As vaccinations increase and COVID cases decline, consumers are finally trading the digital world for the real one and returning to their favorite restaurants. But social media will continue to play a role in their choices, perhaps an even more critical during pandemic recovery.
The coronavirus dramatically changed the landscape for the restaurant industry, which is coming off a 2020 that brought in $240 billion less in sales than originally projected, according to the National Restaurant Association. And in the wake of such staggering loss, the competition has only grown more intense, compelling restaurateurs to use every tool at their disposal to reengage with customers.
Restaurant owners will need to meet these customers where they are – online. In a survey conducted earlier this year by digitalcommerce360.com, 72 percent of respondents said they started using social media after the pandemic shut everything down. Of course, social media was already a proven factor in consumers’ dining out decisions. In a survey conducted in 2019, 45 percent of respondents reported having chosen and visited a restaurant based on that establishment’s social media content. 22 percent said these restaurants’ social media posts also kept them coming back.
As recovery progresses, restaurant owners must commit to the continued care and feeding of their social media platforms. But lacking the dedicated staff and resources of larger companies, they have to work smarter, using simple tricks and strategies to streamline the process, improve content, and drive traffic, all without cost or significant investment of hours. Here are four to consider:
Find Your Hero Platform and Focus There
Spread too thin? You don’t have to use every single social media platform available. Find out which one performs best for you and focus your energies there. Food and drink are highly visual, so many restaurants find that Instagram is their best medium. Twitter, on the other hand, is great for sharing news and managing customer service.
One thing we know for certain, people are craving experiences and interaction right now. Instagram and Facebook, in particular, offer you the chance to showcase and promote how it will look and feel to be back in your restaurant. Share images of tempting food. Post “atmosphere” shots of a convivial crowd enjoying their meal. Post videos of kitchen staff prepping or plating food, and don’t forget to add some sound – perhaps a cocktail shaker in motion or something sizzling in a pan, or maybe just some upbeat music. In short – convey the experience a customer can expect in your restaurant. It costs nothing but effort.
Keep Consumers Updated
Check your information online at least once a month to make sure you’re always providing the correct information to customers. Updating your contact information, hours and any other important information that’s listed on social media is a great way to maintain communication with customers. And make sure you regularly post images of menu items, whether they are daily or weekly specials or classic dishes or drinks your restaurant is famous for.
As you approach the reopening of your business in accordance various stages of Covid-19 restrictions in your area, it’s a smart idea to let your customers and followers every time there’s a change, so they will know exactly what to expect when they arrive.
Simple social media tactics like these will soon become second nature, and help you stay competitive now that dining out is in again.
For additional tips, download the Small Business Owner's Social Media Marketing Playbook from Ripl.