At Rewards Network, nothing matters more to us than our customers. We’re in constant contact with the thousands of restaurants in our network—absorbing their challenges, offering insight, and celebrating their innovations. We’re also closely following their successes so we can gain a better understanding of what strategies are working today.
In a time where business is anything but usual, we’ve highlighted a few Rewards Network customer success stories to provide some inspiration. Hopefully, this can help spark some ideas on new marketing tactics and revenue streams you can incorporate and adapt your restaurant business model in the short term, and beyond.
Changing the business model
Many restaurants have been closed for in-house dining for about a month now, and those that remain open have shifted exclusively to takeout and delivery. In addition to refining and optimizing the takeout/delivery process, many restaurants have found success by expanding their offerings.
Some restaurants who have full access to their suppliers are adding grocery store items to their “menu.” From grocery bundle bags featuring basic staples to restaurant-quality steaks and seafood, customers are ordering items on their grocery list directly from restaurants.*
For example, Corner Butcher Shop, in La Verne, California, is selling fresh meat directly to consumers, including steak cooked to order.
To supplement their takeout and delivery business, some restaurants have created specialized meal kits—complete with cooking instructions—for their fans. From teaching folks how to cook the perfect steak, bake the perfect chocolate chunk cookies, or build a charcuterie board, selling these kits can help you move product and stay top-of-mind with your customers.
The Allegheny Wine Mixer (AWM) in Pittsburgh is offering care packages for curbside pickup filled with a “dealer’s choice” of AWM goods: cheese, nuts, meats, tapenades, brownies, and more. The care package also includes a bottle of wine, and customers can choose from red, white, rosé, or sparkling.
Using social media to engage with customers
Maintaining the emotional bond between your restaurant and customers, especially when they aren’t able to physically dine in your restaurant, is important. One cost-effective and powerful way to keep your customers connected and engaged is by creating social media incentives and contests.
Many restaurants are using their social accounts to share a variety of incentives for customers who place takeout orders from their establishments. These can range from the expected, like gift cards, to humorous (yet in-demand) products, like toilet paper. Whether practical or simply amusing, these type of extra incentives can help keep your restaurant top of mind with you customers.
90 Miles Cuban Café, which has three locations in Chicago, is offering a free CAFECITO exclusively to first responders who place a takeout order. While that does limit the number of customers who can take advantage of the offer, it also shows a commitment to the people who are putting themselves on the front lines during our current crisis, which should earn them goodwill from current and potential customers.
With takeout and delivery being the new normal (for now), some restaurants are encouraging customers to share photos and videos of themselves enjoying their takeout or delivery meals at home by using hashtags or tagging the restaurant. Some establishments are even encouraging customers to host virtual dinner parties and share their experiences online. It’s a feel-good boost for both your staff and your customers and lets you feel like you’re still together, even when apart.
Learning and adapting
There’s no question that this global pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for restaurants. But it’s also inspired many owners to innovate and adapt their restaurant business model. Restaurants able to brainstorm new revenue streams and marketing strategies now can not only boost their odds of surviving this crisis, they’ll also be able to conduct valuable testing to learn what marketing tactics might work best for them as life starts returning to some state of normalcy.
For more marketing ideas you can use during the COVID-19 era, download our free e-tool: “Coronavirus Era: 13 Restaurant Marketing Tips.”
*State and local laws vary, especially during these fast-changing times. Please check with your local advisors before implementing any new course of action.