First of all, my thoughts are with all restaurateurs, I understand that last year was incredibly difficult.
That being said, I have a few thoughts from a marketing perspective. Before the pandemic, my experience was that I saw very few restaurants doing long-term strategic marketing planning.
Most were doing inconsistent and haphazard marketing. They had no marketing plan to fall back on during COVID_19.
For example, I dined in many restaurants before COVID_19 and I cannot recall an occasion where an attempt was made to capture my email address or my mobile number so that they could encourage me to come back again and again. Far too many restaurants treat their customers like “one night stands”.
Research has shown that email marketing is one of the most profitable tactics for restaurants. It’s targeted, personalized marketing, but few restaurants consistently take advantage of it.
I would venture to assume that restaurants that had a cohesive email marketing strategy were in a much better position to communicate with their regular customers to keep them informed and maintain their relationships.
Imagine you were the type of restaurant owner who was heavily dependent on onsite catering for your daily income and all of a sudden you had to switch to delivery and pickup only, how do you get that message across to your customers? ?
What about social media? Yes, it could work, but you need to be prepared to invest a few bucks to achieve reach, because organic reach alone won’t work for most restaurants.
According to the latest data I’ve seen, the average restaurant has around 600 followers. And you have to remember that Facebook says they will only show your posts to about 10% of your followers for free.
In my opinion, a significant number of restaurants are doing social media marketing the wrong way, they have no purpose. Posting photos of your dishes is the minimum, but for many restaurants, that’s all they do.
As for the strategy restaurants should use, it’s not email marketing versus social media, it’s BOTH! And there are many other marketing strategies that restaurants should have used consistently before and after COVID_19.
There is no magic marketing solution for restaurateurs. Even with a limited marketing budget, restaurants can still use a multi-channel marketing mix.
They need to find strategies (free and paid) to find more customers and get them to order online or dine out again and again.
Every restaurant owner knows that profits come from getting lots of repeat and repeat customers, but few have a marketing system in place to make it happen.
Another reason so many restaurants were unprepared for a closure is that they had no website or a poor website, so they weren’t positioned for online ordering. Some have gone to delivery services like Skip The Dishes, but they take 20-35% of the order, often leaving the restaurant owner very little.
My contention is that too many restaurants were surviving just before COVID_19 due to their lack of effective and consistent marketing.
So when COVID_19 arrived, it didn’t take much to push them over the edge. Will the surviving restaurants focus even more on improving their marketing so they are even better positioned to weather another crisis like an economic collapse?