How Restaurants Should Communicate with Customers During COVID-19

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Having consistent, regular communication will go a long way in ensuring you don’t lose your audience.

How Restaurants Should Communicate with Customers During COVID-19

By Saleem S. Khatri, CEO of Lavu and MenuDrive - 05/21/2020

Because consumers’ email inboxes are full of updates related to the global pandemic, it’s essential that your restaurant’s communications break through the clutter. Customers have questions and concerns that you need to address, including whether you’re open or not, if you’re offering delivery, and how you’re keeping your customers safe. In order to continue connecting with your customers, here are a few keys to effectively communicating throughout this pandemic.

Keep Branding Consistent

There are various communication channels you’re likely communicating your brand through - these include email, social media, texts, and even signage on your building. Regardless of the method, make sure your branding remains the same. Changing your branding during this time can hinder your continued success. You want to keep things consistent with how you operated before the pandemic to keep your customers comfortable.

Utilize Email

Consumers’ inboxes are being flooded, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t email. It just means you need to pay attention to your subject lines in order to cut through. When emailing customers, try to avoid the much-overused “COVID-19 Update” subject line that will likely get ignored. Instead, rephrase it to something like, “Yes, We’re Open,” or, “How to Support Local Restaurant Workers.” Make sure your emails reflect you are taking the pandemic seriously. Communicate in specific, clear terms by keeping the body of the email focused on the subject with a quick open and a few supporting sentences. Try closing with an expression of gratitude, share a local resource for your customers, or link to the guidelines from the government being followed.

Continue Sharing on Social Media

Now is not the time to neglect your social media accounts. Keep posts rolling on your accounts, but make adjustments to reflect the changes in policies. Share specials that customers can order online or offer to-go deals. Link to your online ordering or your menu so they know they can still order their favorites. If you lack a social media presence, now would be a great time to get started to show your restaurant is still in action. It is important to keep an eye out for questions from customers that come through social media as well.

Talk to Your Loyalty Members

If you have a loyalty program, there are opportunities to communicate directly with members. Send regular communication to them and share ways they can support your businesses. Ask these customers for feedback on how you can best serve them. You can also share exclusive offers for loyalty members. 

Be Timely

Customers are going to be extra cautious during this time. That will likely lead to increased comments on social media, phone calls, and emails. Try to address any questions or concerns as quickly as possible, even if it is a message saying you will get back to them. It is best to respond within 24 hours. Be sure your responses are genuine and express your gratitude for their business. 

Update, Update, Update

The number one question customers will have if you are still open is, “What are your hours?” You have to communicate this beyond just a paper sign taped to your door. Ensure your website and social media profiles are up-to-date with your new hours. Whatever online medium you post on, be sure to update your hours there, and don’t forget to check your Yelp and Google pages as well.

Cite the Professionals 

When communicating about subjects like the pandemic, remember you are not the expert. Cite those who are, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Show your customers you are following the recommendations of these experts.

At the end of the day, customers want to know how they can access your restaurant safely. The key to surviving this pandemic is communicating with customers regularly. Having consistent, regular communication will go a long way in ensuring you don’t lose your audience that you spent so much time building up. By keeping them in the loop, you will set yourself up for success when things open back up.

 

About the Author

Saleem S. Khatri is the CEO of Lavu and MenuDrive, a restaurant management platform and white-labeled online ordering platform.