“I’ll have a pizza with a side of anxiety please”... she thought to herself as she placed her order at her favourite restaurant.
With the onset of the pandemic that is the COVID-19, the entire world is shook. Anxiety, fear and restlessness have become a part and parcel of daily life. Visiting public places have become a strict no-no which has some of us feeling like we are under house arrest (or am I the only one?).
However it is not just our lifestyle that has been affected. We are also aware that various industries such as the F&B industry have been hit hard. Research says that after the agriculture industry, it is the restaurant industry in India that employs the maximum people. Hence, with ample amount of down time, it might be a great opportunity for restaurant owners to look at some restaurant marketing activities in order to stay top of mind.
Innovation is the key: As the saying goes, nothing changes if nothing changes. Chefs and bartenders alike should take this downtime to develop new skills- be it innovating cocktail mixes, or coming up with innovative recipes.
Stay connected and relevant: With the world on pause, everyone is constantly on social media, looking for interesting pieces of shareable content or the next new trend (read: Dalgona Coffee). Therefore, it is essential for restaurants to stay relevant, not just by following trends but also by becoming trendsetters. The frequency and quality of social media posts help stay top of mind. It does not mean that one has to be repetitive in a way that television commercials work. Simply having a voice on social media ensures that social media users have an ‘e-bond’ with the restaurant- a bond which should last till we are on the other side of the pandemic.
Communicate safety measures: Restaurants should spend time on highlighting the safety measures they plan to undertake on social media. This builds trust and confidence among their target audience. A few easy to execute examples of safety measures are plastic covered menus, doing away with shared condiments like ketchup and seasoning, and using disposable paper plates as well as cutlery.
Popularize the concept of eating in cars: At present there are a few restaurants that are already following this concept. Considering restaurants will not be operating at their full capacity for a while post lockdown, food service in cars could be a feasible and convenient alternative to keep restaurant profits up.
Bring back familiar comfort food: I think I can speak for the rest of the Indian population when I say not many people would be craving fancy meals at this point. Once restaurants reopen, people would prefer eating familiar comfort food that makes their insides happy. Restaurants should try to work around this sentiment and update their menus with a separate section dedicated to comfort food to attract more customers. Portion sizes should also be revised to cater to large groups.
Start planning your return: We all know the present pandemic will not last forever. So while waiting for things to get back to normal, the most important step would be to capitalize restaurant business with a re-launch plan. Restaurants should think about the essential questions- Why should people come back to your restaurant first? How can you tempt them back with all their family and friends?
Capitalise on targeted marketing campaigns: Targeted ‘we miss you’ email campaigns and follow-up thank you emails could be a great way to bring back regular customers and deepen your relationship with them. In addition to the above, it is essential to respond to customer reviews and maintain a strong relationship with food influencers once restaurants reopen to reinforce the fact that the food quality and hygiene levels have not been compromised.
Create a positive environment: Restaurants should work on updating their collaterals as well as their decor. The average diner looks forward to a great meal with a positive ambience and cheerful employees, more so in such trying times.
Consumer habits change at a rapid pace, and change is unavoidable. Once we are past this pandemic, tastes and preferences of customers are sure to differ from what they were during the pre-COVID era. Restaurants will have to work on all aspects, from menus, to marketing from scratch in order to rebuild a connect with customers. I believe that restaurants will surely recover, reopen and rebuild slowly and steadily. The key here is to let customers into your world with some savvy marketing, and they will surely reward you with loyalty when this is all over.
About the Author
Revaa Anand is the Marketing Manager at Pass Code Hospitality, a hospitality firm that has quickly become one of the brand leaders in the F&B industry in India. She started her career in corporate PR with Burson Cohn & Wolfe in 2016. Her specialty areas have been hospitality and aviation sectors. Between 2018 and 2020 she has pursued both social media marketing as well as public relations and has had a diverse range of clients as a brand consultant.