Why restaurants need to communicate in the times of Covid-19

Updated: May 8, 2020 8:33:21 AM

One of the sectors worst affected by the pandemic will be restaurants, estimated at Rs 4,23,865 crore in India

Brands must personalise messages and drive conversations with customers through e-mail and SMS, sending regular updates and promotionsBrands must personalise messages and drive conversations with customers through e-mail and SMS, sending regular updates and promotions

By Matt Leingang

Covid-19 has thrown our lives out of gear. Most businesses have either completely shut down or have managed to stay afloat through their digital presence. One of the sectors worst affected by the pandemic will be restaurants, estimated at Rs 4,23,865 crore in India and employing more than seven lakh people, according to the National Restaurant Association of India. The losses during this period are estimated at Rs 100,000 crore.

Although restaurants have shut their doors physically, marketers are finding creative ways to operate in this unprecedented and rapidly changing landscape. What provides comfort is that many customers are opting for take-outs and home deliveries even if they can’t dine out. The time is ripe for restaurant marketers to create a strong digital media strategy to connect with their customers, communicate clearly, and build an environment of trust and convenience.

Be authentic

These are unusual times. A one-size-fits-all approach may not work. Brands must identify what their community needs, and must work towards delivering the brand promise to their customers. For instance, Burger King’s new campaign about making its own Whopper at home reflected how it used the platform to reach out to its customers with light humour, and, at the same time, reminded them of the importance of staying at home.

The current situation demands that brands show empathy and authenticity which can build real, lifetime connections with customers. McDonald’s used its iconic logo to remind customers and employees of the importance of practising social distancing, and to assure them that they care for them.

Platforms like Instagram and Facebook must be effectively used to inform customers that they are open to business, and direct them to where they can order — online or via phone. Brands must also leverage these platforms to showcase their safety protocols as it will be top-of-mind for all customers. For instance, Chipotle assures customers by showing its employees preparing food with gloves. The lockdown in some countries also limits delivery hours; so, make sure you include your hours of operation at each location.

Pick the right channels

Brands must personalise messages and drive conversations with customers through e-mail and SMS, sending regular updates and promotions. By diversifying the channels, brands can gain more traction. For instance, Domino’s leverages SMS and push notifications to reach out to its customer base, spreading awareness about its zero-contact delivery efforts.

TV consumption has increased significantly during this period and brands need to leverage their TV spots differently. They need to focus on connected TV and streaming advertising opportunities that allow them to know the individuals they are reaching, and tie that ad view back to an actual transaction at the restaurant. At the same time, restaurant brands must use lower-funnel tactics that are guaranteed to drive results.

Digital display advertising is another great medium to reach out to the target audience. At the same time, location-based advertising is critical right now, and it could be beneficial for restaurants to expand their typical geo-targeting range, as people may be more inclined to travel a bit farther for takeout during this time.

Marketers must create content that makes consumers feel connected and understood during the crisis. The real challenge is how brands can share their most important messages — at scale — to consumers. One such example is of the Unskippable ad by McDonald’s which was created keeping the current times in mind. Of course, expanding the messaging strategy will not completely solve the current business downturn. But strengthening the overall communication strategy will help restaurant owners build long-lasting relationships with their customers.

The author is VP, business development, Epsilon

Read Also: How Modi Enterprises is battling Covid-19

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