How Non-Commercial Foodservice Operators Can Use Social Media to Stay Connected with Customers and Drive Take-Out Sales as Pandemic Uncertainties Remain
The non-commercial foodservice industry quickly recognized the importance of offering take-out services during the coronavirus pandemic. As the industry transitioned to serve customers in new ways, take-out has provided operators a safe way to continue generating revenue amid dining room closures, lost sales, and social distancing restrictions.
Maybe you’ve always offered a take-out menu, but it’s become front and center in recent months due to COVID-19 restrictions. Maybe take-out is completely new for your non-commercial foodservice operation. The common thread for everyone is staying connected. And take-out is the perfect tool for foodservice operators to keep in touch with their customers. But what’s the best way to let them know you’re available? By getting social while distancing!
Social media is powerful. It’s a great way to drive brand awareness, boost engagement, promote your business, and most importantly keep in touch. Our marketing experts have outlined some best practices for social media that you can incorporate into your marketing strategy. So next time your followers are hungry, your take-out menu will be top of mind.
1. Clearly State Your Hours of Operation
Over the past few months I ordered take-out to support my favorite local eateries. I was surprised to find that on more than one occasion the hours of operation were not clear. They varied from what was listed on social media, Google, and on the restaurant’s website. As a hungry customer, this was not a great experience. To minimize confusion and eliminate the risk of losing business, verify your hours of operation are correct. They must be consistent and clearly stated across all outlets – especially right now. And if your business hours change, create a post on your Facebook or Instagram profile to keep your customers updated.
2. Be Transparent About Your COVID-19 Policies
Customers want to know if you’re taking necessary precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Share posts showcasing the processes you’ve implemented to keep customers and staff safe, like:
- What cleaning procedures have you implemented to combat the spread of germs?
- What happens if an employee gets sick?
- What’s your mask policy?
- What measures have you taken to prioritize the health and safety of customers and employees?
3. Make it Easy for Customers to Place an Order
Don’t make your customers jump through hoops to place a take-out order. Make sure to include the link to your online ordering site in your posts and all your social media profiles. (Unsure about online ordering? We can help.)
4. Explain Your Pick-Up and Delivery Protocol
Do you offer curbside pick-up? If so, is there a pick-up spot designated specifically for take-out orders inside your establishment? If you offer delivery, is it contactless or do customers have to answer the door?
Be as detailed as possible about your pick-up and delivery options. Customers will be more comfortable and confident ordering take-out from you when they know what to expect.
5. Share User-Generated Content
Turn your customers into brand ambassadors by encouraging them to share their own content to your social media accounts. Especially now, when many are still unsure about what’s safe and what isn’t, user-generated content and positive reviews from your customers builds trust and credibility in your brand.
6. Understand That Each Social Media Platform Has a Different Target Audience
Social media posts should be tailored appropriately for who you’re trying to reach. For example, Instagram is all about the visuals (imagery and video) while Facebook is best for sharing promotions and announcing upcoming events. Click here to learn more about leveraging each unique social media platform for your foodservice operation.
7. Take Advantage of Food Holidays
Plan ahead and schedule posts tying items from your take-out menu to correlated food holidays. The Nibble and Foodimentary are two great resources to reference to see what holidays are coming up. For example, September is National Chicken Month. What better time to drive chicken sales by posting about all the chicken dishes you offer and make it a month-long celebration? Users also tend to flock to social media when they take part in celebrating a food holiday. These posts typically include pictures of the food, the appropriate hashtags, and a mention or tag of the business where the food was procured, organically driving brand awareness and engagement.
8. Promote Limited-Time Offers
Food holidays are also a good way to fuel urgency to buy with limited-time offers. You could give customers 10% off their order when they purchase a cheeseburger on September 18th, National Cheeseburger Day. Or throw in a free chocolate chip cookie with orders over $25 during October, for National Dessert Month.
9. Incorporate Videos into Your Social Strategy
Videos are the most consumed social media content and get 2% more interactions compared to images. In addition to drawing in followers with pictures of your delicious food, share videos to further drive engagement. A couple of ideas for engaging video content:
- Share a Video of a Customer Picking Up a Take-Out Order: Help your customers feel completely comfortable ordering from your take-out menu by showing them exactly what to expect. Take a video of the whole process, from food prep, to packaging the order, to pick-up. You’ll likely gain customers if they can see the process from start to finish and understand the processes you’ve put in place to ensure a safe environment.
- Create Live Videos on Facebook and Instagram: 20% of video content on Facebook is live. Some ideas could include showing a customer picking up their order, asking staff members or customers to talk about their favorite take-out menu items, or walking through the safety precautions you’ve implemented in your operation.
10. Share Posts Highlighting Members of Your Staff
Having your staff send out some virtual encouragement is a great way to use social media to humanize your brand. These posts don’t need to be promotional and can simply remind your followers to stay positive during this challenging time.
11. Engage with Customers
Social media platforms are conversation outlets. When followers engage with your brand, always respond. To drive engagement with your followers, pose questions in your posts, and be an active participant in the back and forth conversation. Let them know you’re there, you hear them, appreciate them, and care about what they have to say.
Brace yourself – customers can get brutally honest online. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Never delete comments. Use them as an opportunity to take feedback well, provide supportive responses, and connect with customers. Show them you hear them and you’re willing to address their concerns, or at the very least, help them understand where you are coming from.