First of all, my heart goes out to all the restaurant owners, I understand that the last year has been incredibly difficult.
With that said, I have some ideas from a marketing perspective. Before the pandemic, my experience was that I saw very few restaurants making long-term strategic marketing plans.
Most were doing inconsistent and messy marketing. They didn’t have a marketing plan to fall back on during COVID_19.
For example, I had dinner at many restaurants prior to COVID_19 and I can’t recall a time when an attempt was made to capture my email address or cell phone number so they could encourage me to come back again and again. Too many restaurants treat their customers like “one night stands.”
Research has shown that email marketing is one of the most profitable tactics for restaurants. It is targeted and personalized marketing, but few restaurants take advantage of it constantly.
I would venture to assume that restaurants that had a consistent email marketing strategy were in a much better position to communicate with their regular customers to keep them up to date and maintain their relationships.
Imagine that you are the type of restaurant owner who depends significantly on dining at home for his daily income and all of a sudden you have to switch to delivery and pickup only, how do you get that message across to your customers?
What about social media? Yes, that might work, but you should be prepared to invest a few dollars to get reach because organic reach alone will not be effective for most restaurants.
According to the latest data I saw, the average restaurant has about 600 followers. And you have to remember that Facebook says that they will only show your posts to about 10% of your followers for free.
In my opinion, a significant number of restaurants do poorly with social media marketing, they have no goals. Posting photos of your dishes is the bare minimum, but for many restaurants, that’s all they do.
When it comes to the strategy restaurants should use, it’s not about email marketing vs. social networks, they are BOTH! And there are many other marketing strategies that restaurants should have consistently used before and after COVID_19.
There is no magic marketing formula for restaurant owners. Even with a limited marketing budget, restaurants can use a mix of multi-channel marketing.
They need to find strategies (free and paid) to find more customers and get them to order online or dine over and over again.
All restaurant owners know that profits come from having many regular and repeat customers, but few implement a marketing system to achieve it.
Another reason many restaurants weren’t ready for closure is that they didn’t have a website or a poor one, so they weren’t in a position to order online. Some went to delivery services like Skip The Dishes, but they take 20-35% of the order, which often leaves very little for the restaurant owner.
My opinion is that too many restaurants survived before COVID_19 due to their lack of effective and consistent marketing.
So when COVID_19 appeared, it didn’t take much to push them to the limit. Will the surviving restaurants focus on further improving their marketing to be in an even better position to deal with another crisis such as an economic collapse?