Staying relevant amidst a pandemic — social media tips to build restaurant super fans
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants are faced with the need to stay relevant to a customer base who they may no longer be serving or are serving in a very different way than either party is accustomed; take for instance a fine dining restaurant offering carry-out or a restaurant who has temporarily closed completely.
Any way you look at it, the most important thing for a restaurant to do right now whether they have shuttered temporarily or pivoted their business to a carry out only model, is to ensure they are staying relevant and front of mind to their customer base. In this era, technology and specifically social media, is the key to staying connected with current customer bases and potentially attracting new customers.
Restaurants are an important part of the fabric of any community, and we want these restaurants to be with us on the other side of all of this. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance we support these establishments and provide tools to help them succeed.
Though butts in seats is no longer an option, here are a few tips restaurant operators and managers can use to stay connected and foster relationships with current and potential customers during this challenging time:
Don’t be afraid to post!
Staying front of mind right now is the best way to ensure customers choose your restaurant for carry-out now and return when dine-in reopens. The easiest and most inexpensive way to do this is to post updates on your social media accounts to make sure customers stay informed, and you stay connected. Consumers aren’t going out as much now due to state orders and/or may be fearful of doing much outside of their homes. Therefore we are seeing an increase in time consumers are spending on social media platforms daily.
It is critical that you are posting and keeping these consumers informed of your business happenings regularly. If you closed temporarily, make sure your platforms reflect that update so customers aren’t met with a negative experience if they try to support you. If you are offering a special menu item or promotion on carry-out, post about it! If you have a beloved bartender showing people how to make cocktails at home, share it with your audiences. Don’t worry right now whether you have professional photo content to share; just be approachable and honest and try to provide value to your customers in a way that is unique and representative of your establishment’s identity.
Use social media to win at customer experience
Given the state of things, many restaurants who are still open, are working with limited employees, a shift in menu items and offerings and a whole slew of other challenges and considerations thrown at restaurant operators that were previously inconceivable. Customers know restaurants are operating amidst unchartered waters, but that doesn’t mean restaurant operators can’t make their customers’ experience stellar despite the circumstances. We’ve seen restaurants pivot to offer online ordering for curbside pickup. Or others taking orders via Facebook messenger when people can’t get through on phone lines. Still others are offering live tasting sessions or sharing coveted recipes for customers to try their hand at making at home.
We live in a time when there are more possibilities and vehicles for customer touch points than ever before, yet we are unable to interact with our customers face to face at this time. Restaurants should focus on using social media to listen to their customers, provide exceptional customer service, and ultimately remind their customers of better times and of reasons why they fell in love with your brand to begin with. Ensure you are delivering the standard of care your customers have come to expect and find ways to surprise and delight customers now digitally to really win at customer experience. Taking these steps will ensure loyal customers are reminded of why they are loyal and new customers are identified and converted into super fans.
Identify social platforms or partners who drive traffic at no cost
Countless restaurants are small businesses who had limited bandwidth or marketing budgets to promote their businesses prior to the pandemic — and loss of business makes it even harder. Or maybe marketing and PR vehicles have been cut temporarily to help keep the lights on. But this doesn’t mean restaurants can’t lean on third parties to help drive traffic to their restaurants during this time. Restaurants should investigate no cost third party partnerships available to them in their region. Many communities have put together Facebook groups to organize support of the local restaurant industry at this time. Or a digital dining rewards platform like Flavvr is another great option. Partners like this have built in marketing vehicles to drive traffic and support to restaurant partners at no cost to the restaurant. For instance, Flavvr currently has 17 partners taking advantage of carry-out promotions right now, and the only cost to each establishment is the promotion they are offering directly to the customer on the carryout offerings. Avoid third parties where you are losing control over the customer experience, presentation of the food or where the relationship eats into your profit margin without passing benefit on to the customers supporting your establishment.
At a time when customers aren’t sure what to expect and are dealing with unprecedented challenges in their personal and professional lives, restaurants should work to become well versed at using social media and other technology platforms to identify opportunities to cultivate relationships and build long term brand loyalty.