As we begin to assess the realities of the Post-COVID19 (CV) world, businesses everywhere are facing an unprecedented challenge: how to survive and maybe even thrive amid this extraordinary "new normal."
Restaurants and the entire hospitality industry are at the forefront of this challenge. Even as lockdown restrictions are eased, it's likely to be a long time before the dining experience returns to anything resembling the previous norm. Many experts believe that the industry has been irrevocably altered by the experience of living through the CV pandemic.
But amid the uncertainty and undeniable challenges, there is hope. Historically, times of great adversity have also been times of great opportunities. Inspiring stories of unexpected successes are already beginning to emerge, and there have been many valuable lessons learned over the last few eventful months.
This spirit of positivity will be both an asset and a competitive edge in the days and weeks ahead. In the new business landscape, resilience and optimism will play a key role in meeting and managing the challenges. Alongside these qualities, the short-term future at least will require new levels of innovation, creativity, flexibility, commitment, humanity and sensitivity.
The good news is that, as a restaurant owner, you've probably had to build up your reserves of these qualities already. And to inspire you to put your experience to work for you, here is a quick guide to the Post-CV restaurant marketing themes that will help your business bounce back to profitability in the new normal – whatever that looks like.
The rapidly-shifting cultural and social trends are challenging for all types of business, but it can be particularly frustrating for established businesses that were enjoying success up until recent events. But there's little to be gained by dwelling on disappointments, and optimism is required now more than ever.
Fortunately, restaurant owners have a head-start here – it takes belief and a positive expectation of success to enter any hospitality venture, so this requirement will be nothing new. The future challenges may require you to dig even deeper into your stores of hope and positivity – an optimistic approach will be essential in navigating the challenges ahead.
So, how can you shift your focus in more positive directions? What marketing methods would you employ with a proactive mindset? And how can you infuse your optimism into your marketing? People want to hear inspiring stories now more than ever, so being a voice of optimism with your messaging can be a winning way to connect with your audience more deeply.
Despite the many unanswered questions, one thing is certain – the old rules no longer apply. While this creates uncertainty, it also facilitates an incredible opportunity for innovation. One of the buzz-words during the early days of the pandemic was "pivot." Every business on the planet was forced to reexamine their business models and brand messaging to see how they should recalibrate in line with the changes.
As a restaurant owner, how can you pivot your marketing message in innovative ways? Keeping in mind the other criteria of sensitivity and positivity, now is a time to embrace innovation in how you reach new customers and woo back your previous clientele.
For example, if you were previously using long-term marketing strategies such as SEO, maybe now is the time to innovate with more fast-acting connections to Search customers, such as Pay-Per-Click (PPC).
Creativity has always been an asset to business owners, but in the Post-CV landscape, it will play an even greater role in viability and survival. If there was ever a time to be bold and get creative with your marketing – it's now.
Look for more creative approaches in reaching your customers in cost-effective and impactful ways, maybe even tapping into the shifts in consumer behaviors. For example, consider how you can find opportunities in the increased use of social media – some restaurant owners are holding virtual theme nights for their audiences, sharing their expertise and providing the much-missed 'restaurant vibe' remotely.
Sharing your creativity via social media will help to keep your brand and business top of mind, which could help to boost any interim measures you've got in place, such as takeaway and delivery options. Approaching the current challenges with creativity and fun will also help to foster loyalty and stronger connections with your customers, which can provide a valuable boost to your business when you are ready to reopen your doors.
One advantage of the recent lockdown period was the opportunity to review and assess your business. These insights can help you to streamline your services and operations, as well as your marketing. Being lean and flexible during the current uncertainty will allow you to adapt quickly and successfully as shifts in consumer behavior continue to evolve and unfold.
Flexibility will be a core theme for business success in the near future, and this includes being flexible with your marketing. Even if you've used certain strategies for years with great success, there's no guarantee these will continue to work, even as things do begin to settle into a new normal.
Be open to trying alternatives and experimenting. Perhaps you've always used Facebook ads, but now approaching a local influencer might be more effective. Or maybe you could tap into the new sense of community by doing more offline promotions where you're more visible in your local area.
One of the most remarkable effects of the global pandemic was the near-instant shift of marketing sensitivity, both online and via other channels. Some businesses were noticeably quieter than usual, no doubt over concerns about being inappropriate or insensitive.
Many other businesses, however, rose to the challenge and we saw a wealth of marketing messages and advertising that tapped into the themes of staying safe, doing our bit and supporting our communities. It's likely that this concern over brand perception will continue, particularly as many people have reassessed their priorities and values during the enforced periods of isolation.
So, alongside the creativity and optimism that you'll need to infuse into your marketing to support your business through these challenges, it's also essential that your Post-CV messaging is mindful of the larger picture, sensitive to what people have been through, and the difficulties still being faced by many.
You may even use these criteria to inspire your marketing. For example, if you've built up a database of customer email addresses, perhaps you could send them a series of messages that let them know you're on their side with any current financial challenges, including special deals and offers that help them get better value for money.
Although many experts are trying to predict what the hospitality industry will face in the Post-CV landscape, it's hard to say for sure what the consumer behavior will be in the weeks and months ahead. After all, we've seen how things can alter virtually overnight and long-established cultural norms can be turned upside down or disappear completely.
Though we're all hopeful of at least a semblance of normality returning to the restaurant sector at some point, it's likely that expecting the unexpected will be a wise position to take, alongside the qualities of optimism and creativity that our industry is renowned for.