Since COVID-19 safety guidelines have diners stuck at home and glued to their devices, there is a big opportunity to engage with customers via email, social media and text.

Diners will appreciate the commitment to safety, community and delicious delivery. Use this time to build strong relationships with customers this will help guarantee that your business will be considered first when doors reopen.

Share Your Safety Protocol and Build Diner Trust

While ensuring the safety and health of you and your team is paramount, the next step is to get creative and develop a strong diner engagement plan during this downturn.

Show diners that you’re committed to minimize the spread by adhering to cleaning and sanitization guidelines. They need to see that you’re fully committed to ensuring their safety. Here are some considerations:

  • According to some guidelines by areas who are reopening in the coming weeks at minimum all restaurants should follow social distancing guidelines and implement other protcols to minimize spread. As such, you may have to move around furniture, and will not be operational at full capacity.
  • Restaurants will be required to screen workers and check for respiratory illness. In other countries that have reopened like China, operators have taken on extra measures like temperature checks for both guests and employees, with staff having to check their temperatures hourly. Some have gone as far including the food handler’s name and temperature to reassure guests. While these are observations from what we’ve seen with our UFS colleagues globally, consult with your local guidelines. Choosing to take extra precautions to ensure the safety of both your staff and guests will be noticed and appreciated by both your team and the diners you serve.
  • When engaging with diners it’s crucial to market your restaurant as a sanitized environment. 
  • Publicise this on social media, booking sites, website copy etc.

 

We spoke with Oscar, the owner of Locksmith Bar in New York City, and he shared the impact his social media posts on safety protocols has had with his customers:

Everybody in the community is grateful. In a time where they [diners] can no longer come into the restaurant to see what we’re doing, we keep the connections going on Instagram.

Locksmith has also gone above and beyond, by offering to add on essential cleaning products to their diners who order delivery or pick-up and supplying meals to various first responders in the Washington Heights community.

A personal and motivational Instagram post of Locksmith bar, addressing its customers.

Restaurant Promotional Ideas

With stay at home orders across the country, social media usage and streaming consumption has also increased. Keep your business top of mind by sharing your stand-out specials on social media and guests will think of your business first when ordering food for delivery and take out.

Diners are also gravitating towards family-styled meals to go. Millenials and households with kids account for 85% of the demand.1

Special Menu Items

  • Family Bundle Meals
  • “Heat at Home” Meals
  • Better-For-You Meals (think healthy substitutions to menu favourites) 
  • Special Desserts to give your diners a sweet way to end their day

Holidays

  • In the event that stay at home orders are removed in your region think about how you can promote key celebratory moments like Mother’s Day, graduations and birthdays. Get creative on what that offer can look like for delivery and take out options. 
  • Can guests order special cakes or meals or drinks for themselves or someone they want to celebrate?

Personalize and Automate Communication

Leverage your guest contact database to communicate frequently with diners during this time via email, texts or personal notes in delivery bags.

Let them know you’re open (even if you’re only available for delivery and takeout). Regular personalized communication will help keep your restaurant top of mind for regulars and it’ll also help in getting repeat orders for new diners.

You can assure them you’re in this together, provide special discounts to encourage repeat orders, and gift card purchases. A recent DataEssential report1 states that 42% of diners are motivated to order takeout/delivery if they receive a discount to dine in later, and 34% are motivated if a portion of the order was donated to support people affected by COVID-19. 

Consider sending texts about your delivery specials

Consider sending texts about your delivery specials

 

  • Carefully consider the promotional offer and time to send out the message. If you have a new dinner special, guests will have a better chance of taking your offer between 2-5PM as they think about what to prepare. Send out times for lunch hours and work from home specials will vary.

 

Send a weekly email with delivery specials and offers

Send a weekly email with delivery specials and offers

 

  • Restaurants are offering special menu items at this time and weekly emails is a great way to keep your business top of mind for those ordering delivery and take-out.

  • Just Salad sent an email to diners about offering meal kits so diners can prep their favourite salads at home. They also went one step ahead to also offer other groceries and essentials.

 

Send a note with delivery and pick-up orders- helps guests remember your restaurant first!

Send a note with delivery and pick-up orders- helps guests remember your restaurant first!

 

  • Hilltop Park Alehouse in New York City sent notes along with their menu in bags sent out for delivery orders.

 

Keep them updated on new menu items available for delivery

Keep them updated on new menu items available for delivery

 

  • Use email to keep diners updated on new menu items, how you’re supporting staff, charitable efforts etc.

Restaurant Social Media Posts: How to Interact with Diners

Surveys

Use Instagram Polls asking for feedback on menu items or get an idea on the type of menu items and specials diners want.

Cooking Classes on Live

During the down period some of the hardest hit regions are experiencing limited supplies in grocery stores. Host a virtual cooking class with a small group. Invite your chef to show diners what they can create with basic items like shelf stable canned goods and pasta.

Direct Messaging

Sometimes restaurants can’t collect phone numbers or emails for all of their diners, perhaps using the list of your followers or those who “like” your page on Facebook is your next best chance to directly message those who follow your business.

We know COVID-19 guidelines are resulting in a large amount of changes for our restaurant industry and we hope that these tips above help you connect with your diners in a creative, digital way. As many restaurants’ teams are short-staffed, we suggest connecting with members of the staff comfortable with social media to help run business accounts. 

Tag us on instagram @unileverfoodsolutions_na if you’ve found one strategy to successfully engage with guests. 

For more solutions on how to navigate this evolving situation check out our Resources page for support.

DataEssential COVID-19 Report 11: Reinvention