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How To Reboot Your Restaurant Successfully Despite COVID-19

July 7, 2020 Trends

As state government officials across the nation permit businesses to open and shelter-in-place orders are lifted, it’s imperative for restaurant owners to have a reopening strategy in place so that they are prepared to safely open their doors, whether it's for fine or casual dining, or fast food. If you expect to soon offer patrons dine-in service at your restaurant, then it’s important to devise a plan to get the word out, as well as get your customers’ attention, so that your restaurant stands out from the other local options.

How To Reboot Your Restaurant Successfully Despite COVID-19

As state government officials across the nation permit businesses to open and shelter-in-place orders are lifted, it’s imperative for restaurant owners to have a reopening strategy in place so that they are prepared to safely open their doors, whether it’s for fine or casual dining, or fast food. If you expect to soon offer patrons dine-in service at your restaurant, then it’s important to devise a plan to get the word out, as well as get your customers’ attention, so that your restaurant stands out from the other local options.

Prior to officially opening your restaurant’s doors for dining in, you’ll need to reconnect with your patrons. Have the lines of communication gone silent throughout the duration of the coronavirus so far? Or have your efforts to reach out to your customers been as modified as your restricted services, i.e. you barely connect?

Regardless of where your relationship stands with your patrons, now is the perfect time to rekindle their loyalty. In this concise article, we’ve laid out the best practices and approaches to reboot your restaurant even before you’re officially back in business.

WEBSITE

Ever since your state announced its lockdown measures, your entire website has probably been revamped, if not the homepage alone, to acknowledge that your restaurant is aware of COVID-19 and the new protocols you’ve put in place because of it. This was the right—and smart—thing to do to keep your patrons and the community at large aware of your operational modifications.

Similar to how you addressed your operational restrictions in the face of COVID-19 lockdown measures, you’ll want to be sure to update your homepage with the following information:

  • Official reopening date & time
  • Safety measures & protocols your staff will follow
  • Instructions for your patrons to follow, i.e. rules regarding facemasks, social distancing, etc.
  • Seating capacity restrictions
  • Dine-in protocols unique to your state

While that might not be a fully comprehensive list, be sure to cover those areas on your website’s homepage in addition to any other information you think is pertinent, such as payment protocols. Will you no longer accept cash payments? If so, you’re going to want to include that critical aspect on your homepage so that your patrons aren’t unpleasantly surprised when the bill comes.

Perhaps most importantly, on your website’s homepage it would be an excellent idea to include a method to collect patron contact information. You can solicit this by offering a newsletter signup, reservation signup, or a loyalty rewards program signup.

SOCIAL MEDIA

It never goes without saying that if you haven’t created professional social media accounts for your restaurant, you must! Even though dining at your brick & mortar restaurant is an in-person experience, that doesn’t mean your business shouldn’t have a strong digital presence. The vast majority of consumers spend their free time online. Social media is where potential patrons are often first introduced to restaurants among other businesses that they’re considering trying out. If you don’t have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts for your restaurant, then you’re missing out on a high-traffic avenue to drive sales.

Once your social media accounts are in place, you’ll want to start getting the word out about your grand reopening date, as well as generate buzz and excitement in the following ways:

  • Remind your followers of your current services, such as delivery, takeout, and curbside pickup to keep your orders going
  • Post across platforms a couple times a week about your reopening date with a little information about the protocols from your website, or simply include your homepage link in the caption
  • Post about any special dishes, food items, or meal combos that you’ve invented specifically for celebrating your reopening and be sure to include mouth-watering photos
  • About once a week, include a post that is dedicated strictly to the health & safety precautions you plan to take
  • Conduct a poll in one of your posts, prompt followers to enter a contest, or ask patrons to post photos of themselves enjoying a meal from your restaurant and ask them to tag you—this is an effective way to spike engagement
  • Publish a “story” once a week to build excitement about your reopening date, even if you’re camera shy, it’s a great way to forge a relationship with your patrons

There’s so much more you can do with your social media accounts to help strengthen the relationship between your restaurant and patrons, but consider our list a jumping off point. And remember, when it comes to posting, there is such a thing as too frequently and too little. You’ll have to experiment a bit to find the sweet spot!

Social media posts are also a great way to give your patrons a peek at the “behind the scenes” action that goes on at your restaurant, so be sure to include photos that give your followers an inside view of what goes on there. It’ll enhance their overall experience and help them to feel connected to your restaurant’s brand.

CUSTOMER REWARDS PROGRAM

Returning customers are vital to the success of any restaurant, but unlike any other time in history, owners now need customers to come back who haven’t set foot inside their restaurant for months. Under good circumstances, generating repeat business can be challenging, but with the coronavirus lurking about, interesting patrons to frequent your restaurant is going to be even harder… but not impossible.

When restaurants offer special deals, discounts, and perks to loyal patrons, they successfully motivate even more patronage. In fact, in a 2019 poll conducted by the National Restaurant Association, 68% of surveyed customers selected that they would be either “somewhat” or “very likely” to dine at restaurants that offer loyalty programs as opposed to those that don’t. And of those who were “very likely”, a little over 36% were in the 26 to 35 age group.

Securing loyalty from your patrons is more important now than ever, and that’s where the right customer loyalty rewards program comes in. Not all rewards programs are created equal, however, so if you’re shopping around, be sure to go with a program that includes the following:

  • Customer ability to accumulate points every time they dine no matter how small the bill
  • Simplistic and straightforward points-earning guidelines
  • Mobile app included so that plastic scan cards aren’t necessary
  • Offer more than only monetary rewards, such as preferential treatment or special birthday accommodations
  • Fast to signup, easy to use, fun to earn
  • Integrates seamlessly with your restaurant’s POS

When patrons have a positive experience at your restaurant, it helps to build your brand and strengthen your relationship with them, both of which are the cornerstones of a successful business.

If you need help choosing the best customer loyalty rewards program for your restaurant, we’ll save you some time. Loyal~n~Save is the best option available today! Our rewards program was built with restaurants in mind, comes with a fun, user-friendly app, and most importantly, it will be the best digital marketing tool you’ve ever used. The Loyal~n~Save app also includes:

  • Easy integration with any POS system
  • Mobile app sign-up that makes plastic membership cards a mere option
  • In-app personalized dining recommendations that increase spending
  • Fast customer service technology that builds brand recognition, reputation, and loyalty

To learn more about the ways in which Loyal~n~Save can help make your restaurant reopening successful, visit our Restaurant Industry page, and if you’d like to read more helpful marketing blogs for retailers and the retail industry at large, the Loyal~n~Save Blog posts weekly articles to support your business efforts to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.   

This article was written by Loyal~n~Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.
Mira Gibson
Mira Gibson

Mira Gibson is a Loyalty Strategist at Loyal~n~Save where she develops innovative marketing strategies for small businesses. She is a content machine and advocates that marketing consistency and frequency is tantamount to success. She’s a passionate writer, avid reader, and she also manages a political blog in her spare time.