The pandemic has ravaged many businesses in the country and few industries were hit as hard as the restaurant industry. Thousands upon thousands of restaurants were forced to close for safety reasons, some permanently. Now more than ever, restaurant owners need to improve the way dining places are run to survive these uncertain times. Consumers and customers have changed their behavior due to the events of the previous year.
So it makes good business sense to revamp your marketing strategies. Focus on changing the processes of your restaurant to accommodate the new realities and to reach out to customers living in your local areas.
Today, examine the effects the pandemic has had on the restaurant and food service industry as well as five simple but effective marketing techniques to boost your local business.
The Pandemic and the Restaurant Business
Necessary safety protocols and the heightened risk of contracting the virus in closed quarters combined to shut down majority of businesses in 2020. Restaurants were harder hit than most because many food related businesses weren’t ready to transition to digital services.
According to a survey over 110,000 restaurants and drinking establishments were shut down in the wake of the pandemic. This number included restaurants of all sizes, from huge international restaurant chains to small boutique food experiences. Many of these restaurants were shut down as a precautionary measure, to prevent people from gathering in small areas where removing face masks is a necessity.
However, many small restaurants don’t have the resources to remain closed for longer than few weeks. With costs such as rent, food supplies and salaries, it’s no wonder a lot of restaurants doubt they’ll be able to bounce back. According to a different study conducted by the National Restaurant Association, 52 percent of restaurant owners don’t think they’ll be able to recover from the impact of 2020’s pandemic.
So what can restaurant owners do to survive the tough times they’re experiencing now and the tough times ahead? While various funding is now becoming available, if you want your restaurant to survive, you’ll need to ramp up your marketing efforts, specifically your marketing efforts geared toward locals.
Five Local Marketing Strategies
Any credible digital marketing provider will tell you that the best goal of any marketing campaign is to attract local business. Even in today’s increasingly digital and connected economy, local customers still make up the bulk of your restaurant’s profits.
Too many restaurants try to appeal to increasingly larger markets when their services probably won’t attract or even reach these audiences.
Smart restaurant owners know that attracting one local customer and maintaining their loyalty is worth more than a thousand likes or views from people on the other side of country. Enhancing your marketing strategies is just as important as avoiding marketing mistakes.
Below are five ways you can improve your local marketing techniques. By doing so, you can ensure that your restaurant has a steady supply of customers from your community who can keep you in the black.
1. Highlight Your Safety and Hygiene Protocols
The pandemic has shifted the priorities of customers when it comes to the businesses they patronize. According to a survey, 77 percent of consumers are now more concerned with the hygiene protocols and safety methods of restaurants. This is completely understandable given the nature of crisis at hand. Refer to your local health experts and guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control as to determine these steps.
Make sure that locals know the measures your business is taking to ensure the safety of both customers and staff.
On your website, make an easy-to-read infographic that summarizes the protocols you’re following. Highlight safety protocols that also enhance the convenience of your service, such as contactless payment, curbside pick-up options and speedy take-out. Ensure that you legitimately follow these safety guidelines as the trust of your customers is an invaluable marketing asset.
Enforce face-mask wearing for both employees and customers. Prominently advertise your commitment to these safety and health guidelines in your social media page and website. You can also make posters and flyers that feature your safety protocols to ensure everyone knows that you are doing your part to ensure hygienic food preparation in your premises.
2. Partner with Other Local Businesses
Local businesses need to band together in today’s climate to ensure their mutual survival. Look through your local business listings for companies that can complement your restaurant services wonderfully. Your best options for such partnerships boil down to suppliers and supplementary businesses.
Suppliers refer to enterprises that provide your restaurant with the raw ingredients and equipment you need to conduct business. Switching to local suppliers can be a very cost-affordable way to drive down your restaurant’s overhead. This is because you can expect lower prices due to the smaller distance between you and the businesses providing your goods. You can also expect fresher and higher quality merchandise because the food won’t have to stay in transit for long.
Supplementary businesses are those enterprises with goods and services that work well with your own.
For example, most restaurants are partnering or subscribing with food delivery apps, like Food Panda, so you may not need to hire your own delivery personnel. The kind of supplementary business your restaurant should partner with depends on your needs. If you run a restaurant focusing on pastries and confections, you may want to partner with an event organizer that specializes in birthdays.
Ensure that both your businesses market the fact of your partnership. Release press releases or send out emails to your customers regarding the partnership. You may even consider offering promos or discounts to customers who will buy your goods through your local partnerships.
3. Reach Out to Local Foodies
Social media influencers are all the rage when it comes to promotional material and it’s undeniable that their reach is considerable. Some influencers have followers in the hundreds of thousands and their recommendations can mean hundreds of dollars of business to your restaurant. Rather than target or partner with influences who operate on national or international levels, choose to reach out to local and small-scale food enthusiast or reviewers.
These people will have considerably smaller reach and fewer followers, but they are part of your community. Their followers will most likely be other people in your area and their patronage will mean more than a thousand page views from users in other countries. Plus, these local foodies and food bloggers will be much more affordable to partner with than top tier influencers.
Contact local food bloggers and reviewers and ask them if they are willing to work with you for honest reviews of your restaurants. Send them over a selection of your best food and ask them to make posts about it on their blogs or social media feeds. This type of directed interaction with local, small-scale social media influencers can help get the word out about your restaurant and, in turn, attract more attention from customers.
4. Sign Up on Local Directories
People are looking up restaurants more and more online. According to one report, as many as 77 percent of diners will look up a restaurant online before ordering or visiting it. This means that it is paramount that users are not only able to find you through search engines, but that they see favorable reviews of your restaurant online. Digital marketing strategists will point out that signing up for online directories is an excellent method for widening your online reach.
Sign up your restaurant for online directories, such as Google My Business and Yelp. These online directories not only let users leave positive comments about your restaurant, but the information you provide these platforms also help delivery drivers and customers determine your physical location.
Online directories will also have your contact information and other details that will allow customers who are curious about your restaurant easy methods for calling you.
5. Be More Active in the Community
Finally, few things can help your restaurant reach the forefront of your community’s awareness than being more active in it.
Partner with local causes, such as homeless shelters, reading initiatives and environmental clean-up efforts. This will generate good publicity for your restaurant and showcase that your business is willing to give back to your community. Massive community events may be scarce in the near future, but even small efforts like repainting benches and tree planting efforts can still be noteworthy and generate buzz for your business.
The past year has been incredibly tough on restaurants. But thanks to the resiliency of restaurateurs such as yourself, the industry can still survive. Improving your approach to marketing and targeting local customers is just one way you can ensure your restaurant not only survives, but thrives in the months ahead.