In these uncertain and challenging times, restaurant marketing may be on the back of most operator’s to-do list. Yet, for those able to implement a delivery program, or increase these services, it is the one opportunity at hand that can keep the doors open and at least some of your staff employed. Some restaurants are even paying their servers to deliver food so that they can continue to earn an hourly wage and tips. For this reason, we’ve focused the following marketing strategies on increasing delivery awareness.
For restaurants unable to develop a delivery service on such short notice, continuing to offer pickup or curbside service is an option. The problem with this strategy is that, as the states continue to grow that are mandating “sheltering in place,” fewer customers will be willing to take to the deserted streets.
Before we address how to market your delivery program, we’d like to address options for those restaurants that did not have a delivery service set up before the in-house hospitality industry virtually closed due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Third-party delivery services often come with high fees—up to 30 percent. Several third-party delivery providers are offering their services at reduced rates during this current crisis. These include the following:
Grubhub is temporarily suspending up to $100 million in commission fees for “impacted independent restaurants.”
DoorDash is eliminating or reducing some commission fees for restaurants. According to CNBC, independent restaurants that sign up for DoorDash and Caviar will pay zero commissions on orders for 30 days. Current partners will not pay for pickup orders and delivery fees will be reduced. They are also providing $20 million for a restaurant marketing program in order to generate more revenue.
Uber Eats has waived delivery fees for independent restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have also committed to more than 300,000 free meals to healthcare workers and first responders.
Once you have a plan in place, consider these techniques for increasing your delivery and pickup orders. Hopefully, in addition to maintaining brand awareness and bringing in some income, it can help restaurants stay afloat until, and if, the federal and state governments come through for small businesses across the nation.
Online ordering is a restaurant customer’s new go-to, and the market’s largest segment is restaurant-to-consumer delivery. If it is currently unavailable, be sure to add an online order form. If you are only going to offer specific menu items for delivery, update your website with a delivery menu. Promoting new menu items that are exclusive to delivery entices customers, and creates a means of converting “lookers” to online customers.
Email & Social Media
Keep your establishment in the forefront of your customer’s minds by sending email blasts on a regular basis. Keep posts and videos updated on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. People will be spending more time online as their activities lessen and many find themselves homebound. While other businesses falter, video game purchases are on the rise.
If possible, use geographical targeting to get the information to customers within your delivery zone. Another way to draw customers in is to consider shows on television that have a strong following—and think about ways that you can connect these with your delivery or pickup menu. Many of your customers will be, after all, binge watching some of their favorite shows with the extra time they have on their hands. Is Survivor a big hit in your area? For those cities that allow liquor-to-go, maybe mai tais and jerk chicken with coconut rice are in order.
It’s also important to consider the time of day. Implementing a marketing plan that includes paid social media advertising can be particularly beneficial if you time your ads so that they appear shortly before the most popular times for pickup and delivery orders.
You’ll want to include incentives in your email blasts and social media platforms. Some restaurants are offering free delivery while others offer special discounts for those who order within a certain time frame. States, such as Wisconsin, are allowing delivery or pickup of alcohol when purchased with food, offering an opportunity for restaurants to offer pairing specials.
As we traverse through an uncertain time, it’s important to find opportunities that help us feel empowered. You may find that your new delivery program is one that you’ll carry over with you when in-house dining returns.