The restaurant industry has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic on an international basis, and unfortunately, it seems like restrictions against dining in will continue for at least the short term. This graphic put together by the BBC using OpenTable data is telling — and shows that bookings are not a problem just for residents in the U.S.
Graphic via BBC
But necessity is the mother of invention, and in the past two weeks we’ve seen bars and restaurants get creative. Let’s look to the bright side of what pivots restaurants are making now to help the next few weeks.
Whether it’s a request in the notes section of an order or an additional checkbox during the delivery process, this is an enhancement that doesn’t take a heavy lift, but it does have a very positive perception.
We were impressed by Donato’s example of social distancing and delivery in the email below. Instead of greeting you, Donatos will leave the pizza at your door on top of an extra flattened pizza box for your pizza box to rest on. They definitely go the extra mile in explaining how things are going to work for their customers.
Gift cards and dining bonds
We’ve seen an increase in the promotion of gift cards and dining bonds — new vernacular for discounted gift certificates redeemable after a set time span. A group of NYC restaurants launched SupportRestaurants.org, which lists restaurants that are participating in the dining bond initiative.
Building community through technology
We love Chipotle’s use of Zoom to facilitate conversation between customers. No Zoom account? Use Facebook Live! There is a sense of novelty in meeting strangers online who are also cooped up at home.
Stocking of groceries and pantry staples
We’ve seen an increase in restaurants selling items to be cooked at home, like this example from Fogo de Chao. Customers will appreciate getting all their purchases from one location, and restaurants don’t have to worry about products spoiling.
Third-party delivery services
Restaurants are looking to delivery services like DoorDash and GrubHub as the future of their meal service right now, and for many restaurants, it is a lifeline in keeping the business running. And that’s okay.
But some caution from a data perspective…
- Do you have emails, phone numbers, and other important data?
- Can you identify who is a frequent customer easily?
- Can you keep those customers coming back?
It’s a balance, and definitely a difficult one. Because keeping customers coming back is so important right now, we advocate for gathering as much data as you can (zero party, please and thank you). With it, you have the power to email and text and remind your customers that you need their business now more than ever.
Until we dine out again
The number one thing we can suggest for restaurants is to connect with their customers. Tell them what they can do and how they can help. Ask for their support. And when this passes — and it will pass — we’ll have a drink and toast to being able to eat out again.
We’re offering our insights and guidance to help marketers address the impact of COVID-19