Restaurant Marketing During COVID-19

COVID-19 has drastically altered our world. As restaurants are one of the hardest hit industries of this pandemic, the way restaurants have to approach marketing has changed. Fewer people are dining out, which means customers are relying on businesses to modernize into the digital world more than ever. Here are some strategies that restaurants can take to combat the effects of a pandemic: 

Optimize Your Social Media Platforms 

Right now, social media is the most popular way for customers to connect with their favorite food spots. Folks want to know your hours, specials, seating situation, and more. Post regularly to ensure you’re being seen on your followers’ feeds. The more targeted your posts, the more customers will feel connected to your brand and it can increase your customer loyalty.

Instagram updated their algorithm again so make sure to optimize your posts by choosing captions/content that will encourage folks to share, comment, or save. Post aesthetically pleasing food, drink or general restaurant shots (preferably using professional photography or a really good iPhone photo with good lighting).

With the increase of the “story” feature on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, it’s important to make sure you are using it in the right ways to connect with your audience. People are more likely to interact with your account if they see something in your story. Remember: the algorithm of the apps and the specific feed of your customers may leave your posts unseen. Sharing posts onto your story, re-sharing a customer’s photo you’ve been tagged in, posting polls or sharing general story highlights about your restaurant will remind your customers of your business and keep your name in the front of their minds. 

High Quality Website & Photos

Photo by Creative Trek Branding

Customers aren’t able to fully experience the vibe and environment of your restaurant in person, so you need to portray that feeling virtually. That’s why it’s important to have a high quality website and photos that will not only draw them in, but keep them on your page. High performing Instagram accounts, such as Sweetgreen or Milk Bar, have one dominant feature that makes them so successful: #foodporn. Your customers want to see your actual offerings (we eat first with our eyes, after all), professional photos that make your food look like the best item ever will put you ahead of competitors. 

A successful restaurant website looks a lot different now than it did this time last year. Online ordering and food delivery services are taking over, so having these as a main feature on your website will encourage people to order your food. Customers need to be able to locate your menu quickly and it needs to be easy to read and understand. Remember, we live in an age of quick content and finding exactly what we need right when we need it. 

Again, customers want to feel connected to your brand. Having things for them to sign up for and get more information about you is important. Include a place to sign up for a loyalty program or email newsletter that will help with marketing efforts and customer retention (especially as we approach winter, the dead season for most restaurants). Your email newsletter should include high quality pictures, any new information about your restaurant, or things like seasonal or special offers that they can only find by signing up for the newsletter. 

Make a Google Business Account

Photo by Creative Trek Branding

Window shopping used to mean walking around town and finding a new place that you want to try, now window shopping is “Google shopping.” The first thing people do when trying to find a new eatery is Google something like “places to eat near me.” It’s important to make sure that your restaurant is one that’s going to be seen. 

A Google Business account can greatly improve your SEO and make sure you’re on “page one.” You can keep your customers informed by having all of the information about your restaurant plugged into Google Business. This can include accurate information such as your hours, location, and menu offerings. When people see this, they will also see any reviews about your restaurant. The Google Business account will allow people to leave reviews, and new leads will be more likely to become patrons if they see “regular people” like them enjoying your food and/or drink. We know that every restaurant owner loathes to hear this because most folks only leave reviews when they’re angry which is why we recommend campaign strategies to combat that.

You can also track the success of your online marketing efforts with Google Analytics. Google Analytics gives you a deeper insight into your website that you would be unable to see on the surface. Utilize Analytics to see what keywords people are searching to get to your website or to see where exactly on your website people are clicking out and leaving. Using this data collected will allow you to change your strategies or to keep them the same to ensure your online presence is successful. 

Make sure that people are aware of your business during Covid with your online presence. Create eye-catching, easily digestible content that will bring people onto your pages. Keep them there by creating consistent content; give them something that makes them want to come back. You don’t have to completely flip the head on your marketing strategy, but you do need to make sure you’re staying in the minds of your customers and continuing to build your brand equity in a different way — virtual way. 

Article written by Autumn Miller, Sage Marketing Intern and University of Kentucky student.