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For restaurant and bar owners, the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has been nothing short of an epic disaster. It’s not just that they’ve had to deal with a dizzying array of new rules and restrictions that seem to change by the month – it’s also that they’ve seen their business shrink dramatically as potential restaurant-goers stay home. Convincing people to dine outdoors during the winter is a huge challenge. The silver lining in this dark cloud, however, is that social media has turned into a lifeline of sorts, enabling many to connect with new customers and provide different types of online experiences. Here are just a few of the ways restaurant owners are using social media to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
Updating profile pages for new dining and menu options
This one is a no-brainer, really. Social media provides an incredibly cheap, flexible and dynamic way to inform potential customers about dining hours, dining options, and new service options (e.g. contactless curbside delivery). If your kitchen is still open for business, but you are only providing pickup and home delivery options via a service like GrubHub, then an online menu is now essential in order to make it easy for people to order online from home.
Setting up a good profile page on social media has always been important, but the changing dimensions of the coronavirus pandemic has made this imperative. If you are offering special dining hours for at-risk populations (such as elderly diners), or have instituted new COVID-19 cleaning measures, this is also a great place to start reassuring customers that their health and safety (and not your dollars) are what matters most.
Curating outdoor dining and live event experiences
Even if customers aren’t coming directly to your premises to dine indoors, there are still plenty of ways to connect with them over social media. Live events hosted outdoors, for example, could be an effective strategy for bars and pubs looking to keep up with fans of local sports teams. This year, a number of Philly-area bars and restaurants have set up televisions and projectors outside for watching games outdoors throughout the Eagles football season.
And what better way to showcase these events than with social media? Even if your bar or restaurant cannot offer outdoor dining or drinking experiences, don’t forget about the power of other “live” events to build a sense of community. There are a number of different platforms – especially Facebook and Instagram – that make it very easy to go live at a moment’s notice. This could be a unique way, for example, to showcase a celebrity chef or an award-winning menu item.
Tapping into location-based ads
If your restaurant is not getting the organic reach that it wants on social media, there’s always the option to experiment with location-based ads. Take Facebook, for example. If a potential customer is near your establishment while using Facebook, it’s possible to show that person a Facebook ad for your business. It’s all due to the magic of geo-targeting, in which you can essentially set a perimeter around your restaurant and ensure that anyone walking by can be geo-targeted with any ad. Who knows? Maybe the person out and about walking his or her dog in Center City has been debating what to have for lunch that day. If you can serve up a relevant ad at the right time (e.g. a 20% discount on a Philly cheesesteak), you might just land a new customer.
Of course, this is just the beginning of how restaurants are using social media to sell food during the coronavirus pandemic. In some cases, they are using social media to collaborate with other chefs and bartenders in order to generate more foot traffic in a certain neighborhood or block of the city. In other cases, they are playing up social media-specific spaces or culinary creations that will look great on Instagram.
But while they may differ in their approach to social media, one thing restaurant owners do have in common is a passion for the “social” aspect of the restaurant experience, be it takeout, delivery, inside or outside.