Why so many restaurants weren’t prepared to deal with the pandemic: From a marketing standpoint

First of all, my heart goes out to all of you restaurant owners out there, I understand that the last year has been incredibly difficult.

With that being said, I do have a few thoughts from a marketing perspective. Before the pandemic, my experience was that I saw very few restaurants doing long-term strategic marketing planning.

Most were doing inconsistent and haphazard marketing. They had no marketing plan to fall back on during COVID_19.

For example, I dined at many restaurants prior to COVID_19 and I can’t recall an occasion where they tried to capture my email address or cell phone number to encourage me to come back again and again. Too many restaurants treat their customers like “one night stands.”

Research has shown that email marketing is one of the most profitable tactics for restaurants. It’s targeted, personalized marketing, but few restaurants consistently take advantage of it.

I would venture to guess that restaurants that had a consistent email marketing strategy in place were in a much better position to communicate with their regular customers to keep them up to date and maintain their relationships.

Imagine you’re the type of restaurant owner who relies heavily on dine-in for your daily revenue and suddenly has to switch to delivery and pickup only, how do you get that message across to your customers?

What about social networks? Yes, that could work, but you have to be prepared to spend a few dollars to achieve reach because organic reach alone will not be effective for most restaurants.

According to the latest data I saw, the average restaurant has about 600 followers. And you have to remember that Facebook says that they will only show your posts to about 10% of their followers for free.

In my opinion, a significant number of restaurants do poor social media marketing, they don’t have goals. Posting photos of your dishes is the bare minimum, but for many restaurants, that’s all they do.

When it comes to which strategy restaurants should use, it’s not email marketing vs. social media, it’s BOTH! And there are many other marketing strategies that restaurants should have been consistently using before and after COVID_19.

There is no marketing panacea for restaurant owners. Even with a limited marketing budget, restaurants can still use a multi-channel marketing mix.

They need to find strategies (free and paid) to find more customers and get them to order online or dine in again and again.

All restaurant owners know that profit comes from getting a lot of repeat customers, but few implement a marketing system to achieve it.

Another reason many restaurants weren’t prepared for a shutdown is that they didn’t have a website or one was poor, so they weren’t positioned to order online. Some went to delivery services like Skip The Dishes, but they take 20-35% of the order, often leaving very little for the restaurant owner.

My opinion is that too many restaurants were surviving before COVID_19 due to their lack of effective and consistent marketing.

So when COVID_19 showed up, it didn’t take much to push them over the edge. Will the surviving restaurants focus on further improving their marketing to be in an even better position to weather another crisis like an economic collapse?


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