As the Social Content Manager for Resy, I spend a lot of my time thinking about how I can best communicate who we are to diners all over the world through our Instagram posts. Before landing here, I spent several years working for public relations and social media agencies, finding the best copy, images, and videos to represent my restaurant clients. Although it can feel like the social platform landscape gets more crowded every day (I’m still learning TikTok), Instagram is still the best app to showcase the look and feel of your restaurant and its offerings to diners. So, if you're a Resy restaurant partner, click here to learn how to setup the Resy + Instagram integration before reading on.
With punishing curfews, bans on households mixing indoors and overall capacity limits, the hospitality sector has had to look for new ways to attract customers back to their dining rooms, with a mixture of the physical — outdoor heaters and rainproof canopies, for example — and financial. Speaking to the latter, pricing psychology principles can help draw attention to your business’s offerings, entice guests and boost revenue.
But using pricing strategies on your menu can be just like using salt in your kitchen — the right amount is great, but overdoing it can be catastrophic to your product. We’ve compiled the pros, cons, and best practises for three pricing strategies that you can start using today.
Events Manager Hilary Neville had been planning for a banner year of special events at Woods Hill Pier 4, a sustainable eatery with gigantic glass windows overlooking the harbor in Boston’s Seaport District. “When we first opened in November 2019, our holiday season was booming,” says Neville. “We had tons of large corporate events and several weddings on the books for 2020.” Designed specifically with private events in mind, Woods Hill Pier 4, the third restaurant from restaurateur Kristin Canty and executive fhef Charlie Foster, offered a dramatic backdrop and modular spaces for celebrations from 10 to 200 guests.
But when Boston’s lockdown measures were put in place in March, Neville scrambled to cancel dozens of booked engagements. Due to their high price point and elegant style of fine dining, the team decided setting up takeout or delivery would be more trouble than it was worth and opted to close down the restaurant. In a familiar scene across the country, all employees filed for unemployment and existing food reserves were pickled, frozen, or cooked down for staff family meals.
When Boston restaurants were allowed to re-open for indoor dining on June 22, the team got back to work serving their signature whole animal cuisine with ingredients sourced directly from Canty’s 260-acre farm in New Hampshire. Since indoor dining was still an uncomfortable prospect for many and total capacity inside was limited due to table spacing mandates, the restaurant seized on the opportunity to welcome diners back to their scenic patio in the warmth of a New England summer.
But just as inevitable as the arrival of Bill Belichick’s cutoff sweatshirt, the summer quickly turned to a colorful but chilly New England fall. Woods Hill Pier 4 was challenged with how to bring in revenue as patio season waned. The team started by exploring the possibility of tenting their entire outdoor space. “We were working with a local company with the hopes of having a tented, heated space that could go through the winter season,” says Neville. “But the cost was just too prohibitive for us to make any money by the time it was going to be set up.”
We know restaurants are looking for ways to boost earnings, which is why we’ve provided resources on menu engineering, consumer sentiment data and trends, and a tool to measure the viability of potential new revenue streams. To ensure you see a return on your investments, keep your diners informed and aware of the different ways they can take advantage of your offerings. Alex Johnson, Email Marketing Manager for Resy, says email marketing campaigns are essential tools for any restaurant’s operations, especially during the pandemic. “Right now, more than ever, people have a lot of questions,” says Johnson. “Putting answers in writing in an email can keep your loyal customers informed and is a very cost-effective way to increase booked reservations and traffic to your restaurant.” Johnson gives us her best tips and tricks for starting an email marketing program, providing engaging content, crafting effective subject lines, using images to your advantage, and leveling up with segmentation and personalization.
Restaurant operators have to monitor dozens of details on a day-to-day basis to keep their locations running smoothly. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown even more elements into the mix, from coordinating off-premise dining options to ensuring the safety of staff and guests. It can be difficult to take a break to think about anything else but the daily mandatory tasks.
