It’s happened. As of 23rd of March, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has closed dine-in for restaurants and cafes. For those already struggling with the already dramatically reduced trade, this is another hard blow. It’s also the start of a new landscape that you must adapt to – right now.
Coronavirus will be with us for many months to come, and although it’s tough, the only real way forward at this point is to see the further rise and rise of home delivery as an opportunity.
Even tougher lockdowns are likely coming, so what are your options?
You were likely already feeling your margins being squeezed by UberEats and Deliveroo’s ridiculously high commissions. Although a recent petition has asked that they give Aussie businesses a break during this crisis, the companies’ responses seem to announce to a fob-off. With this shift to delivery only, you are going to be finding it even harder to turn a profit from each sale, so this isn’t the ideal channel to focus your efforts.
Your other way forward gives you both more power and potentially more profit – that is, providing your own delivery service. This is something many restaurants and cafes have resisted because of the hassle factor in having to compete with these big online platforms as a destination for those looking, but the reality is you now have little choice.
The “good” news for restaurant and cafe owners is that people are increasingly trapped at home, unable to get even the basic food staples from Woolies, and browsing through social media. So if you can make a few simple choices correctly, you will be able to a) stake your claim on the growing online trade that’s out there, and b) actually come out of this crisis stronger, not weaker.
Let’s talk you through how to do that. There are basically 2 parts to this – your online shopfront in the form of your own website that can process orders, and of course, a method for grabbing people before they think about cruising Deliveroo or UberEats – social media. We will deal with the second one first, as it poses the bigger challenge.
STAKING YOUR OWN CLAIM: DOING SOCIAL MEDIA RIGHT
You should have been doing this anyway; and hopefully you have been: Posting to Instagram and Facebook especially. Monitoring your reviews on Zomato and Google. Doing so means the difference between barely breaking even and absolutely thriving. Only a few blocks from my home, there are 2 middle eastern restaurants. One has ok food while the other can only be described as sublime. I wouldn’t go back to the “just ok” one, but you know what? It has a queue, day and night. Because of Instagram. They have SMASHED it, and their biggest issue is literally turning the covers as fast as they can manage. UberEats is irrelevant to these guys because they are a name that transcends other choices.
And this should be one of your key marketing goals in any business – making such a name for yourself that people will search you out, not wade through a list of options and arbitrarily select you from one of many on a platform. It’s hard to turn a profit when you’re just a commodity.
Be known while controlling your marketing and delivery channels? With this combo, you can wave goodbye to 3rd party platforms, and being limited to deliveries and takeaways isn’t so much of a crisis…
So, Instagram & Facebook. To do this, you need some time, some skill, and a little cash for boosting your posts to reach your target customers.
SOCIAL’S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS, NOT JUST FOOD
Recently, I spoke about how all Aussie businesses are going to have to change their relationship with their customers in order to survive and thrive the Coronavirus, and laid out how you also need to change your means of selling to them. Those principles apply to hospo, so do check it out.
In your case, in a way, you need to let go of food for the moment. Sure, you are selling food, but like anyone in business, you’re selling a payoff. An experience. You’re also selling value and ease of access. You’re selling friendship. Reliability & dependability. In times like these, people are hungry for these things, not just the food that makes up their order. And all of these things can be teased, promised and sold on social media, proactively.
Because the surface need is to give your customers’ literal need of a meal, but their deeper hunger is all these other, far more powerful subconscious desires. This is Marketing 101, and it’s by fulfilling these that you create loyalty, and return custom.
So you need to do more than post pretty pictures of your food on social. You must connect your food to everything else that people want in the messages that go along with it. You must reflect these payoffs in your offers.
Nuts and bolts? Thrash this out internally, or with someone like us. What’s your vision? Write it down in as many bullet points as you can, and express that in as many posts as you can. Get blogging. Post shots of great food and your great staff along with messages that make you unique. As I always say to anyone in business, if it’s quiet, and you or any of your team don’t have work to do, it immediately becomes their job to help generate that work. So put them to work doing so; EVERY SHIFT; and get yourself out there!
The other part of this is the boosts. If you do a wide variety of posts, and give them a mild boost to your local target demographics, you will soon see what people respond to. Do whatever is working, while keeping a decent strategic mix of messaging. If you do digital marketing right, you will find that you will get more and more presence in your target market. (We’ve had cases where clients have increased their inbound custom by more than 800% in short periods of time!)
Again, the good news is that you have real needs on your side – people need to eat, and grocery shopping is a nightmare.
YOUR WEBSITE MUST EVOLVE
I’m just going to say this. Most hospitality websites suck. They always seem to be made by a “designer” with no view to practical marketing realities, or are made by someone’s friends son (not great), or by some guy who offered a cheap deal on Fiverr (even less great).
The result being that it is tricky and expensive to tool your site to what it needs to be – a hub for all your social marketing, which absolutely must include blogging and other content on your website. Critically, it’s the right content posted to your site in the right way that makes sure that when someone on their phone types in “thai restaurant newstead”, or whatever, they find YOU. (Well, assuming you’re a Thai restaurant in Newstead – hello Ruean Phae Thai if you’re reading – I love your work!) But jokes aside, it’s your website plus the amount of positive information of different types (including reviews), that adds up to an unbeatable presence. When someone says “I feel like X tonight”, you simply need to be found.
You also obviously need it to be an online ordering portal for takeaway and delivery (now), and bookings (when you’re allowed to again); thus again bypassing the need for UberEats and Deliveroo. You want this to hook up to a POS system and the payment portals of your choice. The more fluid the better.
Essentially, you need your customers to be able to browse your menu from their phone, choose by sight, not from a list wherever possible. Check out Dominos for a great example of a site that meets the market. You want to onsell and upsell, and capture your visitors for later remarketing via cheap online ads, social media and eDM’s. The good news is that all of this is possible, and the cost doesn’t have to be exorbitant. It just needs to be executed properly.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
If I were in your boots right now, if you’re not on UberEats and/or Deliveroo, I’d be thinking about getting your eatery onto one of them as an immediate stopgap, while very quickly rolling on a social media presence, as it will take time to grow that. In the meantime, audit your website. Does it do what I’ve outlined above? If not, seriously consider what can be done to upgrade or replace it so that you have something that’s fit for purpose moving forward, as YOUR WEBSITE IS NOW YOUR SHOPFRONT for the foreseeable future. Again, this will likely be dragging on for months, and bunkering down doesn’t work. It’s time to re-tool.
The right developers should be able to get you up and running with the right solution pretty fast, and then you can run all your social through that. If you need ANY help with any of that, don’t hesitate to call Ronin for a free consult. We do all of the above, and have been helping people since years before the GFC (another “fun” time!) – we’re always happy to point Brissy business owners in the right direction – and that goes double in times like these.
All the best, Kurt.