No restaurateur had devised marketing strategies for a pandemic before 2020, simply because the world didn’t expect to deal with a pandemic of this scale. It is pretty safe to say that we have never dealt with a situation like this before. On a personal level, we have definitely gotten frustrated and annoyed at the idea of social distancing. While COVID-19 has definitely impacted all of us in that way, restaurants and businesses have definitely been impacted greatly during this time.

As COVID-19 infections continued to grow in almost every country, restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms and even shut down. The restaurants that did have the ability to remain open had to figure out new ways to market their services, not to stand out, but to merely survive. It was definitely a good thing that services like UberEats and food delivery apps have existed for some time. This is because many restaurants that were already on those platforms just continued delivering food with heightened safety measures. Other restaurants that had not embraced the food delivery world quite yet realized they needed to embrace that for continuity of business.

While some countries and cities are allowing things to start opening up again and restaurants have started opening dining areas at decreased capacities, some states are still not fully open. In the world that we live in right now, restaurants need to create a balance of public safety precautions, strategic marketing, and efficiency-focused targeting.

In this article, we look at some marketing strategies that restaurants can use to stay connected with their existing customers and introduce themselves to new ones. For example:

  • Content creation ideas to market your restaurant
  • Ways to optimize your website and social media channels for the future
  • Ideas to partner with other restaurateurs and influencers
  • Marketing your restaurant reopening

Create compelling content

Creating unique content regularly has always been a great way to boost a brand and keep customer attention. Content can actually be very easy to create but you need to know exactly what kind of content you need to boost your restaurant marketing strategies.

1) Behind the scenes

A big reason that people go to restaurants is not just for the great food, but also for the experience and the service. In order to connect with your audience, you can bring them along behind the scenes. This helps them to understand the idea behind your restaurant as well as what it takes to run it. Some things you can think about are:

  • Telling them the story behind your restaurant and why you started the restaurant business.
  • Asking your regulars and other members of the community to share information about your restaurant
  • Telling the truth about the positives and negatives that you have been through during this period

2) Share How You Are Coping

It is obvious that the past two years have been really difficult for restaurant owners and staff everywhere. Most of the time, restaurants shy away from sharing about the struggles of being in the restaurant business. However, this is a great time to show customers and loyal fans how you are coping with what is going on through social media.

A restaurant always starts with people wanting to showcase their food and skill to the community. Do not be scared to show that you have been struggling and dealing with hurdles because your audience might actually be able to help.

3) Share Recipes, Tutorials, and Live Cooking Shows

People are very used to food delivery. Even as restaurants start to reopen, many people are choosing to stay home. Instead of just providing food delivery services, why not provide some online cooking classes? You can teach your audience about your most popular dishes. This helps build interest in your brand and gives them an appetite to eat your food by cooking it themselves.

It may sound counter-intuitive to share your secrets and give your competition possible visibility. However, you can just provide and publish a simple recipe that people can follow to make them feel more connected to your brand without divulging any secrets. That way you can show your audience every step to make a dish from your restaurant, but you are still the expert. You can go live on Facebook or Instagram. When customers attempt a few of your recipes at home, they will still want to come to your restaurant for the full experience. This is a great tactic when managing a restaurant.

4) Reach a New Audience on a New Social Media Channel

This is the perfect time to test different social media channels and features as part of your marketing strategies. You can connect with your regulars and reach potential customers through experimentation with other social media channels. In order to stay relevant in the restaurant industry, you need to embrace new platforms like TikTok, among others.

With TikTok for example, many users have actually been creating their own recipe videos. This could be the best place to try and reach a new audience.

Even so, don’t forget to stay active on other popular social media channels.

5) Optimize Your Online Presence

While people may not be going to restaurants and walking in like they used to, they are Googling and possibly finding you on food delivery apps. For this reason, you need to take some time to optimize your online presence and ensure that your social media channels are consistent so that when consumers look you up and they can find you.

You could also submit your restaurant to foodie or traveler blogs for a chance to feature in their list of recommended restaurants, like this list of New Hope Restaurants. Since dining restrictions have been lifted and people are looking up places to eat, featuring on a list like this will help your visibility.

You can also set up a “Google My Business” profile. It is free, easy to use, and allows you to manage your online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. Along with your business profile, you should also be updating your website. The questions that you need to ask yourself when you are updating your website are:

  • Is all the information up to date?
  • Does your menu display well on desktop and on mobile devices?
  • Do you have a reservation system integrated into your website for easy booking?
  • Are your images up to date?
  • Are you capturing email and building a mailing list?
  • What else can you add to your website that might be valuable to your audience?

You should also add online ordering (if you don’t already have it) to maximize your takeout and delivery business. Using website integrations for online ordering allows customers to place orders directly on your website and all the information about their order is processed through your restaurant POS. It benefits both you and the customers because it is easier for them to order from you. On the other hand, your restaurant gets to keep 100% of the profits instead of using third-party ordering apps.

It is also important that everything that goes onto your website is also updated on all your social media channels.

6) Find Partnerships and Influencers

Start some outreach to influencers in your city or state and ask them how you can possibly help each other in this time of need. Many restaurateurs are partnering around relief, lobbying, and charitable initiatives in this time of need. Even if you are only operating at a limited capacity, you should still come together to create some positive support for the industry.

While these relationships are great, you need to be mindful of cost. At the moment, influencers may be willing to volunteer some time and energy but many influencers come with a price tag. For this reason, you need to be mindful of your budget based on your current income before making decisions.

Lastly, it’s important to get into media partnerships with journalists in your area or in the general travel and hospitality industry. You can use the services of a PR agency to help you build a media list and send appealing pitches.

7) Marketing Your Reopening

You should definitely be thinking of how to market your return to business. The plan does not have to be solid at the moment. Nevertheless, you should be putting some ideas together so that you can open more quickly. You need to consider a few things before your official reopening:

  • Communicate the new safety precautions that you are taking and the government rules and regulations you need to follow
  • Update your website with any changes to your operation
  • Beyond drive-in, provide information about other ways customers can order from you.
  • Share any major menu adjustments or changes
  • Publicize any deals or special promotions you’re offering as part of your reopening.

The transition to this new normal can be a long process. Even so, you definitely need to take advantage of this time to give your marketing strategies plan an update for the times. Let people see that you are tech-savvy by creating content, optimizing your online presence, looking for partnerships, and preparing for your re-launch.

While it is possible to do marketing and public relations on your own, sometimes it is just easier and less stressful to hire someone to do it for you. After all, PR can be time-consuming. PR professionals know exactly what needs to be done to create an effective marketing strategy.

Do you need help generating positive publicity for your restaurant? By partnering with the PR specialists, expert writers, and certified designers at Pressfarm, you can do just that!

With a professional press release, some compelling guest posts, and an eye-catching media list, you can build a memorable brand image. By submitting this content to the right media outlets and startup directories, Pressfarm can help boost your online visibility.

Finally, as a client, you get custom media lists and access to a database of 1 million+ journalists, influencers, and bloggers. With these contacts, you can share your brand story widely and win more customers.

With any of Pressfarm’s PR packages, you can start generating the publicity your restaurant deserves.