Restaurant sales have fallen profusely due to COVID-19 and let’s be honest that last thing you have probably thought about is spending on restaurant promotion.
Despite being open for takeaways and home delivery, the fear of contracting the virus has led customers to avoid eating from restaurants.
During this time, you’ll have to completely revamp your restaurant promotion strategy in order to cope with a completely new business environment.
I’ve been working with a lot of restaurants on changes they can implement which will prove to be effective, as well as what tactics can generally be used for restaurant promotion:
Restaurant Promotion During COVID-19
The effects of this pandemic are here to stay, and it is your job to make customers feel safe when visiting your restaurant.
To give them that push, you need to take social distancing measures that ensure full capacity and are in line with government regulations:
By placing separators, you don’t have to place each table 6 feet apart and minimise your seating capacity.
Plus, this is also safer considering the virus can be transferred through the air and individuals will have to take off their masks when eating.
If you own a small restaurant or cafe, you can also opt for plastic casing which will prove to be more cost-effective:
You can also incorporate both styles of separations.
The latter is great for friends who want to meet up for lunch or dinner, as they come from different homes and need to distance themselves from one another.
Families, however, can sit in one compartment and enjoy their food.
So that was your first step.
Once you’ve implemented these changes, you need to create awareness about them so that customers know you’re being responsible.
Upload posts, stories, IGTVs, live videos etc.
In fact, you could create an entire highlight on Instagram on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) you’re following to minimize contamination.
Here’s how a Chinese restaurant in South Asia marketed their efforts:
I’d definitely feel comfortable ordering from here as a customer because I now know they are taking necessary precautions.
With that being said, there’s one more thing you need to do.
Even extensive measures cannot guarantee that your employees or customers will not catch the virus.
Thus, businesses all over the world are having their customers and employees sign a COVID-19 waiver to comply that they cannot hold the restaurant accountable in case they do catch the virus, but also that the restaurant is doing its level best to create a safe environment.
Declaration forms are also being handed out for customers to sign stating that they are in good health with no symptoms of the virus:
These measures will ensure that your company is safe from lawsuits and is not held liable; thus, reducing any scandals pertaining to the brand because if negative information gets out, it could potentially lose a business a good volume of its customers.
Restaurant Promotion Ideas
#1. Upload aesthetic pictures on social media
A good picture of food always has a mouth-watering effect on your followers.
You’ve probably noticed how TV ads of food products always focus on how tempting the food is for the person eating it.
You need to do the same on social media; focus on cheese dripping from burgers, chocolate oozing out from molten lava and the creaminess of pasta made from scratch.
Restaurants are coming up with the most innovative ideas to decorate their food and make it look Insta-worthy:
Whatever you make in the kitchen, make sure you share your best work with your followers.
You could even shoot behind the scene videos i.e. dry ice drinks, fire on a wok and other eye-catching scenes when food is being prepared.
But that’s not it.
You also need to ensure maximum reach. If you’re promoting posts on Instagram, you’ll automatically gain more likes and followers.
However, if you’re opting for the organic method of growing your followers, you need to use trending hashtags.
Currently, these are the top trending food hashtags:
#food #foodporn #foodie #instafood #foodphotography #foodstagram #yummy #instagood #foodblogger #delicious #foodlover #follow #like #healthyfood #homemade #dinner #foodgasm #tasty #foodies #photooftheday #cooking #lunch #healthy #restaurant #eat #instagram #chef
Also, studies have revealed that 2 hashtags per post will generate the maximum amount of likes:But how does this work?
Instagram’s algorithm is designed in a way that hashtags allow it to detect the category your content falls into.
Thus, when users search for food related content, the content with food-related hashtags will rank higher.
So with the perfect pictures and know-how of the technical aspects, you’ll definitely get your restaurant trending.
And lastly, make sure you have a social media page manager who interacts with followers.
This creates a personalised relationship between your brand and followers which will motivate them to share your posts and help your social media presence grow.
Check out these tools for online marketing that will maximize ROI and help you manage your social media presence with the help of automated features.
#2. Create a unique interior space
This makes more of a difference than you might think.
I recently took a course on Services Marketing which taught me that millennials are willing to pay more for the overall experience instead of just the product itself.
Suppose there are two competitor cafes across the street.
One sells more expensive coffee but it still wins over customers due to better packaging, comfortable seating and an overall aesthetic outlook.
Individuals are beginning to understand that the cost of training employees, designing a space and other overheads all contribute to the final pricing of the product which is why they’re willing to pay more.
Thus, you need to put effort into the overall experience that your customers will go through.
Plus, another upside to this is that an aesthetic interior will create positive word of mouth.
Word of mouth is currently the most trust rich form of communication, with 92% of customers believing the suggestions of friends and family, and even from strangers through online reviews!
With that being said, your customers will naturally take pictures and videos of an aesthetic environment.
They’ll upload these on social media, tell their friends and family about your restaurant and that means great sales for you.
