MAY 8, 2020
With all of the operational considerations that are required of restaurants in a post-stay-at-home world, it would be easy to place less importance on a re-opening marketing plan. While we know that consumers miss dining in restaurants, that does not mean your restaurant will be top of mind. A strong marketing strategy is essential whenever a restaurant opens, but especially after a closing. Likely, there will also be many restaurants opening at similar times, so identifying how you will stand out will be as critical as making sure to get the word out.
How do you get the most bang for your marketing dollars? Where should you spend your marketing budget to ensure the most return on your investment? We’ve broken it down into six areas that we know to be the most effective.
YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
The first interaction you have with your guests is online. COVID-19 has magnified the importance of both your website and social media channels. As the digital space becomes even more where people “live,” their online interactions with you will shape how they feel about you. This is well beyond marketing. If you haven’t already, check out “How to Greet Your Guests Online.”
Adjust your closure message to let guests know when you will be re-opening
Consider adding a count-down clock to your opening on your website
Consider a popup with any new changes related to social distancing
Update your menus online
Ensure you have clear communication and integration for any delivery, catering or other revenue streams you wish to cross promote. (Check out “Explore How Your Restaurant Can Live Outside Your Doors” for inspiration.)
Online Listings / Reservation Platforms
Update your hours and operating information on key platforms including:
Google Business: Here is Google’s help page.
Yelp: Here is Yelp’s help page.
Opentable / Yelp Reservations / Resy
Email is a powerful channel, but one that is very easy to mis-use. The messages you send need to be creative, enticing and have a call to action. Don’t let your message get lost in a slew of “here’s how we’re dealing with COVID” emails that everyone is receiving from everyone they have ever done business with since the invention of the internet. Make it fun, visual and engaging. Segment your list if possible. You may wish to send a different message to people who have ordered delivery than to those who haven’t, or send a different email to people who were regular guests. This is a good time to look at how you are building and utilizing your email database. Test as you go and carefully monitor your open rates and unsubscribes.
Create a teaser campaign to build excitement for your opening date, and let fans know when you’re opening. You can build anticipation while at the same time communicating what will be different. Create a highlight button that shows any new changes. Have some fun and let guests know that you care about their safety and are ready to start welcoming them back. Give them a little behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to reopen a restaurant, such as prepping food or making adjustments to the space. Reach out to past influencers directly, and provide them with content they can share; you’ve already wined and dined them, so call in a favor. Once your restaurant is open, continue to use social media, and encourage your fans to do as well, to promote your experience. Utilize both boosting and targeted ads to ensure as many eyes on your content as possible.
If you’ve already invested in building relationships with media in the past, now is the time to reactivate those relationships. It will be challenging to stand out with restaurants reactivating in similar timelines, but there will be roundups and other coverage. Reach out to media who have written about you in the past and provide them with:
Opening date and updated business hours
Any changes to the menu or concept
Updated services offered
Many media sites have also posted running lists of what restaurants are currently open and offering services, many have posted contact information for any updates, so if your status changes, let them know.
SIGNAGE & FOUR WALLS
Don’t forget to use the physical space to broadcast your message and let anybody in the vicinity now you’re opening. Put a sign in your window and on your door that says when you will open and post an opening menu in the window. Consider adding something to the sidewalk, (balloons, a banner, a folding sandwich board sign) to announce the opening (in accordance with city ordinances of course).
And if you’re offering delivery, as soon as you know your opening date, start leaving a note in all delivery orders. It could be hand-written, a post card or a flyer, that tells people when you’ll be opening for dine-in guests.
Make sure to leverage any partnerships you have, such as the local chamber of commerce, neighborhood organizations, and charities that you’ve supported in the past. Ask them to share your opening news on their social channels or in messages to their members.
And, of course, don’t forget to update your phone message!