How restaurants can better assist customers during times of uncertainty

by Ryan Olohan

Restaurants are the heart of many communities. It’s where couples enjoy a date night, families celebrate taco Tuesday, and teams gather for postgame grub. But as the world grapples with how to respond to COVID-19, both national chains and independently owned restaurants are quickly strategizing to find new ways to serve their communities.

While I manage the Restaurant teams at Google as my “day job,” I am also a restaurant owner who is personally experiencing this crisis from the front lines. My wife and I opened Seven Scoops & Sips in 2019, and we donate a portion of our earnings to worthy causes. (Seven Scoops has been able to donate over $60,000 in the past nine months because of community support.) Before COVID-19, the store was packed every night because people knew that their purchase of ice cream, coffee, or acai bowl was helping to fund local schools and sports programs, cancer victims, homeless youth, children in need in Harlem, villagers in Kenya, and other local and global causes. The sting of this crisis is especially hard since now all funding is put on hold until the business can resume.

The pandemic presents unique challenges for Seven Scoops and the industry. And while the path forward depends on many variables, here are some strategies restaurants are adopting to support their customers in this unprecedented moment.

Help your customers plan and prepare

When uncertainty is top of mind, people are looking for information they can trust. This is even more evident when it comes to accessible and available food options nearby. “Take out” search interest has increased 285% since the start of March.1 Being there to help people navigate this new normal with up-to-date and relevant information can make all the difference.

Proactively communicating changes that affect your restaurant across customer-facing channels is crucial.

Proactively communicating changes that affect your restaurant across customer-facing channels is crucial in helping people plan and prepare. Updating your Business Profile on Google is one way to do this. Updates you make on your profile about your location, such as changes in your restaurant hours, including temporary closings or modified hours, will also appear on Google Search and Google Maps. And, at a time when people are assessing what best fits their needs, providing information, like whether you’re offering takeout or delivery, is a way you can help users decide what’s right for them.

Communicate takeout or delivery solutions effectively

For the last five years, “restaurants near me” consistently ranked as the most popular “near me” search.2 But consumer behavior has changed. The focus has shifted to alternative mealtime solutions. We’re seeing more consumer interest related to “delivery” in the last three weeks as a result of national guidance to shelter in place; search interest for “food delivery” related queries has spiked 100%.3

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Informing people of your alternate dine-out options helps customers and your employees remain safe during recommended social distancing periods. Solutions like Local campaigns can help you customize your communication to include only locations where you offer dine-out options.

Reassure strict restaurant safety and sanitation measures

Today, more than ever, when choosing where and what to eat, safety is paramount. In fact, search interest for “is food delivery safe” has increased 650% across the U.S. since the beginning of March.4 Reassuring customers that you understand the concerns for safety and are taking important steps to address the current situation is key.

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These actions include sharing updates on new implementations, like whether you’ve established a dedicated team to focus on food safety. Other examples may include applying more stringent cleaning procedures, increasing the frequency of hand-washing among staff, and updating training materials for employees.

Further, communicating your employee sick leave policy or addressing time off for ill employees is another way to show how you are minimizing the possibility of putting your workers and customers at risk.

In this challenging time, the last thing people want to worry about is meal options. By alleviating these concerns with relevant communication and safe, convenient choices, you’re providing the assistance they’ll remember and appreciate.

 

Go to our website:   www.ncmalliance.com

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