COVID-19 has changed the pace of business across the globe. The government has implemented a strategy to slow the spread of the virus, which has led countries to start implementing social isolation as a necessary solution.
In Asian, European and American countries, non-essential service business units are restricted or completely closed. The F&B business is no exception. This partly disrupts consumer habits, when they turn to restaurants or cafes as meeting places. Now they have to cook for themselves at home, or buy in the midst of a complicated disease situation.
In fact, if restaurant and cafe owners can see a new direction in the midst of a crisis, it is very important. This is a great business opportunity to move into an online environment and tackle a different market segment. Here are 8 ways restaurant owners are increasing sales amidst the COVID-19 situation:
1. Make sure you cooperate with the delivery platform
In the US, food delivery platforms such as UberEats, grocery store WMT, and other popular UberEats clone apps have reported increased user engagement when people are stranded inside their homes. This trend is also happening in other parts of the world. Delivery service is definitely an integral part of the life of modern people, who want to save time & effort in preparing their own food. And it is definitely a great business opportunity for all bistros, cafes and restaurants.
Delivery platform cooperation
How to take full advantage of this opportunity? In the Southeast Asian market, there are several popular delivery services such as Grab Food, Food Panda, Go-Jek, Now, Vietnammm, Yangon Door2Door, while Ubereats, Takeaways dominate the food delivery market in Europe & America.
Obviously, the advantage of partnering with Grab, Go-Jek and the other platforms mentioned is that they ensure thousands of consumers will see your menu and offers every day, and you don’t have to have a delivery person at home. On the other hand, it is necessary to take into account that the commission of this service can reach 30% of orders placed through this platform.
2. Build your own delivery platform
Customers are engaging with technology more than ever, especially at times of social distancing. Most of their daily activities take place online and people expect everything to be within the reach of their fingertips. The increasing use of mobile devices only adds to the overall growth of delivery services.
Restaurant & food businesses can benefit from building their own delivery platform, for several reasons. First of all, you can get complete control over your customer data. The delivery system will record the name, address, phone number, email & dining preferences for each and every one of your customers. You can use this information to send them your personalized promotions, vouchers, menu updates or simple thank you notes for being your loyal customers.
To build a good digital platform, a business must identify the functionality it must have. Digital platforms need to include websites with well presented menus, e-commerce systems with shipping trackers & reliable customer service. Selecting a suitable & reliable digital platform is the most important step in this process. Fortunately, there are ready-made systems, which can cover all the basics for setting up your own platform in a matter of hours/days.
There are many advantages of a self-delivery platform, which makes it one of the best strategies to increase your sales:
You have complete control over the customer experience, from taking orders to handing them over to your clients.
You have a complete overview of all your orders and you can easily see the trends (what are the busiest times, which foods or combos are the best sellers, which promotional programs work best).
You collect important information about your customers’ behavior and you can prepare personalized recommendations & offers for them to sell more.
3. Do research on relevant Facebook groups & engage the community
There’s no better way to get customer insights than Facebook – the largest social community on the internet. With Facebook groups, you can easily find people’s interests, which foods they like to have an accurate approach to networking opportunities.
To find Facebook groups, you can use the Discover tab in the left column, under the Explore heading. On the Discover tab, Facebook will show you some suggested groups based on Pages you like, location, groups your friends belong to and other clues of your activity.
Facebook group research
In that group, you have to keep an eye on the conversation to find out what your potential customers are talking about, what information & recommendations they are looking for. If you are looking for a relevant Facebook group, just enter the related keyword in the search box.
Engage alternately with posts in those groups and click the Groups tab to see a list of groups associated with your search term.
You have to remember that people are not interested in too many offers and spam. Remember that less is sometimes more. Focus on the content your people want to see – great pictures of your food, exciting promotions, seasonal specials or stories from your kitchen.
4. Re-engage your customers with marketing activities
Did you know that when you increase your repeat orders by 5% (orders from people who have ordered from you before), you can increase your profits anywhere from 25 to 125%? One of the best things about the restaurant business is that people need to eat every day. This means you have the perfect opportunity to turn a one-time customer into a loyal customer, who orders from you on a regular basis!
