These are unprecedented times; with neighboring restaurants all facing similar challenges, as 42 states and a number of cities and counties as of April 7, have mandated shutdowns and asked residents to stay in their homes as much as possible. This new reality keeps getting extended as more cases of COVD-19 spread throughout the U.S.
Your initial communications have let your guests know your commitment to the health and safety of your employees, customers and community and that you’re open for business. Peoples’ inboxes are now full of COVID-19 related messages. You need to continue reaching your customers in an authentic way that breaks through the clutter and helps guests during these difficult times.
We’ve laid out our Top 5 Best Communication Practices for restaurants to build customer engagement and loyalty, which will be paramount to their survival through COVID-19 and beyond.
Deliver Customer-First Messages
Customers need reassurance during times of uncertainty. Reiterate your support and commitment to the community, and be transparent about your operational changes, compliance with health and safety guidelines, and new operating hours. Clearly highlight all the dining options available such as online ordering, pick-up, curbside pickup, and delivery, and include an incentive for the customer to place the order. Extend your thanks for their ongoing support and loyalty.
Provide Clear, Consistent and Frequent Communication to Guests & Franchisees
Checking in with customers promotes confidence in your brand. Determine a regular cadence in which you will be communicating with customers and franchisees. Whether this is once or twice a week, this will help you build a stronger rapport and manage expectations. Ensure all customer communications are consistent across channels. This includes key messages, but also look and feel, voice, timing, and business processes. Align your communications strategy across all key stakeholders company-wide — from corporate departments to franchisees and employees who are critical ambassadors on the front lines.
Our client, Cousins Subs, put their president, Jason Westhoff, in charge of solely communicating with franchisees, store operators and other team members. This approach has helped Cousins Sub provide a streamlined, transparent flow of timely information that keeps everyone in the loop. “When our franchisees or store operators may hear something in the news, they’re going to hold tight because they know that there’s going to be communication with more detail coming out from Jason,” said Christine Specht, Cousins Subs’ CEO. Hear her complete podcast with QSR.
Reflect Your Brand Voice
Consistent branding is crucial to an overall clear message. Ensure your messages reflect your brand voice, yet are appropriate for the times and reflect that sentiment. Build trust through transparency and authenticity. People are spending more time on their devices and will be interested in your messages so share an inspiring message or a quick video that reflects your brand and helps people get through their day.
Communicate Effectively at the Right Times Across Channels
For general communications use every channel available, including email, text, push notification, and social so your message is cast broadly. For targeted communications, send messages over your customers’ preferred channels.
Recent data from Punchh’s COVID-19 Impact Analysis Series Article Four shows a decline in the delivery of breakfast orders while an overall rise in delivery still continues and in particular around lunch and dinner. Therefore, adjust the delivery of your messages to optimal times, such as noon, 2 pm and 5 pm, when customers are most likely to engage.
Listen and Respond to Your Customers
Gather, act on, and measure customer feedback to keep a pulse of customer sentiment and expectations. If you don’t have them already, open social media accounts to share updates, engage on social media posts to attract consumers to your page, and share the latest on what is being offered and served at your establishment. Err on the side of experimenting with new approaches and tactics rather than being a perfectionist. Speed and iteration outweigh slow and careful deliberation during rapidly changing conditions.
As this situation continues to unfold, it is critical to give your restaurant a fighting chance to come out the other side of this up and running even better to serve their communities. Staying in touch with your customers is key. Find ways to engage them across every channel with branded campaigns that are relevant to their current situation. In a time like this no stone can be left unturned in reminding your customers that you are open, ready to serve and here to support the community in its greatest time of need.