COVID-19, widely known as the coronavirus, has affected businesses, industries, and entire economies. While no industry has remained unscathed due to the repercussions of this pandemic, the hospitality industry has arguably suffered the most. Research shows that the restaurant industry is set to lose up to $240 billion by the end of this year. It doesn’t just end here as the ramifications of this global pandemic will be felt for months and maybe even years.
Dining in restaurants is prohibited in many countries across the globe to push the population towards social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis. This has left many or almost all restaurants muddling for ways to adapt their business models to survive the next couple of uncertain months or years.
During the writing of this article, in Las Vegas, Nevada, COVID-19 cases have started declining as is also the case in many states and countries, and some governments are easing the lockdown as well. However, even after the lockdown is over, it will still be challenging for restaurants to go back to normal, if ever.
They will have to find new ways to show their customers that they are passionate about serving the community. Moreover, they will have to come up with new and innovative services as well as offering their customers with safe and reliable ways to order their food. This is the only way that they will be able to shift towards stability in this unprecedented situation.
Many restaurants have already adapted during the COVID-19 crisis, and have managed to improvise successfully, and are testing out various creative ways to keep their business afloat even during the pandemic.
You consider yourself a conscientious restaurateur or café owner and want to keep up with the competition, but what are your options and best practices?
To help you out, here are a few tips for you to navigate your business to safety during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
News flash: Restaurants must now focus on e-commerce to ensure that their venture survives and thrives.
Set Up an E-commerce Website
No longer can restaurant websites merely show photos and a menu, now they must sell online. Pizza restauranteurs were the first to embrace online ordering and take out. The coronavirus lockdown phase has forced all restaurants to switch to online orders and food delivery services or die. If you are still stuck on a traditional business model and have not explored the e-commerce model yet, it is time for you to set up your e-commerce restaurant website.
You need to ensure a few things when designing or setting up your website. The first thing is that you need to make sure that it is secure. Get your website designed from a reliable source that provides you and your customers with complete security and protection from potential viruses and hackers. This is called SSL encryption. You’ll notice that lock icon in the upper left-hand corner of the browser menu. That lets users know that your website is protected. All websites should have SSL encryption but especially e-commerce sites.
The second thing you need to do is ensure that your website is SEO optimized. This will only be achievable by combining relevant website content with high-quality design. Also, SEO is the most organic way to rank your website on Google for your customers to find.
While operating your business during COVID-19 means that you need to maintain a strong online presence.
Allow Your Customers to Place Online Orders
Your website shouldn’t just be for show. It would’ve been acceptable for you just to post your contact details on your website pre-COVID-19. However, since your customers cannot visit your restaurant anymore, you need to give them an alternative through online orders.
You need to look for a proper website developer for your restaurant to design your website for efficient order processing. You need to give your website users the best experience out there. This can be achieved by making your website fast and simple, especially when it comes to placing orders. If a user experiences too many issues when placing their order, they will switch to your competitors. That is the biggest drawback of e-commerce websites.
Another thing you want to pay special attention to is online payments. Your customers need reminding that you are providing safe online credit card payments. Moreover, in light of the COVID-19 situation, a safety precaution is to avoid cash transactions altogether by focusing on securing online payments. Most restaurateurs already have relationships with payment processors that maybe be extended to online. If not, services like PayPal, Stripe, and Square are a few of the most popular online payment processors. Each charges a similar processing fee that you can pass along to the consumer. If you can put all this into place and make ordering easy for your users, you will be building an iron-clad and loyal customer base that will protect your brand’s reputation and business growth.
Arrange For an In-home Delivery Service
Many of your customers are apprehensive about going out of their homes for various reasons. If they can’t or won’t come to you, you should go to them, thus it good business to make arrangements with a delivery service.
Since the lockdown has been eased, and even before, it isn’t difficult to find individuals willing to deliver. Moreover, many people are struggling to look for jobs that pay minimum wage. You may also have existing staff members who are eager to work as delivery drivers.
If you are opting for a delivery service, you need to assure your customers that your deliveries will be safe. For this, you will have to check the temperature of your drivers or have them tested for COVID-19. You will also have to train your delivery riders to practice social distancing when delivering orders. For instance, tell them to drop orders at the doorstep rather than giving them in someone’s hand. You will also have to provide them with gloves, masks, and other safety equipment.
Moreover, if you get several delivery riders at your disposal, you can consider expanding your delivery radius to increase sales.
Collaborate with Third-Party Apps
If having your own delivery service isn’t feasible, another excellent option for you is to sign a agreement with a delivery fleet or delivery partners. Food delivery was already a crucial part of the restaurant industry. However, if you haven’t explored this yet, now is the ideal time to collaborate with third-party delivery applications, such as Postmates, Grubhub, Ubereats, Doordash, and others. Partnering up with these delivery experts is an excellent way for your restaurant to facilitate your off-premise services.
