4 Social Media Lessons for Restaurants During COVID-19

For the restaurant industry, the new normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced major adaptation.

Right now, restaurants are facing immense uncertainty and unprecedented economic hardship. But social media, and the business it can drive, is a resource that should be taken advantage of now more than ever. For restaurants pushing forward with a new takeout- and delivery-focused business model, social media should be an integral part of that new strategy.

In Seattle, Addo, a restaurant specializing in tasting menus and experiences, has not only stayed afloat through the pandemic but increased revenue and hired five new staffers after seeing increasing demands.

How?

An awesome social media strategy. “Get an Instagram account, take pictures of your point of view of things, and just share what you’re going through,” Addo owner Eric Rivera told Wired.

Here are four reasons restaurants should up their social media game right now:

1. With so many restaurants closed, consumers are looking for new options. 

Nationwide, only about 54% of restaurants are offering takeout or other off-premises food services. So there are lots of hungry customers, especially those whose favorite restaurants are closed, seeking new options — and social media is the best channel to get in front of them. MGH, a restaurant marketing agency, recently reported that nearly 50 percent of U.S. diners say they’ve tried a new restaurant because of a social media post placed by the business.

It’s well worth the effort to post quality social media content: photos, videos, or even links to your menu and ordering platform, if you have one. Social media is the best channel to broadcast to your existing customers that you’re still there to serve them while also reaching new potential guests.

2. People know restaurants are struggling, and they want to help. 

About 30,000 restaurants across the country have shuttered, with over 110,000 more projected to close this month. This is the harsh, incredibly unfortunate reality our industry is facing.

But people are aware, and many want to do what they can to help. The best way to do so, of course, is to show support in the form of patronage. As communities rally around struggling restaurants, don’t be afraid to admit vulnerability. For consumers, what would normally be seen only as an advertisement is now also an opportunity to support a good cause.

3. Social media use is at all-time highs. 

Whether making paid buys or posting organically, social media has more exposure to offer than ever. Social media use is up, and paid-buy costs are down.

Some encouraging, current social media stats to chew on:

4. Social media is not only an engagement/advertising channel, but also the best place to communicate with your consumer base. 

With the help of small business counselor Mariko Lochridge, Los Angeles restaurant owner Hiroshi Yamauchi recently wrote his first social media post. In it, he let his customers know about his restaurant’s updated hours and thanked the community for its support. With over 200 reactions, the heartwarming post goes to show it’s never too late for a restaurant to take to social media to connect with customers.

Now more than ever, it’s important to let your customers know:

  • If and when you’re open. Many restaurants are closed, and most are operating at reduced hours. A simple social media post is a great way to let people know you’re still operating.
  • What you’re serving. Many restaurants have opted to serve a limited menu, especially those built for dine-in rather than takeout service, and many have expanded their offerings to include family meal kits to take home and prepare or serve.
  • The measures your staff is taking to ensure health and safety. Fortunately for restaurants and their customers, the risks of eating takeout are low-to-none, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Communicate this — and any extra health or safety precautions you’re taking — to your customers on social media so they can feel confident ordering from you.
  • That you appreciate and could use their support now more than ever.
  • Information about new ordering platforms.

As restaurants shift to takeout- and delivery-only business models, having the right tech platforms to service customers with seamless digital ordering experiences is vital. Many restaurant tech companies, including OneDine, are stepping up and helping restaurants by offering free services.

With OneDine’s Parking Lot Order & Pay technology, customers can order on their mobile devices and notify the restauant when they’ve arrived in the parking lot so food can be delivered to their vehicle. This feature is currently free as part of our #SaveOurRestaurants campaign.