How to market your restaurant, hotel & cafe in times of social distancing

While the UK government maintains a stoic approach and projects a sense of calm, let’s not allow the empty loo roll shelves to throw the rest of us into panic.

Footfall is down across the hospitality industry and we can expect it to only get worse in the immediate future. We have to plan for lockdown too, albeit a short-lived blip. So let’s talk about how to market your restaurant, hotel or cafe in times of social distancing.

Keep calm. Keep storytelling.
The story has changed beneath your feet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep storytelling. What customers need right now is reassurance. Talk to your target audience about what you’re doing to help everyone reduce spread of infection:

• behind the scenes health & hygiene
• handwashing and sanitising products for customers
• heightened cleaning and sanitising efforts
• steaming hot dishwashers and glass washers in action
• sunny and open courtyards and gardens
• open windows and a breath of fresh air
• fresh produce from fully functioning suppliers
• immune boosting ingredients in dishes
• keep reminding people of who you are, what you do, what they’re longing for

Maintain service levels
You may be wise to reduce staffing levels but don’t cripple your chances of providing your excellent levels of customer service should the locals troop in for a supporting pint.

Where you have excess staff to customer ratio, this is also a rare opportunity:

• get everyone involved in a deep clean
• take time to reinforce training
• invest additional time in newer members of staff
• review processes, stock takes and essential vs nice-to-have products should efficiencies need to kick in over the coming weeks and months

Keep marketing your restaurant with rooms

We’re not being biased. The fact of the matter is that nobody ever said it was a good idea to cut your marketing budget when business is quiet. You can ramp it up without increasing your budget – yes you can and we can help you by diverting energy from one place to another:

• Look local – sounds obvious as you probably already have a supportive bunch of local patrons, but now is the time to focus the effort on them
• Switch any ad spend to a geographically tighter zone than previous
• Or, switch off that spend and allocate it to other efforts, that you may need some outside help with:
• Revisit your Google My Business listing – obviously you update this regularly (don’t you?!) – optimise now and Google will hopefully reward your efforts
• As above, switch what you’re talking about on social media channels to reassure customers and inform them as and when you adjust your offering, delivery of your product or opening hours
• Review your website – its on page content and the technical SEO elements in the backend – and see if you can bolster its search engine rankings as a result
• Keep communicating – on social media, on email, on your A-boards outside, to your customers popping in for a pint or a light bite

Hotel marketing: don’t discount, add value

Everyone loves a discount but generally speaking people feel warmer and fuzzier about a brand that’s added value rather than slashed a price. It’s time to get creative with your offers!

• It could be as simple as fresh towels in your room every day. That may well conflict with your environmental policy but as a temporary measure that reassures your guests, give it a try.
• Extend your weekly Happy Hour to daily for hotel guests
• Partner with a local hair or beauty salon to offer a detox package
• Welcome dogs if you haven’t done so before
• How to attract customers during social distancing?

It’s time to think about adjusting your offering and potentially discovering new revenue streams. If social lockdown occurs, restaurants and shops could be closed, with the exception of food stores and chemists. Potentially devastating for restaurants and cafes, how will can you stay open during social distancing?

Turn to takeaways – the Italians are leading the way on this. It may require you to adjust your menu and you’ll need to plan ahead by stocking up on takeaway boxes. You could offer for people to bring their own containers but remember that Starbucks has stopped customers from bringing their own reusable cups as a preventative measure.

Produce and sell what consumers can’t get their hands on – bread, cakes, eggs, pastries, even your loo roll and soap stock

How about hole-in-the-wall service? People will still cherish a freshly pulled pint and a packet of pork scratching – have you got a window you could serve one through without infringing a 2-metre contact limit?

How to reignite business after Covid-19

Let’s stay positive. Current lockdowns range from 2 weeks (schools in Ireland) to 2 months (Princess Cruises) and we have to accept that a period of lockdown will occur in the UK too. But without hope we have nothing, so during quiet times consider what you’ll do to reignite business once this year’s Covid-19 ricochet has passed:

• plan a re-opening party
• extend weekend services to sweep people in whatever time of day they’re passing
• offer brunch all weekend, not just Sundays
• keep offering your new initiatives – whether that’s fresh bread or takeaway options
• retain a slimmed down stock of harder-to-sell products
• have open and honest conversations with suppliers about payment terms and cross promotion
• learn from the reflections you’ve had that the downtime has given you and start afresh
• is it time to rethink your product offering? what have you garnered from customers during your change in approach that will help your business perform better going forwards

Now is not a time to be flippant about anything. While some will find it crass or pointless to market a product that fewer people are able to make use of in the coming weeks, if you stop being ‘out there’, you may as well stop being a business.

Now is the time to put your best restaurant marketing foot forward, to maintain an engaged fan base, to keep a bare minimum footfall coming and to lure them back as quickly as you can when it’s over.

Whether you need help to get you through or support on the other side, we always start with a no obligation conversation. We’re a small business too, let’s see what we can achieve together. Drop us a line.

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