* We keep expanding this list regularly, so if you have any good ideas, drop them in the comments. *
Our hope in writing this article is to create a resource that compiles the various ways restaurants have had success or stayed afloat throughout the COVID-19 crisis. It is to take all the tips flying around the internet and create a simple and actionable resource that helps you implement them.
We will be continuing to add to these as we learn more and more about what works and what doesn’t, and if you have any that you want to add, please leave them in the comments below.
– The Ethos Fam
While COVID-19 has certainly change a lot in our world, some things haven’t changed.
And there’s two things in particular that we know haven’t:
The First: Regardless of the Coronavirus, people still need to eat. It’s why restaurants and grocery chains are an essential services – and that is NOT changing anytime. No matter what happens during the COVID crisis, people will still need to buy groceries or order takeout. This creates an opportunity for creative restaurant owners to get in front of hungry customers while many other restaurants are shutting their doors.
The Second: The people that loved your restaurant before this crisis happened, still love it now. And many of them are likely willing to help you out during these times. People are sitting at home with time on their hands and hearts that go out to the world. Done right, this can be a powerful situation for you to leverage to help your business get through COVID-19.
Based on that, we see a lot of opportunity to get creative and make the best of opportunities that are presenting themselves. All of this will keep the orders flowing and your staff going during these chaotic times.
To help out, we’ve put together a resource of creative ideas that you can implement.
#1: Cash In On The Loyalty You've Build With Customers
The customer’s that loved you before that happened, still love you now.
The biggest successes we’ve see our customers have are all based around rallying their existing customer base to help out. People want to help during a crisis and the most impactful thing you can do is ask for it and make it easy for them to actually come through.
This means making it easy for them to order takeout, buy gift cards to use at a later date, buy merchandise (even if you’ve just created it), or help share your story on social media.
Loyal customers are sitting at home with time on their hands and many are happy to become advocates for businesses they love.
We recommend honouring the customers that are helping you out by being extra focused on personalization, customized thank you notes, and follow-ups for those that are really going the extra mile.
Some ways your customers can help your restaurant survive during COVID-19:
- Order takeout from your restaurant regularly
- Purchase gift cards to use at a later date
- Buy branded merchandise and rep you hard
- Share your story to their followers on social media, asking them to support a brand they love
- Volunteer some time to take over your social media account and keep it active
- Help build your branded merchandise store
- Provide you feedback and ideas on what else you could do
Got more ideas? Let us know in the comments.
#2: Share Your Story Through Social Media
As humans, we are wired to relate to stories. It’s part of our DNA.
But during tough times, most of us hide away from showing the real things we are going through, believing that the world only wants to see a picture-perfect image of us.
The truth couldn’t be further away.
People relate to our realness, our vulnerabilities, and the truth. Share that.
Show people what you’re actually going through while dealing with the Coronavirus closure. The tough choices you have to make. The good moments and the not so good ones.
That’s what will make people want to help. That’s what makes you easy to connect with. That’s what makes all of us… human.
Let people know that and they will be there to rally for you.
PS. We only suggest doing this with a deep sense of integrity, honesty, and willingness to protect people’s personal information. Do not include anyone in your story that does not give explicit permission to be included.
Some ways to share your story through social media:
- Bring guests into your restaurant virtually by showing them what you’re doing on a daily basis to get through this.
- Ask customers to share their story their favorite memories at your restaurant and share them on your social channels. Create a hashtag that compiles them so other people can see.
- Create a Facebook Support group to rally everyone that wants to help in one place.
- Go live with customers that are ordering your takeout.
- Throw or sponsor a virtual dinner party.
#3: Make It Easy (To Order Takeout)
This is a big one that a lot of restaurants fumble with.
In order for customers to order takeout, it has to be easy for them to do it.
Let us repeat ourselves… IT HAS TO BE EASY.
Like any human, people aren’t going to stumble through confusion or jump through hoops to order something.
Many times, restaurant owners simply think “well, they can call in for takeout” and think that’s good enough. But the truth is, with Skip The Dishes, Uber Eats, and our desire to use our smart phones, people don’t want to call in. They want it easy and they want it at the touch of a button.
If you aren’t making it easy, customers will simply go somewhere else.
It’s that simple.
