Restaurants everywhere are now dealing with the tough job of reopening after offering limited dining capacity for over a year. Even though customers are coming back, restaurants are still facing challenges due to shortages and turnover of labor as well as other issues like budget limitations. However, smart marketing and the use of online promotion tools can help restaurants maximize their resources and work through a time when their labor force is being stretched thin.
Google My Business and Review Sites
Google is the dominant search engine and Google Maps is used widely to find restaurants and other local businesses. It’s easy for restaurants to register their own business and address, or claim an existing Google Maps location, without anything but a free Google account. Google My Business lets business owners modify important details about their business like contact information and hours of operation so anyone on Google Search or Maps can find the up-to-date information.
Google My Business has added many features meant specifically to benefit businesses during the pandemic, such as details about closures, limited capacity, and pickup service. It’s important to keep these activities to support the workforce. For example, businesses can use this information to keep customers informed of their reopening to attract customers. Alternatively, they can tell customers that reservations are preferred if the restaurant is getting too crowded due to a popular reopening.
GMB allows news and other important information to be posted; this saves employees from needing to answer questions over the phone if they can be explained online instead. Customers can also chat via Google to ask questions so employees can answer questions when they have the time or during off-peak hours. Businesses can also clarify what post-pandemic measures for health reasons they have taken such as rearranging their layout for social distancing or introducing contactless ordering and payment. Finally, they can provide links to their website, reservation service, mobile ordering platform, and other resources.
Utilize Local Search Engine Optimization
Local SEO is a great way for businesses to connect with customers in their area, using their online presence to help customers who are looking for their physical location. Integrating online
and physical marketing presence is vital. Per Statista, 33% of Americans aged 18-29 checked restaurant information and reviews in the last month.
Local SEO traffic can be driven from search engine results, and it also benefits from social media and sites like FourSquare and Yelp. You can even get your menu in search results directly using schema markup to identify the menu text on your website. Getting customers to your website or social media pages is another good way to get customers to read important announcements about your restaurant’s opening status, reservations, and special deals to honor your reopening. SEO requires much less investment than physical marketing and is self-sustaining.
Introduce Changes to your Business Online
Restaurant staff have put a lot of effort into making their dining rooms ready for full capacity again. To make this work seen by customers, promote your efforts online. Posting images of your restaurant can give customers an idea of your post-pandemic space and illustrate new guidelines and policies. Images can also be optimized for search engine traffic.
Changes in staff, dining room layout, and policies can be seen as opportunities to promote the dynamic nature of your business rather than indications of difficult times. Businesses can connect with their customers by sharing their personalized stories on their website and social media.
Paying Attention to Online Reviews
One last essential step is to pay attention to online reviews on Yelp, Google, and elsewhere more than ever. 87% of customers used reviews when seeking out local businesses in 2020, and 31% said that they used reviews more often than in the past for reasons related to COVID-19, according to BrightLocal. Customers are looking for reassurance from others when they choose a business.
Restaurant staff may be overworked due to the stress of reopening and limited availability. Since staff performance can be a factor in whether reviews are negative or positive, reviews can be a key indicator for how your staff is doing. Customers may report slow service or poorly-trained employees. This may lead businesses to encourage their employees to provide better customer service or expand hiring.
Restaurants should respond to reviews constructively, thanking positive reviewers for their feedback and offering apologies to negative reviews with explanations of why their experience isn’t representative of the restaurant’s usual quality.
Restaurants are seeing major growth as customers rush to return. Online tools can get customers excited about coming back while helping to support the workforce in this time.