It is no surprise to anyone that the coronavirus pandemic is having a massive impact on all of us. While all industries will certainly be affected in some way, the restaurant and foodservice industry may be one of the hardest hit overall. With many places throughout the United States implementing social distancing recommendations and encouraging the public to stay at home, in-house restaurant sales have essentially been eliminated. Here in Upstate New York, the only option for restaurants to stay open right now – as they are considered essential businesses – is if they continue offering takeout and/or delivery.
With in-person promotional opportunities being extremely limited right now, digital marketing – and especially social media – is imperative. But how do you promote your food in a time when people are hesitant to leave their houses and have any human contact at all? Is there a right and a wrong way to post on social media? How much is too much?
For the most part: the traditional social media “rules” should be thrown out the window right now (sorry to all the hardcore “marketing gurus” who may disagree). We are in an unprecedented situation – which requires an approach that is outside the norm. Have you been told before that you should only post X number of times a day? Forget it. Think you need a perfectly polished post before you publish on your page? Don’t worry about it. Make it real and make it authentic – and people will respond. If you are someone who has little-to-no experience in social media – just do the best you can. We are all doing the best we can in this situation. Your main priority on social media right now is to notify people that you are open, share what food you are serving, and to invite them to order for either takeout or delivery. Period.
In an effort to help you along your social media journey in the time of coronavirus, we are including some useful resources and potential ideas below.
- Social media graphics – For those who are not used to posting on social media on a regular basis, you may feel a little overwhelmed with how to do this effectively with little-to-no time to learn. There are free resources that you can use to create social media graphics in a pinch – like Canva, Adobe Spark and Crello (to name a few!) Be sure to engage your staff! You may not have the time or knowledge to put together social graphics, but many times there is someone on your team who would jump at the opportunity to help contribute.
- General promotions – Every day (and even before every daypart, if appropriate) you can be posting your hours, your offerings, and the best way for people to go about placing their order. Snap a photo of your specials, post a graphic with your hours and phone number, share a photo of your staff setting up the curbside pickup cones – anything to put your establishment out there in the endless newsfeed that people are scrolling through right now. It’s also important to promote how you’d like people to pay. If you are encouraging credit card payment in advance (recommended to avoid cash contact and signature of payment slips on site), promote that! Doing delivery? Promote which partnerships you have (Grubhub, DoorDash, etc.) or if you are doing it in-house with your own staff. Be sure to indicate if “contactless delivery” is an option – the driver can leave it right at their door.
- Family-style meals – If you haven’t already, think about how you can re-position your menu items to promote larger, family-style meals. These are getting a lot of traction on social media, as they are easy for people to pick up and bring home for the whole crew (and saves them from having to cook… again!) Do you have certain family-style specials each night? Post them… every time. You can post the same general content and come up with a new spin on it. Did you already post a photo of your family-style chicken riggies last Wednesday? Post a fun Boomerang or video of your staff holding the tray of riggies; do a behind-the-scenes shot of the kitchen prep; ask your guests a trivia question about how many hot peppers you include in your recipe (answer: none of their business!) There are tons of ways to be creative without re-inventing the wheel.
- Alcohol on-the-go – with the loosened regulations on restaurant alcohol sales (i.e. the ability to sell it to-go…for now), this is a no-brainer to help increase your margin. If you have the capability to add this onto your takeout options, do it. Selling burgers and fries? Add a 6-pack of beer. Serving up family-style ziti and salad? Throw in a bottle of Chianti. Packing up fish tacos and spicy slaw? Hello, to-go margaritas. Your profit margin – and your loyal customers – will thank you.
- Gift cards / merchandise – promote these offerings constantly in the coming weeks! These can also be used as add-ons to family-style meal packages and as (limited!) giveaways to encourage social media fans to like and share your posts to help spread the word and create a wider reach. Want to really get the bang out of your buck for this? Once your guest comes to pick up their merchandise (or even if it’s a digital e-gift card!), ask if they would be willing to snap a picture and you can share on your page – and they can post on theirs to share with their friends – to help promote and further increase your visibility.
- Retail and “farmer’s market” style offerings – we have seen many restaurants going outside of their wheelhouse and putting together offerings focused on helping customers get their basic grocery store essentials. They are going out of the house to grab the essentials anyway – why not offer it as an option with your other to-go offerings and help them avoid the hustle and bustle of the store? Whether this is dry goods, frozen meats or fresh produce – consider if it makes sense for you to incorporate retail into your strategy. If so, promote it!
- Promote cleaning and sanitation – especially today, it’s important for you to actively communicate what your staff is doing to maintain a clean and safe environment. As far as we know, COVID-19 is not transmitted through food at all – but perception is everything. Even if you have always implemented rigorous cleaning and disinfecting procedures, now is the time to speak up about it! Most importantly, as businesses - our number one focus should be on ensuring our own teams, and our customers, are staying as safe as possible.
- Highlight staff – the impact of this situation on the foodservice and hospitality industry is heartbreaking. We are seeing it all over the news right now and loyal customers are coming together to help show support for their favorite servers and bartenders. Be sure to spotlight your staff to keep the “human” aspect in all of this and to encourage people to continue supporting their favorite establishments!
- Community focus – we need to band together as a community now, more than ever. Many restaurants are offering special promotions for kids to help bridge the gap in meals since they are no longer in school. Others are continuing to provide donations to nonprofits, healthcare workers, or people in need. While you may not be able to do all of these things financially, think about how you can continue to show your community support – even if it means just shouting out other neighboring local businesses to help give each other a leg up. Our society is being bombarded with news that is anxiety-inducing, nerve wracking, and even downright scary. Be a break in the day for people scrolling social media. Try to be positive – add a little humor – and continue to build real connections. This will hopefully help increase your business now, as well as strengthen customer loyalty. These efforts will ultimately boost the traffic coming back through your doors – as soon as they can open back up again.
For reference, are some additional links to articles and tips that may be helpful as you continue to navigate your social media and marketing promotions:
- Social Media Marketing for Restaurants: The Basics
- The Complete Guide to Social Media for Restaurants & Bars
- 6 Ways Restaurants Can Drum Up Funds During the Coronavirus Pandemic
- With In-Store Dining Gone, Restaurants Become Grocery Stores
- Should Your Restaurant Add Third-Party Delivery, or Start its Own Network?
- Their Dining Rooms Closed, Restaurants Mimic Dine-In Experience Via Takeout and Delivery
- Restaurants Offering Side of Toilet Paper With Delivery, Pickup Orders
- How Restaurants Are Stepping Up to Help Their Communities During The Coronavirus Pandemic, From Providing Toilet Paper to Meal Kits
We are all in this together – feel free to tag @RenziFoodservice on your social posts (we are on Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn!) and we will engage with your posts to help increase the reach. Let’s continue to support each other and we will get through this… one day, and one meal, at a time. #TheLocalDifference
Don’t forget! Do you need takeout container options or ideas for easy sides or meals on-the-go? Please reach out to your Renzi Sales Consultant for recommendations. As a reminder, all Renzi Foodservice products can be ordered digitally via our online ordering platform, Renzi Connect. Click here to learn more.
As a reminder, for all Renzi Foodservice COVID-19 updates and resources, visit our website here: http://bit.ly/Renzi_CovidUpdates.
Article written by the Renzi Foodservice Marketing Team