We recommend restaurants not only use a delivery service such as Skip (they are great, but take a large margin), but also build their own digital takeout system, such as the one Haven Kitchen + Bar built. This helps increase the bond between the restaurant and the customer and helps you save on the large fees delivery services take. Plus, you can expand it when you re-open!
#4: Offer Gift Cards To Customers
Give your customers a chance to help you out long-term by making it easy to purchase gift cards.
Think of them as a temporary loan, an emergency bailout, or simply a downpayment on some delicious food and cocktails in the future.
On your end, make it easy to purchase the gift card online in various denominations (we recommend $25 to $1000, depending on your industry) and let your customers select between getting them mailed or picking up when you open back up.
This puts much-needed cash in your bank account today and gives your customers a good reason to come into your restaurant when you open back up.
You can see an example here.
#5: Turn Your Employees Into Advocates
Your employees don’t want to be in this situation just as much as you do.
Rather than throw in the towel, we have seen a lot of success rallying our employees to become advocates for us – getting them to spread the message and tell the story to their communities and social networks.
We’ve seen this strategy not only keep employees a part of the staff, but also have a significant impact on getting the employees friends, families, and network to purchase takeout and buy gift cards.
#6: Use Targeted Ads To Reach New Customers
With ad prices at a big low and people spending more time on their phones than normal (guilty!), it is actually a great time to develop and execute targeted ad campaigns.
You don’t have to go all in right away, but even spending $10 to $20 on very targeted Facebook ads can hit existing customers or expand your customer base.
This strategy goes amazing with a well-execute takeout strategy or gift cards.
The beautiful part about ads is that you can get VERY specific about who you are targeting, making sure there is a probability that they will convert to customers.
You can also track it daily to make sure your money is actually working for you.
This means you’re getting bang for your buck and not throwing money down the drain, which is never a good strategy – especially now.
#7: Provide Discounts For Gift Cards or Take Out
Sometimes, customers need a little nudge to act right now. Depending on your margins, consider offering discounts customers can purchase today for redemption at a later date.
Something like “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” or “Get A $100 Gift Cards For $75”.
With gift cards, we recommend starting with full price and seeing how you customers respond, but for smaller items, this can be a great way to drive some sales today and put cash in your bank.
#8: Sell Merchandise To Customers
There are services out there that you can use that will help you sell merchandise to customers that is customized to your brand without ever having to keep inventory or deal with payments or shipping.
Customers who love you and you’ve built a loyal relationship with over the years will be down to help you out and represent your brand.
Give them another chance to happily give you their money!
These days, it’s really easy to create branded merchandise such as hats, mugs, hoodies, or t-shirts and the process of getting them to your customers is seamless and there’s a bunch of companies that do this for you including:
- Printful – Easily our favorite. Printful easily integrates with more than 20 e-commerce platforms and you can add your branding to more than 220 different products. Besides their print-on-demand, Printful also offers Warehousing and Fulfillment service.
- Zazzle (USA) / Zazzle (Canada) – Another great print-on-demand service with a large marketplace and community. Zazzle lets you create more than 1,300 different product variations and gets around 30M visitors each month.
- Printify – Printify is also a top recommended print-on-demand marketplace. It connects you with large print networks and gets you really good pricing for custom-printed and dropshipped products.
All you need to do is upload your designs to one of the above print-on-demand companies, choose the products you want your designs on, and connect your bank account.
From there, it’s simply about telling all your customers you’re selling merchandise and directing them to either the product page or a simple eCommerce store you’ve created and integrated.
You could be selling merch within a day – easy.
Like everything, nothing lasts forever.
As tough as this can be, there is an opportunity to for restaurants to get through the COVID-19 crisis. At Ethos, we are committed to helping restaurant owners and managers find their footing and do whatever they have to to keep their lights on and their doors open through the crisis.
Our hope in writing this article is to take all of the tips flying around the internet and create simple resources that actually help you implement them.
We will be continuing to add to these as we learn more and more about what works, and if there’s anything you need, don’t to schedule a complimentary 30-minute chat.
Restaurants are a really important part of our social fabric and we hope you stay strong through all of this.
One day it will be over, and we are here for you in the meantime.
If you have any ideas or things that have helped your restaurant, please share them below.