The hospitality industry is fundamentally about making connections, and during this unprecedented time, it is vitally important to keep in touch with your guests. Due to COVID-19, dine-in options are virtually non-existent and social distancing is happening worldwide. But people are craving connection just as much as they are craving a dinner out, so now is the time to flex your social media muscles to communicate with your guests directly.
We spoke with social media marketing expert Clay McDaniel, who’s spent his career advising brands large and small on how to best communicate with their clients. McDaniel is currently the CEO of Ripl, a content creation app built to help small businesses without huge marketing budgets or advanced editing skills. Ripl has helped over three million small businesses quickly and easily create polished, professional-looking images and videos to post to their social media accounts. Together we’ve compiled recommendations and resources to keep your guests updated and your restaurant top of mind.
Speak In Your Voice
You’re making a lot of hard decisions right now, and it can be challenging to communicate your thoughts publically. However, it is vitally important that you continue to reach out to your team and your customers. Be authentic to your concept and speak in your own voice.
McDaniel says you don’t need professional photography or videos to just get started. “What matters much more is an authentic presence — a presence that's personal. Your photography and videos should show that it's your food, it's your craft, and it's your passion. Highlight a customer or staff member, or tell your origin story and what led you to your cuisine and passion for being an entrepreneur. Those are the things that really cement the kind of emotional bond of a customer and create loyalty for you.”
First, ensure that you’ve written a message to your guests about any changes and published it on the homepage of your website, your social media channels, and via e-blast. Include information about reinforced safety protocols that are in place, delivery/takeout options, and donations/gift cards. Easy navigation is key: Make sure your guests can easily find your takeout menu, delivery links, online shop, and any other places where they can support your restaurant. Then branch out into other content by utilizing the talent of your team. Post how-to videos, live demos, and recipes. For example, share your restaurant’s playlist and wine recommendations to enjoy alongside your carry-out dinner for four.
Happy Cooking Hospitality in NYC is doing a great job of keeping its guests informed using its own images and style, including a call to action in its communications.
Simplify Your Text, Get Creative with Your Images and Video
With circumstances changing each day and news about the crisis being pumped out at a monumental rate, logging onto social media platforms and trying to stay updated can feel like trying to take a sip from a fire hose for your guests. Separate yourself from the noise by keeping your message simple and putting pertinent information at the forefront.
“Whereas previously you might have shown a variety of images or your whole menu, right now you need to be very specific,” recommends McDaniel. “Pick a hero dish or something that's a specialty of your business and restaurant, and feature it in your social media. Put your telephone number or your web address directly on the post and give directions about your preferred contact method. You have the permission right now to be very specific and direct with your customers.”
Once you’ve decided on the message, get creative with delivery. Ripl offers easy to use templates to make your posts stand out and increase engagement. McDaniel strongly recommends using short video clips instead of static images to get longer view times and a higher response rate. “In terms of both likes and comments, short videos receive eight to ten times more view time than a still image. That little extra bit of attention and engagement really does count, particularly for small businesses. Whereas most small businesses might only use a short video for one out of every 10 or 15 posts would be a short video, we recommend that you go for a ratio more like three or four to one.”
Here’s a checklist of places to update to ensure your guests are informed:
- Google my Business
- Instagram, Facebook, Twitter
- A sign on the door
Although it can be tempting to branch out into the newest, trendiest social media platforms, ensure you’re posting in the places where your customers are most likely to be. If your clientele skews older, investing an afternoon teaching yourself the latest TikTok dance may not be the best way to focus your efforts.
That being said, if there are channels that your customers are using that you still haven’t tapped into, McDaniels says it’s worth doing to get your name out there. “We are seeing restaurants are posting take out specials on LinkedIn, a platform that they normally wouldn’t use. This is a moment where being in front of the most people you can if you're running a specific time bound offer or special, you want to put that in front of more people by being on more platforms than you would ordinarily.”
If you’re a Resy restaurant partner, we’ve also added a banner to your profile page that is a hub for all your links. Edit the links and customize your banner message by connecting with our support team at email@example.com.
Examples of restaurant websites getting it right:
To make the most of your social media efforts, it’s important to post frequently. Before the Covid-19 crisis, Ripl recommended at least three posts per week on Facebook and one or two posts per day on Instagram. But because the dining landscape is changing so rapidly and news updates are frequent, Ripl has seen their food and beverage clients post 20-30% more in the past few weeks. If you get stuck on what to post, Ripl provides daily recommendations with special design templates for pictures or videos.
A pro tip from McDaniel is to time your daily posts 30 minutes to an hour before meal time. “Then you’ll have a higher likelihood of showing up in the feed for people as they're entering their lunch or dinner time. If they’re scrolling and they see your post about a special deal or offer on a dish, they'll be in that hungry state of mind and will be more likely to reach out and place an order.”
It’s also essential to put in the time to engage with your followers. “The nature of social media is that it's social,” says McDaniel. “Post at least once a day and try different things to engage, like commenting and liking your guests’ responses and interacting with other businesses and restaurants that you admire and respect. The more that you're social and engaging, and the more frequently you're posting about your experience as a small business owner, the more likely you are to get the kind of impact and benefit back from your customer base.”
Advocate for Your Team, Your Business, and the Businesses in Your Community
Your guests miss you and want to support you, so recruit them to advocate for your business and employees.
Many restaurants have set up relief funds for employees who are out of work using fundraising platform GoFundMe. If you chose to create your own fund, ensure the donation link is prominent on your website and social media channels. Also, let us know so we can add it to your Resy profile.
Now is also a great time to show other restaurants in your community some love. McDaniel recommends tagging or linking to other businesses and organizations to demonstrate support and advocacy in your city and region. By sending out that good karma into the universe and giving others that gift of that social media visibility, that gift will come back to you as you form bonds in your community and maximize your exposure.
There are also regional organizations dedicated to revitalizing the restaurant industry. Implore your guests to sign petitions, reach out to their congresspeople, and donate to relief for hospitality workers.
Some examples include:
Promote alternative revenue streams outside the walls of your dining room. Offer online gift cards through your web provider or POS system. Link to your online shop and sell some merchandise! You can include an incentive or add donation items like buying meals for healthcare workers.
“This is a moment in time where we all have permission to really express ourselves and ask for what we need and want to keep our businesses vital and viable,” concludes McDaniel. “So get out there and publish. Ask for the help that you need from your customers right now and keep going.”
Resy Pro Tips
- Speak in your own voice: Be authentic to your concept and your team.
- Stay consistent: Post frequently and engage with followers.
- Your website should be home base: Make it easy to find updates and links.
- Promote alternative revenue streams: Offer take-out, delivery, gift cards, and merch.
**For help creating polished, branded images and video content to post on your social media channels to let guests know the various ways they can support and dine with you, consider this limited time offer from Ripl.