlighting your latest offering - a new menu item or cocktail?
Do you have a linkin.bio capability so you content can have a call to action, if appropriate for the post?
The Context of Content
We know your latest professional photoshoot was pre COVID-19, and it can be tempting to keep using that content which is so beautifully set up in your space. In order to convey trust and set guest expectations, it will likely be necessary to shoot new photography assets.
Does your dining room look different with new spacing? Can you convey this in imagery?
Do friendly images of staff need to be updated with proper PPE such as gloves and masks? Consider this especially as staff are interacting with guests.
Do any lively and packed scenes now present the wrong message? How do you convey that your restaurant is popular without having every seat filled?
Does your space look a bit different from the exterior or takeout window operations?
Link to your updated website for more information to guests to maintain control over the most up to date messaging or details.
User Generated Content & Influencers
You can’t as closely control the environments your guests may photograph, so consider carefully the images that are sourced as UGC that you post from your channels to be sure they reflect safety standards in place.
That said, if your product is being consumed at home by guests, feel free to embrace that love, even if it may look different than it would normally be plated in the restaurant.
Influencers in the dining industry are also feeling their own losses of content as well as revenue. Look to previous partners that know your business well and help amplify your message in ways that are mutually beneficial.
Influencers have spent their time at home also getting very creative with their product the past few months, enlisting them to help with photography may be a cost effective option and may ultimately resonate on your social channels.
How can your re-opened business generate goodwill and also support your neighbors? How can you show this with photography?
While budgets are certainly looking different these days, social advertising can be a very targeting and cost-effective way to get the word out and rise to the top in a crowded social space
Use social or third party platforms with the primary goal of generating awareness messaging of updated offerings or signature mainstays
For many restaurateurs, adjusting to the idea that “online” is not a marketing channel, but is rather a critical part of the restaurant experience will be a major shift in thinking. What that experience is like will be different for every brand. “Online” is no longer a place where people go to find things. Our online interactions and relationships are as critical as those we experience in-person. These interactions must be as carefully curated as those that happen in the real world.