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Using Google and Social Media to help businesses communicate to their customers

How Restaurants can better assist customers during these challenging times

Restaurants, especially the ones in Aurora are the heart of our community. It’s where couples enjoy date night and Friday night happy hours, families celebrate special occasions, and where people go to watch their favorite sports teams and social over food and drinks. 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.

The pandemic presents unique challenges for restaurant, bar and food industry. And while the path forward depends on many variables, here are some strategies that restaurants and establishments offering food can adapt to support their customers in this unprecedented moment using Google and your business listing.

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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. (source: Google Trends, U.S., March 1, 2020–March 24, 2020. ). Being there to help people navigate this new normal with up-to-date and relevant information can make all the difference.

Communicate changes across the board that affect your restaurant to customers via your Google listing and social media channels

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.

Using Social Media to relay your story

1. Use stories
Stories are a feature on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. They allow users to capture and share content in real time that expires in 24 hours. Everyone is adjusting to a new normal when it comes to life and business, so feel empowered to use the stories feature to share recipe development for your takeout menu, cooking tutorials or a picture of your favorite dish.

2. Create a promotion specific to social media
Now is a great time to launch a special exclusively for social media users, especially as people turn to those channels to entertain and connect during lockdowns and social distancing. Take advantage of this unique, captive audience and offer something they can use now.

3. Go Live
Live video is another feature on Facebook and Instagram that allows you to creative video content and stream it to your audience in real time. We all know nothing beats real, face-to-face interaction, but while that’s not an option right now, you can use live video to engage with your customers.

4. Show support for those on the front lines of the pandemic
Now is a great time to use your restaurant’s community influence to thank essential workers, like those in healthcare, to generate some goodwill. Create a compelling graphic and encourage your followers to share.

5. Don’t forget to drive customers to your channels:
One reason restaurants are increasingly turning to social media is because those channels are easy to update every day. Use your website, email list, food packaging (think: stickers with your social media handles printed on them) and storefront signage, if foot traffic is applicable to your restaurant, to let your customers know you’re sharing things like new specials or contactless delivery instructions on Facebook or Instagram.

Relate your takeout or delivery solutions effectively

For the last five years, “restaurants near me” (source: Google Data, U.S., 2014–2019) consistently ranked as the most popular “near me” search. During the last month, consumer behavior has changed. The focus has shifted to alternative mealtime solutions. More consumers are interests are 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% (source: Google Trends, U.S., March 9, 2020–March 24, 2020). There also has been a 285% increase in the search for “Take-Out” (source: Google Trends, U.S., March 1, 2020–March 24, 2020).
Are you open? Are you closed? Curbside delivery only? Let your customers know. Even if you haven’t sent out an email before, this is the time to communicate the hours that you’re open to serve food, and, if you’re delivery only and how to get in touch to order—plus any contactless delivery options.

Communicate your restaurants 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 (source: Google Trends, U.S., March 1, 2020–March 24, 2020). Reassuring customers that you understand the concerns for safety and are taking important steps to address the current situation is key.
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.

Get creative

Some restaurants are offering family-style meals that customers can freeze. Others are creating special limited menus. Still others offer creative ways to engage, such as establishing a wine and cheese hotline so guests can find the best pairings at home. How can you rethink delivery? Your menu? What about healthy, immunity-building options? Highlight any new options in your mobile app, your online ordering site or by email.

Offer Gift Cards

Consider offering gift card promotions, such as buy $50 and get $10 free, or buy $100 and get $20 free. This can help you drive future revenue while building loyalty.

Ask for feedback 

When you talk to customers, ask them how you can serve them. Ask how you can make this time better, communicate better or establish better service. Consider using your social channels to offer coupons for future service or other rewards for their feedback.

Think with Google

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