5 online options to boost restaurant business in the COVID-19 stricken world

If you are into the restaurant business, you already know that it is a highly competitive industry. In fact, this is one of the toughest markets to sustain.

In fact, a few months back I wrote an article on why 75 percent of new restaurants shut down within the first year, and what they should to increase their chances of survival. If you haven’t read the article yet, you can do it here

Now if we talk about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the restaurant industry, it won’t be wrong to say that this novel virus has wreaked havoc on the industry that already operates on razor-thin profit margins. With the rise of “social distancing”, restaurants are ordered to either close or offer takeaway-only service, causing revenue to shrink nearly 80%.

But as they say, every calamity, crisis, and pandemic pistons a narrative reset — transforming businesses and compelling them to invent, innovate, and adapt.

So what the options for restaurants that want to drive their business through the pandemic. What they can do to maintain a steady flow of income while maintaining brand value and quality. How can they win back customer loyalty?

Let’s dive in!

1. Unlimited Benefits of Online Ordering

The post-COVID world is going to be a lot different than what you and I are accustomed to. Dine-in only restaurants are especially likely to be significantly impacted as a result of all the new concerns about hygiene, personal safety, and social distancing.

The industry is seeing a sharp shift in how people buy food — lower restaurant traffic, increased food deliveries, and a rise in eating at home.

To ensure their and their family’s safety, most patrons have started ordering their food online. In fact, recent statistics indicate that an average customer orders food delivery 3–4 times a week, compared to 1–2 times a week in the pre-pandemic economy. This is because they are spending more time at home, with their family. This has also led to a substantial increase in the average cart value for a simple reason that now people are ordering not just for themselves, but for the whole family.

In these difficult times, restaurants are weathering the storm by moving their businesses online and rightly so. All indicators highlight the necessity of online deliveries for restaurants both during and after COVID-19.

With deliveries as the only viable option for restaurants at present, this is the best time to launch your own online ordering website.

2. Spend more on Instagram ads

Instagram posts and ads are a great way to communicate with your customers and stay connected with them during such difficult times. But why only Instagram? Because that’s where all food enthusiasts are!

Food enthusiasts spend a substantial amount of their time every day browsing the feeds from their favorite restaurants. The most trending restaurants on Instagram constantly communicate with their audience about their services and new menu.

But the post-COVID era would require you to RESET your Instagram strategy! Along with posting visually appealing images of the cuisine served, you must also promote “behind the scenes” videos of your kitchen and delivery operations to evoke customers’ confidence in your brand.

Send out welcome signals with an uninhibited kitchen view. Let your customers know that you and your staff are taking all the necessary precautions while preparing their food. That their health and safety are your top priority.

And whatever you post on your Instagram, do not forget to promote it. It is important to take advantage of all entry points of the digital world as you enter the New Normal. Effectively carried out promotions will allow you to reach even those people who are yet to discover your brand.

3. Have a special focus on meal kits

Families are now spending more time together than ever. They are eating not one, but all meals together. And 1 in every 6 meals is getting ordered online for either doorstep delivery, takeaway, or curbside pick up. You don’t really want to miss this opportunity for business growth.

One of the most effective ways to attract existing as well as new customers to your new age, the digitized restaurant is to offer meal kits, suitable for a family of four, six, and eight. This popular marketing technique never fails to generate high cart value sales.

Restaurants will have to re-examine menus, portions, and prices to cater to this new reality. So a family-friendly heat-and-serve spaghetti and meatballs dinner with kimchi salad that feeds a family of five could become the “most popular” pick, who knows?

4. Gift cards and promotional merchandise to add an additional revenue stream

Keep revenue rolling in by selling promotional merchandise and gift certificates to offset lost revenue following the outbreak.

For restaurant owners facing massive losses in sales, such strategies could bring immediate relief in a depressed economy.

However, if you are looking for long term profitability, selling merchandise is a more secure source of cash flow than gift cards.

Promotional items such as tee shirts and mugs can generate some additional revenue for your business that you can utilize to buy inventory, hire more staff, or enhance the brand identity through aggressive marketing.

5. Update your Google My Business page

It’s no surprise that Google search terms related to food delivery, online ordering, sushi delivery, takeaway restaurant, have increased exponentially since this outbreak brought the social shutters clanging down.

Many restaurants are wondering how they can optimize their Google My Business page to increase visibility in search feeds.

Fortunately, Google has recently released a significant update that allows local restaurants to optimize GMB profile for currently relevant search terms like “drive-thrus”, “takeout’’, “online ordering”, and “food delivery”.

Further to this, Google rolled out a new COVID-19 post type to help restaurants share information about store hours, menu items, and safety precautions they’re taking such as daily temperature checks, chefs wearing masks while preparing food, and tamper-proof packaging.

While optimizing your business listing specific to COVID-19, it’s also important to ensure you have all the basics of your Google My Business profile set up. This will increase the visibility and the discoverability of the restaurant, grabbing the attention of local customers hovering online.

Writer | Digital Marketer | Entrepreneur. Good food and a Good Book keep me sane!