The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the fragile state of many businesses. In an effort to avoid bankruptcy and keep their doors open, many companies have pivoted to online marketing and sales, turning to platforms like Amazon and Craigslist to grow their businesses. Some savvy marketer or salesperson saw the opportunity and took the plunge, investing their money and their time to grow a business they could be proud of.
An entrepreneur I know started out of desperation during the pandemic. He had two restaurants, and he needed to keep them open for business. So, at the urging of a friend, he started an online marketing company to try and generate some income during these challenging times. He launched a website, created a social media account, and started posting on forums like Reddit and Quora to gain some traction. He then pivoted to create content calendars and squeeze pages so he could automate the process of generating leads.
While the world is slowly but surely trying to return to some semblance of normality, the pandemic has helped expose many businesses’ weaknesses. As someone who was fortunate enough to have a successful restaurant business before the pandemic, it pains me to see so many others struggling due to the virus. Thankfully, my friend’s business is now providing him with a steady stream of income during these challenging times, and he’s able to provide for his family. I’m proud to have contributed in some small way to my city’s economic resurgence by helping my friend with his business.
The Rise of Online Marketing and the Effect on Restaurant Sales
The restaurant industry as we know it was changed forever by the pandemic. In an effort to protect their customers and their employees, many restaurants were forced to close down. Those that remained open had to implement measures to ensure the safety of their patrons. They couldn’t serve food to everyone that wanted it, so they had to make choices. And what choice did they make? They chose to serve food from home.
According to the Harvard Business Review, around 40% of American restaurants will close their doors for good in the next six months. In an effort to save them, we’re seeing restaurants transform themselves into mini food processing factories, using every bit of free space to make their own food at home. During these trying times, people are looking for ways to reduce their stress levels, and that means they’ll be having more dining out experiences than ever before.
With more people opting to eat out at home, the demand for restaurants to provide meals through online marketing channels soared. People want their food fast, but they also want it fresh. So, if a restaurant cannot provide those things, what can they offer? Convenience.
While it’s great that so many restaurants were able to provide food for their customers during the pandemic, the change in industry that occurred as a result of the pandemic has left many restaurants in a bit of a limbo. They no longer have the traditional dining out experience, but they also don’t want to be associated with a lost cause, especially when it comes to hiring and training new employees. As a result, many restaurants are stuck in a bit of a holding pattern, trying to figure out what they should be doing next.
Here are some of the major changes that came as a result of the pandemic and how they affect the restaurant industry:
For those that were able to maintain a dining out experience during the pandemic, the trend continues. People are now eating out at home more than ever before, leading to a change in the way restaurants should be marketing themselves. Instead of focusing on the ambiance or the food, marketers should now be thinking about the experience, as much as the food itself.
This is especially important for those looking to attract Millennials, Gen Z, and other digitally influenced consumers. If a restaurant serves fresh food and offers a friendly service experience, they stand a chance at being chosen by this group.
Just because people are eating out of home doesn’t mean they’re only consuming food. This is a digital world we live in, and people are consuming content across multiple platforms. This change in behavior has led to a rise in consumers looking for brands and businesses they can trust, which means marketers need to be looking for ways to reach this audience across multiple platforms.
Eating out of home is typically a solitary activity, but marketing through digital channels encourages people to interact with brands. Those that use these media effectively can maximize their reach to a massive audience, creating a platform for growth.
It’s no secret that restaurants have a lot of overhead. They need to pay for labor, rent, utilities, and waste removal. All of these costs add up, making it difficult for restaurants to make a profit. Thanks to the pandemic, those costs have declined, as fewer people are working, and those that are working are getting paid less, as employers are trying to be more efficient.
This has allowed restaurants to have some cost-cutting measures, such as cutting back on staff hours and reducing food waste. Employing remotely-located staff means businesses can reduce their expenses, without having to lay off any of their employees. Customers still want their food fast, so the business will need to find a way to make the experience as good as possible, even if they have to work remotely.
Small Businesses, Big Impact
Because restaurants have to generate a profit to stay afloat, they have to be thinking about how they can reduce costs, as we’ve discussed. One of the ways they can do this is by increasing sales, without having to rely on marketing spend. This is why businesses like his have been able to succeed during these trying times, as they’re now able to capitalize on the demand for meals delivered directly to consumers’ homes.
Marketing is a critical part of any business, and restaurants should not shy away from investing in marketing. But, they should now be relying on tactics that allow them to generate sales, without having to sink so much money into advertisements. Small businesses often have limited resources, and they need to find ways to generate income. Using online marketplaces to their advantage allows them to do this, as these platforms allow them to target potential customers, engage them, and convert them into paying customers. Plus, many platforms offer free trial offers, so businesses can enter the arena uninhibited.
Where Do You Fit In?
The pandemic has led to some major changes in our society and the way we live our lives. People are now more reliant on their smartphones and other digital devices, as society tries to return to some semblance of normalcy. While this is good for businesses that provide tech-related services, it means fewer people are going to be visiting restaurants, especially those that offer an old-school dining experience.
Luckily for the restaurants, many people are finding ways to have fun and stay connected while practicing social distancing, leading to a possible rise in leisure dining and a potential boon for businesses that provide this experience. If a restaurant is able to capture and maintain the interest of their customers, even if it’s just for a few nights a week, then they’ll be able to survive and even thrive in this new world.