How Restaurants Can Deal with COVID-19 Business Disruption

By Scott Conlon

      Mar 15, 2020     Solutions    

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced us to change our normal day-to-day activities. We are doing what we can to protect ourselves and the people around us.  

And, restaurant owners are also doing what they can to protect their businesses.  

They are looking for ways to keep their employees and customers safe while also finding ways to lighten the burden of the economic impact of COVID-19.   

This is an unprecedented event, and it can be confusing and scary for business owners.   

To offer as much help as we can during this difficult time, we put together a list of tips for supporting your restaurant, team, and customers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

#1) Stay informed so you can keep your customers and team safe. 

Your number one priority should be keeping your employees and customers safe. Stay informed on the latest news so you have the information you need to make business decisions based on what is best for public health and safety.   

Follow national organizations like the CDC and World Health Organization as well as your state, county, and city governments to get the latest updates and recommendations. 

#2) Communicate with your customers. 

As of March 15, 2020, there are little to no restrictions on restaurant operations. Customers are still able to eat in or take out food from dining establishments.

But, many customers are still weary about interacting with other people and businesses.  

To ease their concerns, share what your team is doing to make sure that your restaurant, team, and food is safe. Share posts to your website and social media accounts (and pin the important message to the top of your steams) to share how you are:  

  • Keeping your restaurants clean
  • Ensuring that all restaurant staff is healthy 
  • Adding extra steps to ensure food safety 

Also, if you make any changes to your business (such as adjusting hours or shutting down your dining areas), let customers know as soon as you make updates.

Related: What's the Best Way to Communicate with Your Customers? 

#3) Turn off your automated marketing posts and emails. 

Automated marketing messages are great, but right now -- turn them off.

Pre-written marketing messages may not be appropriate, relevant, or effective right now. You can still promote your brand -- just make sure it’s relevant and sensitive to the situation, and tailor your message for what’s happening in the world.    

Related: Email Marketing for Restaurants: 7 Ways to Bring Customers Back

#4) Promote take-out and delivery options. 

Government officials are encouraging people not to congregate in public spaces with a lot of people. This includes sitting in restaurants. Since people may be avoid dining-in options, promote your take-out and delivery options.   

Here’s an example of an email promotion from Buca di Beppo. They’re promoting their online ordering by offering a deal on their take-out options.   

Promote your take-out and delivery options by alerting customers through email, text marketing, and social media that you offer these options, and consider including a discount to drive even more interest.   

If you don’t normally offer delivery or promote take-out options, it might be time to start. Even if your business is on a food delivery service like Uber or DoorDash, customers might feel more comfortable receiving their orders directly from your business so as not to bring it in contact with another person or business. 

#5) Promote gift card sales.

Many people may still be wary of bringing any outside food into their homes at this time. But, they may still want to support local businesses.   

There are many social messages going around asking people to support local businesses by buying gift cards.   

Be ready for these sales by offering an option for people to buy gift cards on your website. Also, promote this option through your email and social media content. Local customers will be likely to show their support for your business -- especially if you offer an incentive like a gift card special where they buy a $50 gift card and get a $10 gift card for free.   

If you need help adding point-of-sale functionality to your website, contact MyArea Network today. 

#6) Adjust your marketing priorities. 

When business slows down or comes to a complete stop, you are going to need to adjust your marketing budgets. As you move things around, prioritize the marketing campaigns that will make the biggest immediate impact.   

  1. Deprioritize long-term programs like brand-building efforts that aim to spread awareness about your brand to cold audiences. 
  2. Focus on demand-driving programs like deals, customer acquisition, and customer engagement campaigns that move interested prospects and existing customers directly to buying.
  3. Prioritize the strategies that have the biggest return-on-investment and impact. Focus on the things that you already know work with a lower budget. Consider running low-cost programs like text marketing, email marketing, and social media contests. 
  4. If you don’t have a way to re-engage past customers, use this time to layout a customer life cycle marketing strategy. Prioritizing life cycle marketing and having tools in place to reconnect with existing customers is how you can prepare your business for future events like this. 

Read More: How Your Business Can Succeed with Lifecycle Marketing

#7) Reschedule popular events. 

If you have big, revenue-driving events coming up, make plans to reschedule them. Right now, it’s in the best interest of the public to not hold large gatherings. But don’t just cancel. Make plans to host the same event in the future.   

For example, St. Patrick’s Day promotions and events are revenue-drivers for many restaurants and bars. Not being able to celebrate this year will impact businesses -- but it will also impact customers who will be disappointed to not participate too. Host a St. Patrick’s Day in June to pull back customers who were looking forward to events they had to miss.   

Related: 6 Ways to Promote Your Event (That Have Nothing to Do With Creating a Facebook Listing)

MyArea Network Is Supporting Local Businesses During COVID-19

At MyArea Network, it is our goal to support local businesses. We know this is a difficult time for restaurants as well as many other hospitality and retail businesses.   

If you need help with prioritizing or managing your marketing during COVID-19, we are here to help. Please contact us to see how we can help your business during this difficult time. We look forward to supporting our communities by finding innovative ways to support local businesses and brands.