In a previous article, we posted some tips for shifting your restaurant operations to generate new streams of revenue during the coronavirus lockdown. Today, we’re going to talk a little more about marketing your business during this pandemic. Here are some ideas for effectively getting your product and business in front of potential customers:
1. Emphasize hygiene and customer safety practices. Any photos or videos you post should show that you are practicing safe food handling and/or social distancing in your pizzeria. Be careful about using certain photos from before the pandemic. You don’t want to give people the idea that you are, for example, handling food without gloves or allowing staff/customers to stand too close together. Every image you put out should comfort people and demonstrate you are taking their safety seriously.
2. Continue to tout curbside carryout. When you’re marketing curbside pick-up, remind customers that it’s a good alternative to delivery because the food goes directly from your restaurant to the customer – no waiting and no middleman. We appreciate all of our essential delivery drivers out there who are working hard, but pick-up has its benefits, too. Not to mention you’ll also save on commission fees through direct ordering and pick-up instead of using third-party delivery providers.
3. Digital marketing is key right now. Online/social media advertising is both cost-effective and can be highly targeted. Facebook and Instagram, for example, allow you to geo-target customers in your delivery zone and serve ads to customers based on their known interests, such as “eating out,” “pizza” or “Italian food.”
4. Little things count. If you can, try to offer free delivery or a free item with purchase. Small incentives can go a long way to attract customers in a hyper-competitive market; even something low-cost like a free cookie or garlic knots can help differentiate you from your competitors.
5. Let’s make a deal. Another option is to consider marginal pricing reduction, package deals or a discount with minimum purchase. A lot of people are trying to make every dollar count. Fewer customers right now are willing to pay a lot for restaurant food – that’s something to remember if your product is typically sold at a higher price point.
6. Think about anything you can sell. Here in Los Angeles, the city now allows the sale of alcoholic beverages through delivery and takeout. Consider marketing wine pairings or bottles of liquor with your takeout menu; pre-mixed/ready-to-pour craft cocktails; or cocktail kits with everything a customer needs to make a signature cocktail at home. If you aren’t able to manage a lot of inventory, at least consider adding the most coveted pantry items (such as eggs, flour or pasta) to your delivery menu. Customers might be having a hard time locating certain items that you can easily obtain through restaurant wholesalers.
7. Be charitable. Some businesses are innovating in ways that also help others, such as pizzerias that allow customers to purchase pizzas for frontline healthcare workers, elderly people in nursing homes, etc. Dimo’s Pizza in Chicago even uses its high-heat ovens to manufacture protective face shields for healthcare workers.
8. Create engaging content. People are stuck at home, looking for distraction and entertainment. You can create content easily on your smartphone, even using free editing apps such as InShot or PicPlayPost. Or you can make quick, useful tutorials (e.g. how to stretch pizza dough, how to poach a perfect egg, how to quick-pickle food scraps, etc.) or simply provide entertaining videos with your staff members to keep your restaurant on the forefront of people’s minds.
9. Reach out to the local news media. If you have any media contacts, right now is the time to connect with them about any stories they might be writing that you can contribute to, especially feel-good pieces about businesses or individuals who are helping out in a time of need. You never know, you could be a valuable source of information for them, and it’s good publicity for you.
10. Get marketing help if you need it. It’s hard to think about spending right now, but if you do not have the bandwidth to handle social media or media outreach, consider getting some extra help—either by enlisting a staff member to help market your business, bringing on a part-time freelancer, or hiring a PR agency if you can afford it. Some smaller consultancies, like ours, may have flexible plans for businesses that are struggling right now. It can’t hurt to ask.
Finally, remember to keep your ordering platforms up-to-date, whether it’s Postmates, UberEats, or a delivery platform that lives on your own website. Take OTUS Thai Kitchen in Los Angeles as an example—they regularly update the menus on their delivery platforms to include new food items, grocery items (e.g. quarts of flour), and household goods (e.g. paper towels). Make it as easy as possible for customers to order anything you are able to sell; the more customers are able to consolidate their shopping, the more likely they will be to order from you again.
Based in Los Angeles, Diana Yin’s career began in marketing and public relations and later evolved into entrepreneurship when she won a food truck on the 2013 Food Network TV show, “Food Truck Face-off.” The popularity of her food truck, Peaches Smokehouse, allowed her to open Poppy + Rose, an award-winning American restaurant famous for its weekend brunch. After selling her businesses in late 2019, Diana went on to found Swan and Company, a small business consultancy that helps business owners streamline their operations, minimize inefficiencies, and maximize their marketing efforts all on a small business budget. This article originally appeared here on the Swan and Company website.