For businesses in the restaurant industry, the past year has been about survival. There have been a few outliers who have had incredible success because of the pandemic, but they are the exception that proves the rule.
The reality is a majority of restaurants experienced overwhelming losses amid the global health emergency. Moreover, shutdown orders and capacity restrictions forced many restaurants to play catch-up and operate with significant profit losses.
If your restaurant business survived this unprecedented pandemic, the looming question is: how can we kickstart our restaurant’s growth?
Here are three helpful tips to help you get back on track in 2021.
Improve customer experience
If people have limited funds or significant fears about health risks, going out needs to be worth it. They do not want to sit in an underprepared establishment and eat mediocre food. Even if food is great, the lack of policies designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among employees and customers and expense may not seem worth it. This is why customer experience is key.
First and foremost, offer outdoor dining, if possible. Next, ensure the ambiance is impressive enough to attract wary customers. Restaurant ambiance isn’t only lighting and decor. Your cleanliness and service also affect your restaurant ambiance, for better or for worse.
Purchase modern commercial restaurant tables to create an aesthetically pleasing space. Spacing between tables should be enough to make it comfortable to move around and adhere to state, local health and safety regulations with which businesses must comply. First impressions and preparedness are crucial if you want to get people in the door.
Take it up a level by ensuring your restaurant environment is engaging. Experiences like Teppanyaki and Korean barbecue are not everyone’s cup of tea, and not necessarily suited to your restaurant, but take the concept of a dining “experience” and make it your own, whether through live entertainment or other means. This can also create authentic buzz around your restaurant and increase foot traffic.
Implement a loyalty program
Loyalty programs are an incredibly simple marketing strategy to get people to come back to your establishment time and time again. Now, the loyalty program at a fancy restaurant should not look anything like the loyalty program at a quick service restaurant (QSR). Provide a personalized experience to returning customers that reflects their unique needs and interests.
So, rather than providing a discount on their fifth meal, offer a tasting plate instead so they can try new dishes. Alternatively, you can improve word of mouth by offering tiered and time-based pricing offers for the guests of loyal customers.
Hand in hand with this, consider a VIP offering for repeat customers including prioritized reservations, exclusive seating, and/or an invitation to major events and premiers at your restaurant. Nothing makes customers feel more appreciated than knowing their patronage is appreciated.
Build a social media presence
A strong social media presence is more important now than ever. While restaurants could get away with having a semi-maintained Facebook page before the pandemic, that has changed. People have become used to receiving regular communications from restaurants about their COVID-19 measures and the like. They expect you to communicate with them on a consistent basis.
If you don’t have a social media manager, it is a good idea to hire one as soon as possible. You’ll need someone to dedicate time and energy to delivering on social media campaign objectives, even if you have the skills. It’s far better to focus on running your restaurant while a social media manager focuses on creating a consistent and engaging social media presence to meet specific business goals.
The past year has been about survival for most restaurants. The hospitality industry was hit harder than almost any other industry. As a result, restauranteurs have learned to adapt or die trying. As we forge ahead amid vaccine rollouts, variants of concern, and disease progression, it is time to focus on growth and a post-Covid future.
Jeremy Biberdorf is a long-time internet marketing pro turned online entrepreneur and blogger. Check out his investing blog at Modest Money.
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