All consumers love delicious food, exciting meal combos, free delivery & new dishes to try. And you have the perfect opportunity to tell them about it! Luckily, as soon as you receive the first order from your customer, you have all the information you need to have about him or her – name, email address, phone number & order history.
You can then easily include them in any of your campaigns, which sends you information about your promotions, limited offers & menu updates. These campaigns can be sent as a series of emails, SMS or a combination of both, to ensure you reach your targets at the right time, in the right place.
The more information about customer behavior you have, the better you can target & the more successful your campaign will be. Platforms like Odoo ERP combine customer & order databases with email/SMS marketing tools, so you have all the data you need in just 1 system.
5. Make sure to ship quickly
People usually start thinking about ordering something to eat when they start feeling hungry. The more they wait for delivery, the hungrier & grumpy they will get. Second, the sooner you can get their food to their doorstep, the warmer, fresher and crispier it will be.
When it comes to delivery, of course, the sooner you deliver the food, the better impression your customers will have. However, if your delivery time exceeds 60 minutes, customers are likely to order from another time.
There are 3 main factors that can affect how quickly you can deliver:
Good arrangement & efficient process
If there is a process to prepare each dish in a short amount of time, you can reduce the time it takes to prepare & package dishes for your clients.
Every business is only as strong as its employees. Good training for your employees on customer service, standardized processes and operation of IT systems is a fundamental prerequisite for success.
Reliable platform to support both mentioned above
To support your employees and notify them in the shortest possible time, businesses need to have reliable automated systems
6. Prepare a discount/voucher for free shipping
Ordering food is often an emotional decision. Customers compare many options and if they don’t have any experience with restaurants, they tend to compare, which restaurant offers their food at a better price, with cheaper/faster delivery or any extras (free drinks/desserts).
Here are some basic tips on how to create your promotions, coupons & shipping strategy:
People don’t like paying for shipping. It is good to set a minimum order value and if it is exceeded, offer free shipping. Take a look at the average order price and set this limit slightly higher than that – you can expect you’ll start receiving slightly higher orders too.
Set up discounts & promotions for your returning customers to entice them to order from you again.
Gather information about birthdays & special occasions. Customers always enjoy some little extras (small gifts – desserts) on their birthdays, or e.g. on women’s day.
7. Make sure your restaurant updates the changes that are visible on Google
You can’t ignore your status on Google – the world’s largest search tool. As Google informed in their post, you should make sure your customers have the latest information about your food business, following these steps:
Change working hours: Update the exact operating time when it is discussed open and close.
Mark “temporarily closed”: What matters is that if you mark “temporarily closed”, “Dining”, “Takeaway” or “Delivery” is not available on your profile. So don’t mark this status if you don’t offer this service.
Manage dining options to let your customers know whether your restaurant offers take-out or delivery.
Update your menu to attract more customers.
Make a post on the website to communicate with customers for information updates.
Use Google My Business so customers can easily contact you.
Find out more about this method in this post from Google about the COVID-19 food business adjustment.
8. Good quality images of your food are key
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” food lovers always have a good impression with a restaurant or coffee shop that has amazing pictures posted on Fanpage, Instagram, Website or App. This also applies to online food delivery – food with images is more likely to be picked by your hungry clients. Eat first!
However, clients are not looking for artistic and overly artificial images. It is not even advisable to use such an image, as it can cause a huge wave of disappointment. Customers want to see how big the portions are, how the ingredients look and more than likely, whether the food lives up to their expectations of what such a meal should be.
If you don’t have the budget for a professional photographer, that doesn’t mean you won’t have your food pictures online. Fortunately, there are many apps for smartphones to help you with this. VSCO is a classic app that you can consider. It comes with presets and tools that will take your photos to the next level. Remember that before taking any pictures, make sure your actual food, your draft is in the right order to take advantage of the lightning.
What will happen next?
As can be expected, safety measures around COVID-19 are not going to slow down any time soon. Maintaining business operations in tough times requires your efforts to act fast & adapt new solutions to keep up with daily changes in the market. However, even during a crisis, people need to eat every day – and that is good news for all restaurants, cafes, bakeries. Your customers are still there, you just need to approach them as dramatically as you used to.