But staying updated on larger trends within the restaurant industry can help you anticipate and adapt for what’s next in dining during the pandemic. The American Express Insights Team looked at curated data from external sources to compile a list of trends and insights to help you make decisions for your restaurant in the coming months.
Husband and wife sommelier team Chris Gaither and Rebecca Fineman first linked up at the Advanced Sommelier exam in 2012. Their early dates included sharing their dreams of one day opening a space together. They both went on to achieve individual success with Fineman becoming the 25th female Master Sommelier in the United States, and Gaither being named a Best New Sommelier by Wine and Spirits magazine.
Six years, marriage, and one baby later, the pair opened their dream restaurant and bottle shop, Ungrafted in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, with a focus on wine education, community involvement, and a family-friendly environment. They began offering weekly wine classes at the shop in April 2019, bringing in anywhere from a handful to a dozen people for blind tastings and regional surveys every Sunday. With class names like “Level Up!: Central Italy” and “Power Hour: Think Pink!”, Ungrafted aims to inject celebration and inclusivity into their class offerings.
When the pandemic first hit San Francisco in mid-March, Ungrafted was allowed to stay open due to its status as a wine retailer, and thus its classification as an essential business. While they drastically reduced their hours, Gaither wanted to ensure his staff was still able to earn an income. “We are dedicated to taking care of our staff, especially those that couldn’t receive unemployment,” says Gaither. “So we offered a very limited menu for takeout and had them come back to work to keep them getting paid and keep them busy.”
But the amount of revenue from takeout wasn’t going to be enough to sustain the business alone. At the end of March, the team moved their signature weekly wine classes to an online virtual format through Resy At Home. “People were very excited about it, and it was easy to set up on Resy because I was already dealing with table inventories at the restaurant,” says Gaither. The team quickly saw attendance skyrocket, starting with 19 attendees at the first virtual event to a peak of 75 attendees just a few weeks later.
Nearly every virtual event they’ve held since the pandemic began has had 2 to 3 times more attendees than any of their previous in-person events. From April through July of this year, Ungrafted generated 580% more in event ticket sales than they did during the same period last year. “Our classes are more successful virtually than they’ve ever been before,” says Gaither. “While the classes weren’t necessarily our main business focus before COVID-19, they’ve become one of the staples of our business and account for a significant portion of our revenue.”
Named the #1 Best Restaurant in Atlanta by Atlanta Magazine in 2019, Southern spot Miller Union was flying high going into 2020. James Beard Award-winning executive chef Steven Satterfield and co-owner, general manager, and sommelier Neal McCarthy became well known for a brand of warm hospitality that catered to both everyday meals and major celebrations.
So when COVID-19 hit and they closed their dining room on March 15th, Satterfield and McCarthy scrambled to adapt and survive. They were grateful to be tapped by the Atlanta Hawks Foundation and State Farm to cook meals for frontline workers at Emory Healthcare’s hospital system for seven weeks, allowing them to keep their staff employed. But they knew that was only a short term fix while they planned for what was next.
“We targeted June 1st for our relaunch and spent the whole month of May in planning mode,” says Satterfield. “We were figuring out how to build more outdoor areas and create socially distanced spaces inside.” Cautiously optimistic that diners would return, the team was thrilled to see a good response when they reopened. “We were doing pretty well for June,” says Satterfield. “We did some takeout, but we were really focused on driving dine-in business.”
But the dine-in boom was short-lived when many southern states saw a spike in COVID-19 cases. “We started looking at more ways that we could push takeout because we felt like this is where we had to go in order to stay relevant,” says Satterfield.
As the dining landscape continues to evolve with the pandemic, telling the unique story of your restaurant is more important than ever. Public relations principles can help keep your guests informed, use the right tone, reach new markets, and get creative with new revenue streams. We spoke with three hospitality PR experts for their best advice for navigating the current landscape and keeping your business top of mind for guests.
Everyone’s a critic. While in some markets it can still take a local food writer up to a month after your grand opening to publish a well-researched review in the newspaper, that’s no longer the case in many places. Today, guests have multiple avenues to provide feedback from the moment you open your doors.