Nationwide, food businesses are handling COVID-19 to avoid potential interminable effects, and we’re here to help, always.

Damage has been done far and wide, deep within each community as coronavirus spreads across each corner of the world, with the restaurant industry sustaining one of the most substantial hits. Remaining engaged with customers while the doors close will be a significant part of getting through this horrific storm. The new reality is that going digital is no longer an option if they want to stay afloat, but a necessity.

Guests of your establishment are practicing isolation for the better, but that does not mean they cannot support your business from staying connected online or ordering curbside. Bar and restaurant owners, like Nate’s Stumble Inn in Bennington, NE, are forced to close the dining room and innovate creative ways to maintain business due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The small-town restaurant has upped their social media game, created a never-been-seen curbside routine, and has remained busy due to loyal customers. What’s the trick? 

The current climate might look dim, but there’s never been a better time to innovate or launch new marketing ideas to retain or even gain business during this trying time.

Here’s my list to get you started

Say it big, say it boldly with visible signage. You’ll be needing some more prominent signage to get your message across now that everyone’s tucked into their cars. Make sure your signs are visible enough for anyone to read while passing by safely, and without having to get out of their vehicles to find out when you’re open or how they can deliver. Click here for banner choices. 

We are choosing favorites with yard signs. Print your business logo on a yard sign and deliver it to your most loyal customers. The free advertisement will have neighbors calling in their pick up order tonight. It says, “We support local; here’s our favorite burger joint we’d like to know about!” 

Delivery Stall Numbers Keep Loyal Customers in Line. Make sure your restaurant has the smoothest delivery service in town by designating parking spots as “delivery stalls,” which are numbered 1-10. When guests arrive, they can call and let you know which stall they’re in, and hopefully streamline the process so won’t waste time with anyone else later. We can print these! 

A “banner” of an idea. If it seems like customers aren’t sure how to do business with you during this time? It’s up to you to inform them how. Post on your website, on your social media, and in big bold letters on a sign out front HOW you want clients and customers to do business with you. Don’t leave them guessing! 

Stay Relevant to the digital community. With the digital community comes the opportunity to revitalize your brand- starting with its slogan. Draw attention to your brand by making a slight alteration, or changing things up for the time with a notch of relevancy that says, “keep Benson weird” to “keep Benson ALIVE.” 

Lighten your loot and kit up. Not selling single cocktails as frequently? Any drink specials going on? Kit the ingredients for delivery with instructions to concoct them, or sell by the bottle. 

Create new products. If there’s extra alcohol lying around, supplement your deliveries with a custom hand sanitizer that reminds patrons you miss seeing them and are glad for their support. 

Virtual Happy Hour. Consider supplying a password to a Zoom meeting with every meal purchased. Patrons pick up lunch and drinks, receive a code, and head home to join the virtual happy hour with all their favorite ‘regulars.’ Designate the hours, and perhaps consider playing Closing Time to signal last chance for delivery. 

Other virtual events. Invite the community to Facebook Live events, such as a virtual “Meet the Staff,” trivia, or a “Drunken Town Hall” to discuss current events. Exclusive deals for winners, of course! 

Freeze in bulk. If there’s something on your menu that freezes well, rather than letting it go to waste, offer it for purchase in amount. For example, frozen Runzas, soups, and pasta are easy to reheat (with the help of instructions). 

Reward those who skip 3rd party delivery apps. Offer free, curbside incentives for those who pick up orders placed directly through the establishment rather than a third-party delivery app. Sweeten the deal by offering appetizers or desserts on-the-house. 

Plan for the future, this won’t last forever. Plant the seed for business in the future once the community opens back up. With every order or pick up, offer a gift or coupon for future use. For example, with every $100 order, customers may receive $10 off their next dine-in. Guests looking to support local businesses will keep coming on the premise they are also saving for future visits. 

Kids Eat FREE. Do you already have a Kids Eat Free day? There’s no better time than now for this one. Millions of kids rely on cafeteria meals to get through each day; now, many teachers worry for students who will go in hunger. There’s no doubt that when given a choice between two restaurants, a parent will choose the one that offers a free meal for their child. 

Introduce the staff with a lesson or Facebook Live. Customers love to know who they are supporting. Let’s say you work at a pizza parlor, and your boss has a lot of charisma. There are a whole lot of people in town who would get a kick out of lessons or a “Mix Drink 101”. Try it! 

