The traditional restaurant business model has been made obsolete due to COVID-19 and this radical upheaval has happened in the blink of an eye. But if there’s one thing the restaurant industry has learned over the decades, it’s how to adapt, evolve, and reinvent itself. The fact of the matter is that people will always have to eat. Many restaurants will remain open throughout this pandemic. Now is your time to shine.

Social distancing measures have led to a surge in online engagement. More than ever, consumers are spending a massive amount of time on social media and accessing web-based resources to stay stocked up and entertained as a means to remain as comfortable as possible while they’re “sheltered in place”. There is a great opportunity to reach brand-new consumers and expand your customer base.

Now is the time to emphasize your e-commerce sites and run your promotions digitally. If you’re unsure of where to start, be sure to read through our article How Small Businesses Can Stay Afloat During COVID-19, which is your step-by-step guide to opening E-Shops on Facebook and Instagram.

But what can you do for your restaurant right now to keep your cashflow moving in order to pay vital expenses?

First, you’ll need to make full operational shifts in the following areas:

  • • Retain your employees, if possible, by reassigning tasks, reorganizing workflow, and rearranging service protocols
  • • Be realistic about your menu and modify it accordingly
  • • Consider the pros and cons of extending vs restricting your business hours
  • • Implement Take-Out and Delivery
  • • Update and circulate your new Take-Out & Delivery menu w/ hours of operation included clearly
  • • Sign up with a food delivery service (if you don’t have an in-house operation or a vendor service in place) with Uber Eats, GrubHub, Postmates, Muchery, or Eat24
  • • Sell gift cards
  • • Implement a loyalty rewards program to incentivize your customers to patronize your restaurant frequently

When it comes to creating your menu and updated materials, you’ll want to use an online design tool, which will enable you to easily and efficiently enter your restaurant’s information and menu into a predesigned template. Having all of your information in one place that allows you to then generate a multitude of digital promotional materials will save you time and effort. We strongly recommend AdPro, which will be free to use through June 30. Utilizing an online design tool like AdPro to update your menu, your delivery options, and your digital promotions will help your restaurant move food inventory that has a limited shelf life. When kitchen supplies may be limited, selling perishables before they expire will contribute to a smooth-running kitchen.

Next, update your customers on the new operational changes they can expect. Unless your state governor has been asleep at the wheel, you’ve probably been mandated to refrain from offering dine-in services.

Communicate the change in services, hours, safety protocols, and operational updates that you’ve made on these platforms:

  • • Your restaurant website
  • • Email lists
  • • Social media accounts
  • • Online directories such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc.
  • • Post updates to your Google My Business listing

It never goes without mentioning that while your restaurant has altered its operations, it’s imperative that you uphold health and safety policies such as:

Now is also a time to revise your employee attendance policies. Under any other circumstances, it would be beneficial to have strict attendance policies, but not during this pandemic. Instead of employees feeling tempted to work when they’re not feeling well, you’ll want to encourage your personnel to err on the side of caution and call in sick if they’re feeling less than 100%.

Don’t cut back on marketing, do the opposite! Yes, revenue has likely suffered in these past few weeks, but that doesn’t mean you should reduce your advertising costs. In fact, many businesses are cutting their marketing budgets right now, which means that if you apply funds towards marketing, your dollars will go much farther, because ad rates are declining and there has been less clutter in the market. These days, everyone is on social media A LOT, which means that setting up Facebook and Instagram campaigns could yield your restaurant a very high return. Just be sure to carefully select the “region” and “demographic” that you would like to target your ads to.

Marketing is your best shot at communicating with customers and keeping your restaurant in the forefront of their minds when they’re considering the take-out options around town to feed their families breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Keep your customers happy while promoting your restaurant online.

Here are a few more incentives that will make your customers happy to spread the word about your restaurant online:

  • • Ask customers for reviews & testimonials in exchange for a discounted meal or free extras on their next purchase. Reviews can be for sites like Yelp, GrubHub, and TripAdvisor, or they can go on Facebook and Instagram.
  • • Offer killer discounts and irresistible deals through your loyalty rewards program. Don’t have a digital loyalty rewards program in place? No problem, you can implement one from home with the click of a button. We recommend Loyal~n~Save.
  • • Pre-sell gift cards and create incentives for customers to purchase these by adding additional perks such as throwing in a free $10 card for every $50 card they buy.
  • • Use SMS text messages or good old fashion phone calls to ask your customers how you can best assist them. There could be some non-traditional ways you can make their patronage of your restaurant easier.

Most restaurants use a point of sale system to take orders. These POS systems automatically collect customers’ email addresses and other contact information. You can check your POS system for a report that will export a list of customer names, email addresses, and phone numbers. Be sure to contact your customers to let them know what precautions you are taking against coronavirus and any adjustments your business has made to your hours, sanitization policies, or anything else. Assure them that while your operations have shifted, your restaurant is still open for business. Make them aware of the new take-out & delivery ordering options and how they can place orders with ease through Facebook, Instagram, your website, or simply over the phone.

Being proactive is the best way to protect your restaurant. It is so important for restaurants like yours to get creative instead of simply waiting for this crisis to pass. Even if you have to drastically reduce your operations and reinvent your services, taking action will lessen the impact of coronavirus on your restaurant.