As the restaurant industry continues to grapple with understanding what the new normal looks like, there may be some hope. Recently, the House of Representatives passed the RESTAURANTS Act, which aims to help restaurants work their way through the pandemic, including getting their employees working again. If the bill is passed, it will create a $120 billion revitalization fund for independent restaurants to handle the long-term effects of the pandemic on their industry.
However, as the bill works its way through further approvals, restaurants are in a position where they must continue honing their strategies for handling the consequences of the pandemic while keeping customers coming through the doors. Investing in technology can be a key driver of success during these challenging times.
New Marketing Tactics Can Help Reach Target Customers
It is no secret that marketing is a way for restaurants to keep up with loyal customers and engage with new ones. In fact, as digital platforms have become more prominent during the pandemic for ordering takeout and delivery, restaurants can use the time their customers spend on their smart phones to their advantage. By creating a social media presence, restaurant owners can utilize tools that these platforms offer such as localized advertising using demographic filters or using cookies and remarketing techniques to find repeating customers.
The Customer Online Journey Needs to be at the Forefront
Aside from marketing, a significant portion of the restaurant experience today is nailing the customer’s online order journey. Unfortunately, many restaurant owners do not give the same attention to online customers compared to dine-in customers. However, with the onset of the pandemic, this was something that needed to change, and quickly.
Given that we are in a time where many restaurants are making changes to menus on a regular basis, it is important that the online menu is always accurate and connected to the restaurant POS. This will help restaurants avoid the possibility of customers placing orders and ending up with missing or non-existent menu items. Additionally, allowing the customer to see a visual of the menu items will help them with selection and ultimately will act as a driving force in creating and managing expectations of what they will receive.
That said, there are a few other things that restaurants need to ensure are working soundly before the customer reaches checkout:
- User Accounts – Restaurants should offer customers the ability to open an account on the restaurant’s website. This is key for collecting data, and enables the restaurant to create targeted advertising materials. They are also able to collect information to help make subsequent experiences for the customer seamless by saving previous orders, addresses, methods of payment, etc.
- Promo Codes and Coupons – Offering unique promo codes to new and returning customers or for special events like birthdays and anniversaries can be a great opportunity to get customers excited about their next order. Another way that restaurants can help entice customers to complete their orders is giving a coupon code if they place their order within a certain amount of time.
- Upselling and Cross Selling – Restaurants can put themselves at a huge advantage when they are able to track exactly what the customer is clicking on and adding to their order – paving the way for upselling and cross selling. For example, with upselling, a restaurant may offer to change a medium fries to a large fries and replace the burger to a double burger for just .99 cents more– something a consumer will generally consider if the price is right. On the other hand, restaurants can also look to cross sell by offering matching and bundling items. For example, they can offer a two liter bottle of soda or candles with a large pizza when the customer adds a cake to the order. As AI and ML technologies can become more familiar with the spending patterns of customers, these technologies can enable the implementation of these ideas without the restaurant owner even having to lift a finger.
- Delivery Methods – COVID-19 is still very prominent and with that, the way consumers approach delivery will be different from person to person. That said, it is important to understand exactly how the customer wants the delivery to happen and offer all options, whether it be contactless delivery, delivery to the door, or contactless curbside pickup. Giving customers the ability to have a choice will allow them to feel confident and safe ordering from a place that cares about their safety and wellbeing.
- Feedback — Restaurant owners should never move on to the next customer before ensuring that their current customer is 100 percent satisfied. Sending a short survey via email or text message can help them glean insights into the customers journey and make any changes or adjustments to ensure any and all subsequent experiences are top notch.
COVID Will Challenge 2021, But Restaurants Can Be Smart
2021 will be a year full of many changes. Restaurants will have to continue to upgrade their online ordering platforms with the latest technologies and add bold advertising across social media and other marketing platforms to keep customers engaged as the pandemic looms.
Investing in marketing, social media advertising and optimizing ordering platforms and technology like machine learning and AI for optimized results, will be a key driver of success for restaurants moving forward. There is hope that the government will help with relief efforts, but in the meantime, restaurants can arm themselves with a solid plan of attack to stay afloat.