Gather opinions. If you’ve ever cast an online survey out to your patrons, you might have been surprised by how many were eager to share their thoughts. Now that plenty of people have plenty of time on their hands, they might jump at the chance to complete your sassy survey in exchange for a free menu item. 

Host a Pizza Competition. Run a competition to find out which pizza is the community’s favorite. Using a survey on a popular social media website like Facebook, instruct your audience to vote on the premise that the pizza which wins will be sold for half-price, one night only. 

“No-contact” options. There’s no single answer for how to handle a worldwide crisis like this, and everyone handles it differently. Setting up a “No Contact” option for pickup and delivery is imperative, and an easy change to make. Pre-set options like leaving the package outside the door, or setting it on top of the pickup driver’s car should do the trick. Or, you could give customers the option to write their preference out in the delivery instructions box. 

Public Service Day. Offer a public service day, with a special deal for heroes and veterans in the community, many of whom are likely couped up in isolation. Show them you care by extending a free meal and free delivery, and take extra care to ensure orders are dropped outside of people’s doors and safely received. 

Create valuable content. Update your media, and take some time to create compelling content for your website, social media, menu, and more. Nowadays, beautiful marketing materials can quickly be drafted up in free programs like Canva or downloaded on various Smartphone apps. Content has no limits and should engage with the community, inform them of your company’s service, and represent its personality. 

Zoom interview employees. And while you’re working on new content, remember this: people dine in not just because they love your food, but because they love your staff and the service they provide. Broadcast a zoom interview with someone influential to your business, or ask them to answer questions over a voice recording, which you could compile into a podcast. 

Tiki Tok, maybe. If you’re feeling up for it, TikTok is a punchy platform to engage with a massive young audience. If any of your bartenders are have lightning speeds skills slinging drinks, catch them on video and share with the world. If your food porn goes viral, your business may never be the same. 

Partnerships & Influencers. Look out for partnerships and influencers in your neighborhood who can promote your business. For those who open a relief fund, the right influencers can spread the news of the fund to thousands of people within their audience. 

Google My Business. Optimize your online presence with Google My Business. It’s free and easy to use and includes Serah and Maps. Is all your information up-to-date? How will customers know how to reach you if your dots don’t connect. You want to make sure your business is popping right up in those search engines so that potential customers don’t take another offer first. 

How does your landing page look? Furthermore, does your menu view well on desktops and mobile devices? Sorry, but no matter how incredible your product is, if your website is an inconvenience, nobody will stick around long. 

Ask the tough questions. Are customers able to easily order through your website without a third-party reservation system? Most third parties slap on fees, which deter customers and could easily have been avoided if customers ordered straight from your counter. 

What else can you add to your website that might be valuable to your audience? Have you collected emails and generated a mailing list? Do you have a way to subscribe to your business newsletters on the website? Bartender and Chef bios, COVID 19 memos, and connections to relief funds are all ways to show support and generate SEO content as well. 

Paint a bigger picture. You have likely already shown officials you can abide by safe- distancing measures to keep business running. It’s essential to also paint a picture for the community of how you’re making your business a safe place to support and also to provide them information on how they can help the industry through gift cards, relief funds, go-fund- me’s, and more. 

Now is the time to remodel. Now is a great time to make changes within your businesses’ walls and keep patrons anticipating their reveal at the end of social-distancing, with little glimpses at the progress on social media. If you were planning on remodeling, there are plenty of ways to sell decor online too. 

Keep employees in the know. Make sure your employees are well-informed and cared for. Anything less than this could result in a significant backlash against your business. Send out daily or weekly communication to your employees so that everyone is on the same page about new promotions or safety procedures, and make sure employees have a contact to share any concerns safely.

Give employees flexibility with their tasks so nobody feels stuck or unappreciated, and restrict hours to prevent exhaustion while keeping customers in the loop of any changes to hours or social distancing that may affect them. 

Start planning your return because this period will not last forever. Things might seem bleak now, but as entrepreneurs, we are persistent. Build excitement for that return party you plan on having. For their support, your community and staff deserve a big bash. Still unsure which plan of attack is best for you?

Give us a call at 402-339-6856 or email at signs@design4inc.net. We’re here for you, always.

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