During the pandemic, the good news for restaurants is people still have to eat.
1. Make sure technology and staff work – and work together.
Hopefully, you have an app, online ordering, delivery services, and every other tech under the restaurant sun already. But even if you do, are you using them properly? Do you have a focused strategy and an inspiring idea so people actually use the app and your online ordering service? Many restaurants don’t use their tech correctly. Their ordering process on their app or online is not user-friendly, takes too many steps, or doesn’t work at all. Research shows the top complaint about apps and online ordering is that orders are fulfilled wrong. The problem is usually a tech glitch because of software updates, so make sure your tech is updated and works. However, another likely problem is you don’t have trained staff that knows how to fulfill online and app orders. Delegate a trained team to fulfill app/online orders – with one person to check that they’re right. Most receipts have the customer’s email or phone number, so a polite email, text or call to let them know when their order is ready will win you their business over and over again.
Tech works the best when you have a strategy for how it’s used with an idea that offers your audience a reason to want to use it. Such as: a personalized incentive, a highly compensated awards program, or other value-added incentives people can only get on the app/website. This is the time to go above and beyond. If you’re just offering the basics on your tech, you’re missing out on opportunities to drive more awareness to put yourself higher in your audience’s consideration set. This is also a good time to look at data frequently – but don’t solely rely on it or you’ll go crazy following your audience shifts in needs, wants and desires. Stay on strategy and use the data to support and audit your communications. And remember, data is completely useless if you don’t have an amazing, inspiring idea to leverage it.
2. Customers should always be right.
Chick-fil-A’s customer service is annoyingly good, and the lines of cars in the drive-up window lanes are unparalleled. Why? Because they hire the very best – wonderful men and women that care about people. It’s chicken on a bun for Pete’s sake! It’s nothing special, but boy, when people are smiling and nice to you that sandwich sure tastes much better than the other restaurants’ chicken on a bun. Go the extra mile to care about people, because no one has the patience for mean or complacent people. Hire the best people and put them in front of your customers. Give them the power to make a wrong a right. Empower them to offer ideas to foster solutions. Do this and your audience will remember you. They’ll talk about you. They’ll choose you when they’re making a dining decision, even if they’re not in the mood for your food. They’ll keep buying from you because nice people make life pleasant. We understand human behavioral responses, and we can tell you people will feel guilty if they don’t buy from and support the “nice people” restaurant. Use that behavioral understanding to your favor.
3. Add value and make it personal.
Too many brands add value or do “free” wrong. They’re so enamored with the idea of offering something free, they forget what the real value is. For one of our clients, we do a free food day. We select a name and post it on social media and their website, and if you have that name, you get the food item for free. Nine times out of ten, the people that know someone with that name alert them, “Hey John, such and such restaurant is giving away a free item. Go get your free food dude!” Nobody eats alone, so John comes in with his three buddies, and for your cost of a free item, you just made three times that amount in new sales. Best yet, the people that didn’t have the name come in too because the idea was so cool, and they bring their friends. It’s not about the free item, it’s about the fact that we made the free, personal. That’s the value! Nothing is more personal than someone’s name. Make your added value offers personal because it gives people a proven reason to buy from you.
Another way to add value is to offer customization of your menu even if that’s not your menu model. If someone doesn’t want pickles, don’t give them pickles. If people want a menu item that only comes pre-made, but they want to add or delete an ingredient, do it. Make people happy. Happy people come back.
4. Know your customers.
Now is not the time to act like a big multi-chain brand. Be that local, corner place where everybody knows your name. Common sense wins – you don’t need data to tell you people are cooped up in their homes. So it’s plausible that Mom and dad are tired of cooking which means the kids are tired of eating the same old thing every day. With that understanding, it’s a good time to offer new menu items, meal deals and other audience inspired offerings. Take the load and chore of cooking off mom and dad, and put happy smiles on their children’s faces. Fresh and new always wins. Don’t rely on what corporate is pushing on you. It’s time to get a bit crafty. I know a few McDonald’s where the franchise owner offered their own family meal deals based upon feedback they heard from their customers. Revenue went up for them. Listen to your customers wants, needs and desires, and be there for them.
5. Be the solution.
Cumulatively, these ideas are really saying, “Be the Solution.” In our topsy turvy environment, people are looking for familiarity, consistency and comfort. Use this time to offer the solution to their hunger and their need for interaction by offering a way to order and receive quality meals in an environment that is safe and friendly. They are missing their restaurants and the social interaction your restaurant provides. Through our unexpected insight research, we can confidently tell you that many people don’t care about a brand message of how “we are in this together” and “united we’ll get through this.” Create a messaging strategy that focuses on the real solution your brand provides and prove it.