5 Digital Strategies to Help Restaurant Sustain and Grow During COVID-19 Crisis
In a bid to halt the rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), several states and regions have taken a number of steps like imposing restrictions on non-essential businesses, closing public spaces, announcing social distancing guidelines and issuing stay at home orders.
As restaurants generally fall under the category of non-essential businesses, various food outlets have been forced to shut their doors, leading to declining revenue as sales take a massive hit.
However, as some states make significant progress in the fight against the spread of the disease, they are slowly loosening constraints and giving the green light to some businesses including restaurants and outlets to resume operations amidst safety guidelines.
Nonetheless, restaurants will be in a race to make up for losses and growth decline during their temporary closures. Consumer habits are rapidly changing and there is also a need for restaurants to adapt their marketing strategies to the prevailing consumer habits and interests.
In this article, I will discuss five digital strategies to create a growing restaurant during the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Connect With Your Customers Using Social Media
Social media grows with each passing day, and with the current pandemic, the usage is ever increasing as more people use it for social purposes and an information resource.
It is a powerful marketing tool that you should not ignore, but channel considerable time and energy into maximizing.
The way you use social media during this period is very important. It is crucial that you connect with your customers empathetically. The pandemic is affecting many people, with some folks severely hit than others. This is not a time for you to be cheesy or pushy with endless marketing or self-promotions. Instead, you should Inform your audience about how you are helping.
By doing so, you will appeal to a significant number of people who feel positive about brands making efforts to actively support their local community.
The idea is to present your restaurant as a resilient brand with an unwavering commitment to serve customers and also support others.
As people recognize your efforts as genuine and actionable then they are most likely to reward you by becoming loyal customers.
2. Capitalize on search engine optimization
According to CTR stats from Backlinko, the number one result on Google’s Organic Search Result is ten times more likely to receive a click from users, compared to a search result in a lower position.
This means that search results in the top position of organic search results will receive a higher Click-through rate (CTR) from users, hence an increase in organic traffic.
If you want your restaurant’s website to enjoy all these attractive benefits of organic search, then you need to capitalize on search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization known as S.E.O for short refers to the set of techniques used to optimize your website for a top position on search engine result pages.
Optimizing your content for search engines using effective and actionable techniques will ensure your website is amongst the first search results users see on organic search result pages. This increases the chances of users clicking on it, which leads to an increase in free traffic to your restaurant’s website and opportunity for their conversion into customers.
If you are not optimizing your website for search engines, now is an excellent time to get started. The current situation is a tremendous opportunity to channel enough time and effort into researching the most highly searched keywords in your industry and using that to create unique and insightful content for food lovers. Not to forget the technical aspects of the optimization process, which you might need professional assistance with, especially if you do not have any prior knowledge on the subject.
Although your SEO efforts might take some time before you start seeing results, it is definitely the most effective long term strategy that will generate highly targeted free traffic to your restaurant’s website and allow you to make massive gains against your competitors who are slacking.
With more users clicking on your page first, you can entice them with appealing options that will prompt a purchase or facilitate foot traffic through your doors.
The current situation is an opportunity to adopt new effective digital marketing strategies for massive gains against your competitors who are slacking. This way you can surpass them and position your business for a massive bounce back when things fully return to normal.
3. Leverage the power of Local Search Engine Optimization
Local search engine optimization is important more than ever, now that millions of people are confined to their homes and conducting search queries for their essential needs- and food is not an exception. While some people are looking up new recipes to try at home, others are opting-in for take-outs from restaurants nearby.
Either way, it is always going, to begin with, an online search. As a restaurant owner, this is an incredible opportunity to drive new customers to your online platform (website) and prompt a sale. However, for you to benefit from this surge in searches, you need to leverage the power of Local SEO.
An effective and vibrant Local SEO strategy will get your business to the top position on local search results. If you are already optimizing your website for Local SEO, then that’s great. If you are not, then you need to use Local SEO strategies for “near me” searches.
You want hungry customers within your geo region to easily find your restaurant online, so they patronize your food services first.
4. Capitalize on Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing
The confinement of millions of people in their homes due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will lead to an increase in their amount of screen time. And with lesser advertisers in the advertising space right now, you have an incredible opportunity to use PPC Ads on search or social to engage potential buyers and make competitive gains.
According to Wordstream, cost per click (CPC) for restaurateurs is reasonably below average on search and display as they restrict their service to take out and non-contact delivery.
This decline in CPC is likely to continue as the lockdown persists, reducing the amount you pay a publisher per ad click. That gives you a chance (if you can squeeze it into your budget), to gain free market share as other restaurants pull out at this time.
It is a perfect time to generate exposure for your restaurant, capture traffic, and facilitate conversions while prioritizing ad spend as other advertisers in your industry pull out during these uncertain times.
5. Build and Nurture an Email List
Email marketing is without a doubt one of the most effective ways to drive sales and generate revenue, with some stats showing high returns on investment. This is why it is so important to build and nurture an email list for your restaurant.
An email list is a list of people who have signed up to receive emails from you. The most important part is that they have given you their email address and permission to contact them through their email accounts- which means they want to hear from you.
Typically, an email list is managed by software that keeps them safe, organized, and allows you to send messages to all the recipients at the same time, saving you an incredible amount of time. With this software, you can also track the number of sent emails that were opened or not.
What makes email marketing so special from other marketing channels is that it gives you direct access to your customers. This means you could create a message specifically for them and send it to their inbox with the click of a button.
Email marketing also offers a level of protection by giving you your customer’s contact details and access to them in case your social media platform closes or if there is a sudden change in algorithm that would require a fresh online marketing strategy.
Using a “lead magnet” is a tactical way to get started to start building an email list. The best way to get started building your email list is with a lead magnet, which is an incentive you give to a prospect in exchange for their email or phone number.
What you offer a prospect must be free and valuable enough to convince them to give you their contact information.
As a restaurant, you need to have a lead magnet specifically for individuals who might have an interest in your restaurant but have never dined there before.
Examples of some valuable lead magnets that can appeal to prospects include Specific savings on their next bill, video lessons on how to make a popular dish, the recipe of your signature dessert, free vouchers, etc.
The list is endless, all you need to do is to think of something that is able to provide value right away to a prospect and convince them to sign up for your email list.
Once you have their email, you can then create appropriate messaging that is not pushy, but insightful, informative, and valuable to them. Every message you send out should at least solve one or more of their pain points in relation to food.
Building your email list is important more than ever because a lot of small businesses and probably your competitors are not even using it. This means that you can get started on time and scoop up available market share before others.
As the curve flattens and the economy slowly reopens in phases, you want to ensure that your restaurant is in the best position to bounce back swiftly. However, the rate at which this will happen depends largely on your digital marketing efforts. Thankfully, we have presented you with some actionable digital marketing strategies to create a growing restaurant during the COVID-19 crisis and afterward.