Early in the California shelter-in-place, we posted some tips for shifting your restaurant operations to generate new streams of revenue. Today, we’re going to talk a little more about marketing your business during this pandemic. Here are some ideas for effectively getting your product and business in front of potential customers:
1) A very basic visual marketing tip—any photos or videos you post should show that you are practicing safe food handling and/or social distancing. Even if you’re using photos from before the pandemic, you don’t want to give people the idea that you are, for example, handling food without gloves or allowing staff/customers to stand too close together. Every image you put out should comfort people and demonstrate you are taking their safety seriously.
2) When you’re marketing curbside pick-up, remind customers that it’s a good alternative to delivery because their food goes directly from your restaurant to the customer, no waiting and no additional middlemen. We appreciate all our essential delivery drivers out there working hard, but picking up has its benefits, too. Not to mention, you'll also save on commission fees through direct ordering and pick-up.
3) Online/social media advertising is both cost-effective and can be highly targeted. Facebook and Instagram, for example, allow you to geo-target customers in your delivery zone and serve ads to customers based on their known interests, such as "eating out", "BBQ" or "Mexican food".
4) If you can, try to offer free shipping or a free item with purchase. Small incentives can go a long way to attract customers in a hyper-competitive market-- even something low-cost like a small cookie or a few garlic knots can help differentiate you from your competitors.
5) Another option is to consider marginal pricing reduction, package deals, or a discount with minimum purchase. A lot of people are trying to make every dollar count. Fewer customers right now are willing to pay a lot for restaurant food; something to remember if your product is typically sold at a higher price point.
6) Think about anything you can sell. Here in Los Angeles, the city is now allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages through delivery and take out. Consider marketing wine pairings or bottles of liquor with your takeout menu, pre-mixed/ready-to-pour craft cocktails, or cocktail kits with everything a customer needs to make a signature cocktail at home. If you aren't able to manage a lot of inventory, consider selling at least the most coveted pantry items (such as eggs, flour or pasta) on your delivery menu. Find out which items customers are having a hard time locating that you can easily obtain through restaurant wholesalers.
7) Be charitable. Some businesses are innovating in ways that also help others, such as apron companies that are now sewing masks and donating them to hospital workers with your purchase. Others are allowing customers to buy products to be sent directly to essential workers. Consider Crème Caramel in Sherman Oaks, CA where you can purchase gift bags of pastries, coffee, and masks to be sent to local hospitals.
8) Content creation—people are stuck at home looking for distraction and entertainment. You can create content easily on your smart phone, even using free editing apps such as InShot or PicPlayPost. Or, you can keep it short and sweet and make quick, useful tutorials (e.g. how to shape a pizza, how to poach a perfect egg, how to quick-pickle food scraps, etc.) or just entertaining videos to keep you on the forefront of people’s minds.
9) If you have any media contacts, right now is the time to connect with them about any stories they might be writing that you can contribute to; you never know, you could be a valuable source of information for them and it’s good publicity for you.
10) Thinking about spending is hard right now, but if you do not have the bandwidth to do social media or media outreach, consider getting some extra help—either by enlisting existing staff member to help market your business, bringing on a part-time freelancer or hiring a PR agency if you can afford it. Some smaller consultancies, like ours, may have flexible plans knowing that businesses are struggling right now. It can’t hurt to ask.
Finally, a friendly reminder to make sure that you’re keeping your ordering platforms up-to-date, whether it’s Postmates, UberEats, or a delivery platform that lives on your own website. Take OTUS Thai Kitchen in Los Angeles as an example—they regularly update the menus on their delivery platforms to include new items, grocery items (e.g. quarts of flour), and household goods (e.g. paper towels). Make it as easy as possible for customers to order anything you are able to sell; the more customers are able to consolidate their shopping, the more likely they will be to order from you again.
We hope these tips were helpful in inspiring some ideas. As always, we’re here to support your business in any way we can.
Swan & Co.