Marketing through COVID-19 recovery

Times have changed for the restaurant industry. But while COVID-19 has shuttered countless businesses, made gathering off-limits, and put our beloved dining world at risk, we believe restaurants will recover, reopen, and rebuild.

When they do, there are a number of simple, practical and budget-friendly ways you can begin marketing again—here’s a guide to getting the word out and welcoming guests, new and old, through your doors again. 

Tell your story 

Like with any marketing plan, a compelling story makes all the difference when it comes to creating an emotional connection and relationships with guests. Before COVID-19 hit, guests wanted to get the inside scoop on restaurants. Now, they’re even hungrier to hear restaurants’ stories. 

Let guests in on where you’ve been as a business and how you’re preparing to deliver great hospitality again. For better or worse, there’s an even richer story to tell as you reopen and adjust to the new normal of dine-in service. By sharing your unique story, whether it’s on your website or social media channels, you’re likely to inspire and build relationships with guests before they experience your restaurant in person.

Communicate your safety measures

Now, it’s more important than ever to help people feel confident about dining out. Share how you’re going above and beyond to keep employees and guests safe. Capture behind-the-scenes photos and video that show your safety measures, such as social distancing practices, employee protective gear, new floor plans, or where you’ll conduct guest temperature checks, if required to do so. 

Keep in mind that guests will likely ask your host or servers questions, so you’ll want to arm them with talking points. You can also reinforce your safety measures on interior or exterior signs or on your website. 

It’s also important to let people know all of the ways that they can continue to engage with you. While some may be quick to dine out again, others may ease into it slowly, so give them options. Remind them of your takeout, delivery, groceries, gift card, or fundraising options. 

Get the word out that you’re reopening

Once you have a sense of when you’ll be ready to reopen for dine in service, you’ll need to get the word out. Post “coming soon” signs and new hours of operations in your windows. You’ll also want to update  your voicemail to reflect your new hours and remind guests they can reserve a table on your website and OpenTable.

Send “coming soon” emails and create social posts with teasers about your dine-in experience. On your website, post “coming soon” messages and make sure your availability is appearing on your reservation widget and reservation links on your website, as well as Facebook and Google business listings. Also, update your online business profiles, including Google, Facebook, and Yelp, to reflect your new hours, capabilities, and offerings.

Go the extra mile on your OpenTable profile to increase guests’ likelihood to book. Select all applicable cuisine types, keep menus up to date, and upload photos of new menu items and interior shots. Highlight all of the occasions you do best, so guests can find you when they’re ready to celebrate a missed birthday, anniversary, or graduation, including private dining options. 

Bring back your regulars

Reach out to loyal guests who love you and are likely yearning to see you again. Prioritize reaching out to your big spenders and VIPs with special offers to make them feel extra special when they return. Give loyal guests on OpenTable an incentive to dine in by offering up to 10X their normal Dining Rewards points. Send a targeted “We miss you” campaign to reconnect with regulars and follow up with thank you emails and post-dining surveys to deepen relationships and keep them coming back.

Welcome neighbors and locals

Build excitement for dining out again among those who live and work in your community. Create special discounts and bounce backs for neighbors. Collaborate with neighboring businesses on a cross-promotion that incentivizes people to dine and shop at your businesses. Target locals who are searching for a table in your area by starting an OpenTable targeted digital marketing campaign

With people cooped up over the past few weeks, they’re likely itching for a reason to get back out. Consider hosting a reopening celebration party at your restaurant and invite your neighbors. Or, think about partnering up with other restaurants nearby to hold a neighborhood block party.

Boost your visibility in search results 

If you’re already on OpenTable, one of the best things you can do is get your restaurant seen in search results by guests eager to book. Add all of your availability so guests can discover your restaurant when they’re searching for a specific date, time, and party size. Respond to guest reviews to maintain a high average rating, which factors into your search results, and kick-start guest demand by giving your restaurant a boost in OpenTable search results.

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