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7 Ways Restaurants Can Engage with Customers Virtually

The rules of restaurant marketing have changed. Historically, foot traffic, PR, and word of mouth drove awareness and trial. Before a restaurant opened, customers would see the restaurant's build-out, they'd get excited as signs went up to hire line cooks and waitstaff, and lines would appear out the door for opening parties and events. Restaurants could focus on what they do best -- providing the utmost hospitality and diner experience and creating innovative, mouth-watering menu items.

In today's COVID-19 virtual restaurant environment, restaurateurs need to think about how to recreate special and unique experiences and ways to connect with their valued customers virtually. Seven strategies that have been successful are:

◼︎ Build a customer email list. The best way to engage with your customers free of charge is through email. Restaurants can use email to promote special offers, update customers on menu changes, and let them know when you will be back open for in-dining experiences. You can also use email lists to develop lookalike audiences (people who have similar characteristics to your existing customers) for online advertising.

◼︎ Develop at-home meal kits for families to cook at home. Consider offering videos or live events to connect with your customers and help them learn some cooking tips and tricks.

◼︎ Change your menu frequently and offer nightly specials. Give your customers a reason to visit your website and to engage with them by regularly updating the menu and offering nightly specials.

◼︎ Virtual meetups with delivery or pickup food and drink specials. Some engaging ideas are virtual singles happy hours and meetups, special guest live speaking events or music nights, holiday events, and kids cooking or baking tutorials.

◼︎ Include special signage and surprises with orders. Consider including personalized thank you notes, next purchase coupons to incentivize future orders and increase order frequency, adding small samples of items you think they'd like based on what they ordered.

◼︎ Ask for menu suggestions. Add a form on your site so customers can tell you what they'd like you to offer, send a survey to determine what customers want from you and what they'd like to see to increase order frequency and loyalty.

◼︎ Constantly ask for customer feedback about the order process, delivery process, food quality, and service. Set up a Net Promoter Score (NPS) email tied to every order to get feedback so you can continually monitor and improve customers' experience.

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