The best part about third-party app collaboration is that your restaurant will not have to bear any administrative or logistical burdens linked to managing the delivery force. You can enlist these contractors rather than hire direct delivery drivers to relieve you from the stress of running your business during and after COVID-19.
Design Your Menu for Online Orders
Traditional dine-in restaurants are different from online orders and deliveries in more than one way. This is something all restaurateurs need to bear in mind. You will have to tailor your restaurant’s website menu according to the current circumstances. Firstly, not all food items travel well; some are better eaten at the same spot. So, the first thing you need to do is to ensure that you eliminate all those options from your online menu.
The second suggestion for your online menu is to reduce the size of your overall offerings. Due to the current situation, it can be difficult to handle too many orders at once. Moreover, due to the restricted workforce willing to work, it will be harder for you to manage too many dishes. So, limit your online menu to a few specific yet super-special dishes.
Offering your customers different food deals or bundles can be a great idea. With entire families quarantined within their homes, offering them collective food items that work well together at a budgeted rate is a great marketing move. You can also add a special children’s section to your restaurant menu so that an entire family can have an enjoyable meal ‘family style.’
Market Your Restaurant’s Website
Don’t forget to market your restaurant’s website! You must spread the word about all your online offerings. You can adopt different digital marketing strategies to advertise your restaurant and its website. Firstly, you can use various social media strategies such as Google ads, SEO, and social media posts. Since most people are quarantined in their homes and are regularly using the internet, this could be a great way to get your message out.
Other marketing options include email campaigns, SMS marketing, or phone calls. You have a variety of options that you can choose from to spread the word. You can also opt for newspaper advertising. However, since not many people read newspapers these days, you should consider investing this money in boosting your digital media posts.
The best option for you is to use a combination of multiple techniques so that if one tool fails, another one will accomplish your goals. Make sure that you tailor your marketing message in such a way that your potential customers know about your online ordering and different delivery options.
Link Your Restaurant Website to Your Social Media Handles
If your restaurant or café doesn’t have any social media presence, you’re not where your customers are. In the current age, having social media handles for your business is exceptionally vital. It helps your business grow and prosper. Social media falls under the broad scope of digital marketing, allowing you to reach a massive audience. This is something you can never achieve with older traditional marketing.
So, the first step you need to take is to ensure that your restaurant has a presence on the main, if not all, social media channels. Some of the most popular social media platforms for marketing include Google My Business, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and to a lesser degree, Yelp. Google is one of the most crucial ways your audience will find you. Moreover, there are other platforms, such as TripAdvisor, that also provide restaurants, hotels, etc., reviews. Try getting on those sites.
Posting beauty photos of your dishes on Google My Business, Instagram, Facebook, and Yelp, along with specials, will drive traffic back to your website and increase online orders.
That’s why you need to link all your social media handles to your website. If your customers come across your social media accounts first, they will be linked back to your website, and in case your audience reaches your site first, they will be directed to your social media handles. By doing so, you will be driving considerable traffic and keep your business top of mind when your customers and potential customers get hungry.
Take Necessary Precautions and Keep Customers Informed
Your customers want nothing more than to know that you are keeping them safe during these trying times. As a responsible restaurateur, you must follow all the government’s safety guidelines. There’s no better place to do that than your website and social media.
Firstly, you need to ensure that your delivery drivers maintain a contactless delivery protocol when delivering orders. Moreover, all your chefs and drivers should always sanitize and wash their hands and wear face masks. You should also accept digital card-operated payments and avoid handling any cash transactions.
Once you have followed all these protocols, you need to inform your customers that you value their safety! Take pictures and make videos of your chefs and riders wearing their protective gear to reassure your customers. Don’t forget to put up these pictures on your social media handles and, most of all, your website!
The Bottom Line
Whether you own a restaurant, café, or bar, running your business during COVID-19 is challenge to say the least. The amount of panic the COVID-19 crisis has caused is unmatched. The restaurant industry will continue to face a lot of hurdles for the foreseeable future and needs to reassure the public that they have taken proper safety measures and adapt their website and digital marketing efforts.
However, the good news is that you can take steps to change your business approach. The current situation has presented a unique opportunity for businesses to take a different approach. This includes building a secure website for online orders if you haven’t done so already. Moreover, it is also a great time to boost your social media presence while partnering up with third-party vendors and make money online!
Hopefully, this provides the perspective that a restaurant website is part of a comprehensive digital marketing effort. To stay in business post COVID-19, restauranteurs must change with the times, and realize that their website is not just a signpost, but a virtual waiter that takes orders. Your website must create an ambiance that inevitably leads to a sale. Anything short of that is a recipe for disaster.
Good Luck, happy selling, and stay safe!