How to Market Your Restaurant During and After COVID-19

With dining rooms having been shut down for the majority of 2020, the only option for people to visit their favorite restaurants has been through takeout or delivery. COVID-19 has transformed the restaurant and hospitality industry, which means that restaurants need a new approach to promoting and marketing their business to health and safety-conscious diners. 

As a restaurant owner, social media is one of the cheapest and most-accessible ways to connect and engage with your diners—and drive more business through your virtual or real-life doors.  You need to adapt your restaurant’s social media marketing approach in the “new normal” of COVID-19.

The Power of Social Media for Restaurants

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool—especially for such a universally loved (and needed) category like food and drink. Across all social media platforms, from Facebook to Instagram, food and restaurant brands are some of the best-performing companies on the web. 

  • On Twitter, food and drink brand own 32 percent share of brand mentions

  • On Instagram, #food is the 25th most-popular hashtag in the world—with nearly 400 million posts tagged #food on the platform

  • Thirty-six percent of American diners follow restaurants on social media, with 39 percent of them doing so to determine if they want to order food from their establishment 

  • According to Statista, most American consumers believe their social media usage will increase dramatically during COVID-19—including 62 percent on Facebook, 43 percent on Instagram, and 34 percent on Twitter

With the COVID-19 lockdown, reopen, and repeated lockdown, consumers are warrier than ever about dining in at restaurants—and many are stuck at home. This gives restaurant brands a unique opportunity to focus their attention on social media so they can remain a constant in the diners life online—and be top of mind when they’re ordering in or ready to go out again. 

Engaging with Diners on Social Media During COVID-19

With diners’ screen time on the rise during quarantine—and the consumer landscape in general undergoing a fundamental shift—here are a few tips on how to use your social media platform to engage with diners in the “new normal.”

Update your Online Presence

Many diners are still getting used to getting back to their normal routines of dining out—and some states are still yet to open up restaurants for dine-in. Whether you’re open to the masses now or planning your reopening, make it known! Don’t leave your audience guessing—update them every step of the way with how they can support your business and enjoy your cuisine. 

If you’re pre-reopen: Take to Instagram to start teasing out pics and promos to get your diners excited about visiting your restaurant once it opens.

  • Update your website, social media, online listings, and answering machine with what you’re offering right now such as takeout, delivery, and curbside pickup

  • Post sneak peeks of your staff prepping the restaurant with descriptions like “coming soon!” and “stay tuned!”

  • Post countdowns until your grand reopening to remind your audience and get them excited for the big day

  • Consider having an Instagram contest or giveaway for a free meal once you reopen to build the hype

If you’re already open

  • Update your website, social media, online listings and answering machine with your new hours and details such as seating capacity

  • Show pictures of your staff as well as your restaurant’s new hygiene and protective equipment—your diners will want to know the precautions you’re taking to make their dining experience a safe one

Take Advantage of #foodstagram 

Food photos have a special place in the heart of consumers on social media—and Instagram is the perfect place to share and connect over cuisine. 

That means that learning basic tips and tricks on how to use Instagram to promote your menu will help you attract and keep business long-term. It can go beyond just showcasing your delicious meals, too. 

  • Post pictures of your menu, daily specials, take-out, and delivery specials

  • Give diners a sneak peel behind the scenes and introduce your owners, managers, and staff—people connect easier to a brand that has a friendly face

  • Stay at the top of mind (and top of the feed) by updating your story with fresh dishes and pics of your business

  • Create a personal #hashtag for your restaurant and encourage your diners to post their own pics and tag you

  • Don’t be shy with hashtags—use the best-performing hashtags like #foodstagram, #foodphotography, and #foodie to boost your post audience

  • Take it local with specific hashtags for your city like #NYCeats, #tastethesix, and #lafoodie 

Share Recipes and Cooking Tutorials with Followers

Another idea is posting your famous recipes and tutorials for diners who sparked a passion for home cooked food during their time in quarantine, and to provide your restaurant with a brand new revenue channel. 

Don’t fret about sharing your recipes—you’re not giving away your secrets, you’re giving your diners a new way to taste and experience their favorite dishes.

There are a few ways to monetize recipes and tutorials. 

  • Offer meal kits that include ingredients to make a dish with a recipe or link to a tutorial included in their purchase

  • Offer paid cooking “courses” that give them access to recipes and tutorials on making your signature dishes 

Whether you monetize your recipe sharing or not, sharing this new type of interactive content will attract (and engage) followers from the area—and even beyond. It’s a great way to use social media to offer a better experience to diners and solidify your brand. 

Get in Touch with Influencers

Partnering and collaborating with influencers has been a common practice for many restaurants and brands, but with the COVID-19 situation, the results driven from influencer marketing may be even greater than before. 

According to Business Insider, many online influencers have seen their sponsorship deals shut down and events cancelled, which hints that many influencers may be looking to strike a good deal with new partners now. 

“Some marketers are predicting a near-term 15 to 25 percent dip in the average price of a sponsored post as demand for branded influencer content declines.”

Additionally, influencer marketing agencies have seen a rise in engagement on their existing campaigns, with more consumers stuck at home on their phones. 

Influencers themselves attract a wide range of consumers and they’re great for promoting businesses. You can collaborate with local influencers to host giveaways and showcase menu items and specials. Giveaways not only help new customers find your restaurant but you will also gain a significant amount of new followers on social media platforms. 

If you haven’t explored influencer marketing for your restaurant before, now may be the perfect time. 

Engage, Engage, Engage

As we mentioned above, your customers are spending more time than ever on their favorite social media platforms—and that means you should be there replying to comments, liking their posts, and engaging with all hours of the day. A comment reply a week late won’t mean much to anyone—but a reply within minutes will delight them and leave a positive impression of your brand.

Try new types of posts built to engage your audience as well—like quizzes in your story, or posts that prompt comments. 

At 7shifts, we saw a huge increase in post engagement when we posted a COVID-19 pulse check question that prompted our followers to comment and engage on the post. 

Stay in the Know

The restaurant industry is changing rapidly day by day, so be sure to subscribe to the industry experts like Modern Restaurant Management and 7shifts to keep up-to-date on what your restaurant needs to be doing to succeed. 

Having an active online presence is crucial on all social platforms—especially during this time. Everything has changed since COVID-19, and it’s important that your customers know that you care and how you’re operating in the new normal—from your new hours of operation to your takeout and delivery options. 

Use this time to experiment with posts and really engage your audience to build a positive and attractive reputation of your brand.