Marketing Your Restaurant During COVID-19

Many restaurant owners worry about their business’s future as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. According to the CEO of Grubhub, Matt Maloney, as many as 30% of restaurants might permanently close due to this virus.

Before you worry too much, focus instead of what you can do to help your restaurant during this time. Look forward to when you can open again. Shifting your mindset toward productivity not only raises your own spirits and keeps you busy during these reduced business hours (if you still offer delivery), but it also encourages the community to keep your restaurant in mind, which will translate to sales in the future.

Continue marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic by getting active online.

Keep making content

Stuck at home? That’s the perfect time to get well acquainted with your social media channels, especially if you never paid them too much attention before. If you have a backlog of videos, pictures and post ideas saved, use them now. You can still post great content even if your restaurant has shut down.

  • Interview staff for their experiences and positive stories from working there—via Zoom or another video sharing platform, of course.
  • Tell your story about why you decided to open a restaurant.
  • Show behind-the-scenes content of the kitchen staff working, if you still offer delivery.
  • Upload pictures or snippets from team meetings you’ve recorded on Zoom.
  • Talk about your personal life or how you’ve been spending your time inside.

Show off the hardworking team that has made customers’ previous dine-in experiences so great. This will foster good feelings toward your brand. You can also post the steps you’ve taken to support your staff and the community through this pandemic. Your email contacts might also appreciate a newsletter about why you’ve shut down, what you’re doing to combat the spread of the virus, and the ways you’re prioritizing health and safety.

You can also produce videos that show you creating your signature dish, or that teach people how to create a simple recipe from five ingredients they can find in their pantry. Content like that keeps people engaged and on your page, and strengthens your brand association in their mind. It also showcases your talent, gives people great advice and provides entertainment. All of this will entice viewers to come try your food out in person when you finally reopen.computer-desk-hand-laptop-374631-1

strengthen your online presence

Try out new social media

If you’ve ever wanted to experiment with social media, now is a great time for it. Lots of potential future customers with nothing to do spend all their time online anyway. Test out a new platform you’ve never had time to learn or just experiment with features you haven’t used before. Live streams, for example, are extremely popular with users these days and are a great way to connect directly with your community in real time.

You can also take this time to research other restaurants’ social medias and see how they run their pages, the kind of content they produce and what resonates best with their consumers. It might just trigger your next post idea or encourage you to try something new! Have fun with it; you’ve got time to learn.

update your pages

Comb through all of your socials and make sure the information presented there is relevant, up to date and consistent. You also have time to redo your website if you’ve put that off for awhile, to add pages that you haven’t had time to create, and add options for delivery and reservations. Create an “our story” page, tell your staff member’s stories, let customers know how to get involved in the community and add pictures to make your menu stand out. Content like this tells people more about the personal side of your business, further strengthening your brand association.

Make sure your pages all work for both desktop and mobile users, too. You can also take this time to let people know what to expect when you open, which will generate anticipation. Use your email list to send out newsletters and your socials to post updates as well. Good information to notify customers about:

  • You’ve closed because of COVID-19, and anything else you’re doing to protect your workers and the community.
  • How the community can support local restaurants like yourself by buying gift cards, getting involved in relief funds and supporting local charities.
  • Anything you think will help build a relationship between you, your business and the community.

You should also spend some time setting up Google My Business and optimizing SEO to drive traffic to your page so you can expand beyond the customers that already follow you.advertising-alphabet-business-communication-270637-1

foster connections

As you ask the community for support, get involved in those relief efforts yourself too. Find existing programs to join, or connect with other restaurants and start your own relief funds. You can support charities helping disenfranchised individuals in the community or even those making larger relief efforts nationwide.

You can also use this time to kindle relationships with influencers and other powerful figures that you might want to partner with when you reopen. For example, if you planned to capitalize on influencer marketing before this disease spread, you can do some outreach now and form relationships with those you want to work with when you reopen. Just pay attention to your budget and make sure you can afford their prices, because endorsements don’t come free and no one likes feeling like they had their time wasted. Proactivity goes a long way!access-blur-close-up-colorful-238480-1

prepare for your relaunch

At times, everyone feels like this quarantine might go on forever and the fear of COVID-19 may never abate. Like anything else, though, this will end and your restaurant will reopen to the public. Use this opportunity to prepare for your restaurant’s relaunch.

Though you obviously won’t have an exact date, you can nail down a solid idea of what you want for your first day back. Do you plan to host an event that celebrates the occasion? What will that look like? You have a chance to rectify and improve on the mistakes you made during your first launch, now that you have more experience and realistic expectations. Put what you’ve learned from your time managing a restaurant to good use. Consider:

  • A special tasting menu for the event.
  • Introducing loyalty and rewards programs for the first time, or offering a special bonus for those already involved in your existing programs.
  • Referral deals.
  • Entertainment for the event.
  • Rewards for everyone who stayed connected and helped out while the restaurant was shut down.

Many restaurants have started offering gift cards online so people can buy now and use later. Most restaurants have extremely thin profit margins, and this will easily and effectively pour money back into the business. You can even show your appreciation for the customers buying these gift cards and helping you stay afloat in the interim by offering them a special bonus during the relaunch event, or finding some other creative way to say thank you. Make your relaunch your own.illuminated-1853924_1920-1

Though opening might be the furthest thing from your mind right now, planning out an event like this won’t just benefit your customers: It will help you, too. Announcing that you have something special planned generates interest in the business and builds your customer base; invest time now and see financial returns in the future. An event like this also gives you something to look forward to, keeps you busy and increases morale at a time when worry, fear and uncertainty plague the industry.

Just because operations have stopped doesn’t mean that marketing needs to, also. Focus on what you can do from your own home with just a smartphone and an internet connection: Build your social media pages and website, connect with your community and others in the industry, and start planning your reopening. Take some time to revitalize your online marketing strategy and get ready for what will happen when this all ends. It may seem impossible to visualize, but things will go back to normal—for your restaurant, too.

Editor's Picks