The restaurant industry as we know it has come to unprecedented stand still due to the global crisis of the coronavirus. Otherwise known as COVID-19 or ‘corona,’ it will surely be infamously recorded in the annuls of time as one of the most epic and devastating pandemics the world has ever experienced. Yet, although it is affecting every continent, country, and industry, everyone is doing their best to not only survive but to thrive in spite of the odds with the hope and prayer that the crisis will soon end and that order and prosperity will be restored.
Cater to Your Customers
So, what can you do, as a foodservice professional, to keep your business alive despite corona? And more importantly: Is there a way to continue to connect with your customers and even foster relationships while your brick-and-mortar eatery is shut down? The answer, fortunately, is a resounding YES.
Ironically, during this very time of imposed isolation that restricts the public from traveling, interacting, and eating out, there has never been a more opportune time to show customers that you care by making concerted efforts to connect with them and even cater to their needs. You were granted time now, time you never thought you would have, to tap into your creative juices and take your restaurant’s customer service level to new heights and earn some major, long-lasting loyalty points in return.
Read on as we share some of our suggestions to help you stir your own creative culinary juices.
Customer Service Reins Supreme
It is a well-established fact that when it comes to the recipe for food-and-beverage business success, customer service reigns supreme. As important as the food you prepare, is how you treat and communicate with your patrons and especially how you make them feel. Study after study confirms that great customer service drives repeat business. In turn, today’s satisfied customers are only too eager to share their positive dining experiences online with friends, colleagues, and family – which means that a single content customer can send out a tweet or photo with ripple (and ironically ‘viral’) effects around the globe, inviting reams of traffic to your website, social media page, and/or establishment. The end result will be a significant boost to your brand or image.
Out-of-the Box Ways to Connect with Consumers
Now is the time to use the priceless contact information you have stored on your restaurant’s computer to reach out to your customers via email, tweet, or your Facebook/Instagram page, and let them know that even during the current crisis, they are on your mind. Inform them that your ‘biz will continue to cater to them by alternative means during this time period, such as sharing free daily or weekly recipes, cooking and baking tips, information about the ingredients they use each day and/or new ingredients they have not yet experienced. Ask them to provide feedback on a special form you create, including what topics they are interested in learning more about and any suggestions they have to offer.
Online Cooking Demonstrations
Use your business’s website or social media page to post videos online with free cooking demonstrations, or offer short “how-to” video courses such as “how to make the perfect crème brûlée,” “the many uses of spices in cooking,” “how to choose the best kitchen appliances,” “advanced decorating techniques,” “sushi-making for beginners,” and more. Even better, use your professional contacts to secure the assistance of a well-known chef or baker and do some serious marketing in advance to advertize the upcoming culinary event.
Best ROI (Return on Your Investment)
Best of all, with the proliferation of user-friendly audiovisual tools (i.e. a simple digital camera and some audio equipment, programs such as ZOOM which are tearing up the online space since the wake of Corona, or with your computer’s already built-in tech tools), all of the above doesn’t have to cost you a pretty penny. Still not sure how to go about it? Ask almost any computer-savvy teenager or young adult for help and they will have your system up and running in no time.
Host on Online Contest
Invite consumers’ active participation in an exciting or innovative online contest or competition. Grand prizes can include future discount coupons or loyalty points and of course their name and picture appearing in print on your website. Ideas include: Best Instagram Dessert Photo, Most Outlandish Ice Cream Sundae, Most Creative Salad Recipe, Funniest Home-Cooking Video, Ethnic Sensations, Building with Popsicle Sticks, and more. You can also go ‘old-school’ by posting a “How Many Jelly Beans in the Jar?” contest, or post a set of food-and-beverage trivia questions that participants must answer correctly. The possibilities are endless.
Capitalize on Social Media, Instagram, and Pinterest
More than ever in today’s digital-dominated world, the Internet is where you will find almost all consumers during the Corona crisis. What a golden opportunity to utilize social media with useful, innovative, alluring, and captivating information regarding your foodservice business. Post pictures of your most outstanding features, including menu items, unique decor, upcoming renovation plans, food and drink accessories (that you may be able to keep selling online, such as specialty mugs, cocktail glasses, energy drink holders, smart coffee makers, one-of-a-kind table mats), and more
Investing for the Future After Corona
Finally, there are myriads of ways you can continue to invest in your customers and boost your restaurant ‘biz while waiting for the current crisis to pass. You have the time now to simply but methodically, review every aspect of your current operation, asking where and how you can improve, upgrade, or change altogether. This purview should be comprehensive, encompassing everything from the most advanced technological tools and smart appliances to the pictures on the wall and the doorknobs leading into your establishment – and everything in between.
Remember to add ongoing employee training to your bag of success tricks, to research your customers’ likes and dislikes for music and art, to invest in restaurant decor, to scour the Internet for new recipes and ingredients and ideas, to take advantage of the treasure chest of online business tools available today, and to continue to nurture your very special professional skills as a foodservice provider and restaurant owner.