#3. Train your waiters to upsell dishes
One of the biggest strategies to boost sales in restaurants is upselling.
For this, you need the best people who can make smooth conversations with customers without making it seem like they’re pushing it too much.
In fact, a great way to hire such employees is to conduct a situational interview.
You can act as a customer dining at the restaurant and ask the waiter to upsell a dish on the menu.
But let’s back up a bit. What is upselling?
It’s a technique in which business employees get customers to buy a dish more expensive than what they were originally going to buy.
Upselling increases revenues by 10-30% so it’s highly effective and a much better alternative than acquiring new customers.
Suppose they ask for a bottle of mineral water with their dish.
Train your employees to tell them about a new drink you just launched that pairs great with the dish they just ordered.
You’d be surprised at how many customers will trust the suggestion of your employees.
However, this takes practice because you need to draw a line between upselling and being too pushy.
If a customer says no, do not insist. A lot of your customers are very picky about their diet, some could be allergic and some just say no depending upon their mood.
Pushing it more than necessary will only lead to annoyance and possibly even negative reviews.
Thus, make sure you train your employees to find the perfect balance between the two.
#4. Host events and invite celebrities
This always works like a charm.
It’s the oldest trick in the book and yet, it will be effective as long as you plan a great event and invite the right people.
All celebrities and influencers have different personalities which can be categorized into classy, funky, graceful etc.
The reason behind this classification is to invite celebrities that match the theme and style of your restaurant.
If you own a fine dining restaurant, it would probably be better to invite Tom Hanks and his wife rather than Camilla Cabelo.
In the case of a trendy cafe, the situation would be the opposite.
These are very high profile celebrities who would perhaps visit a restaurant event once in a blue moon, but you get the gist of it.
You can always opt for influencers over celebrities which will cost you way less and even fit better into the crowd.
A launch event for the opening night of a restaurant is the perfect way to get things on track for a new restaurant, but you can also host regular events with famous personas to boost sales and create a good brand image.
In fact, you can also promote private events such as engagement parties by offering decoration services, a private area and great music.
#5. Take advantage of SMS
SMS is one of the most underutilised channels out there.
The reason why you need to take advantage of that is because it is direct, immediate and personalised.
But why is it so underutilised?
Since it’s been around the longest in the list of digital marketing channels, some marketers believe that it is outdated.
However, statistics don’t agree and as part of your restaurant promotion, you need to take advantage of this.
All you have to do is sign up on an SMS platform such as ExpressText.
By creating an account, you’ll be able to upload a list of contacts which you wish to market your restaurant to.
The important thing to remember is that SMS marketing is permission based.
If you want to send out marketing texts frequently, you’ll have to get customers to opt-in:
You could use any keyword that works for you, preferably one that is related to your business so that customers can easily associate it with your brand.
Being permission based is another one of the benefits of SMS because customers will trust your brand and willingly be receiving messages (even though it is a legal obligation to obtain permission, we don’t see the same thing on social media which causes a lot of annoyance for customers).
However, this also makes it difficult to gain members for your SMS Campaign.
In order to motivate your customers, offer them a discount for subscribing to your SMS campaign.
Macy’s and other brands use a similar strategy by offering a discount to customers who download their app and order from it:
Anyhow, that’s not even the best part.
As a restaurant, you could text your customers at 1 AM and still get a great response because they could be craving your food.
College students, pregnant women, working individuals and bored millennials are all up late at night and who doesn’t want to fulfill food cravings?
This will definitely work because 90% of people open texts within the first 3 minutes, and SMS boasts an overall 98% open rate.
Conclusion to Restaurant Promotion
All of this does not even begin to sum up restaurant promotion strategies that you can use for your business, but these are definitely some of the best out there.
You need to pick a list of choices that look good for the promotion of your business, shortlist them and then choose those that fall into your budget.
One important thing that you must make sure of is to balance your spending.
Do not overspend because if the strategy does not work, you will strain your existing resources available for other aspects of your business.
At the same time, being too stringy when allocating a budget for marketing might not get you the reach you desire which could potentially mean wastage of the resources you did spend.
Thus, as a marketer, it is important to consult two departments: finance and R&D.
The finance department will help you balance your risk to achieve desired return, whereas your research and development department will come up with a plan to increase the chances of your marketing efforts being effective.
Options to promote your restaurant include building a website, using a business email, updating your menu regularly, creating a customer loyalty program, using social media, text message marketing, and mobile apps for ordering & delivery.
Restaurants should strive to use a variety of marketing channels to promote themselves, so your best bet is going to be a combination of traditional media like print, radio & TV advertising, along with online ads, social media and bulk SMS messaging.
Some of the best restaurant promotion can be the kind that customers do themselves, by telling others about your business or posting pics and reviews on social media platforms like Instagram. Make your place recommendable, and customers will do the recommending themselves!
You can spend as much or as little on restaurant promotion as you want, but traditional media like radio, TV & print tend to cost the most. Consider more budget-friendly channels like text message marketing, online ads, and email blasts.