It’s been said that customers are exposed to around 5,000 marketing messages every single day. But with the current situation (a good majority of the entire population being home and not leaving their homes except for maybe a quick trip to the store), these numbers are probably drastically different. Consumers can block, unfollow and hide everything they don’t want to see. And they now have the time to do it! Ad blockers have been around for years. But who really had the time to look into it and set it up? And social media? Now customers have the time to actually go through their likes and follows and prioritize the brands, stores and restaurants they want and don’t want to see. Sounds like a lot of marketing messages (and precious impression dollars) are getting wiped off customers plates, literally.

At a time when every expense is being picked over with a fine-tooth comb, it might seem like restaurant sales will never return to what they were pre-COVID-19. Let’s face it, the days of waiting lists, packed bars and lunch lines out the door are definitely on a long pause. But just because those customers aren’t walking inside, there are still ample opportunities to drive in traffic and boost restaurant sales. Now is the time to focus on ways to really step outside the box and offer something unique, exciting and eye catching to customers as they navigate this very challenging situation.

First, ROI

If there was ever a time to focus on high ROI, low cost ways to boost sales this is it. Two areas of intense interest that have skyrocketed over the past few weeks and by the sounds of it, are not slowing down any time soon, are curbside pickup and delivery. Almost overnight, they went from a segment of a restaurant’s revenue to all of a restaurant’s revenue. It stands to reason that investment made in these two areas is going to yield a pretty hefty return.

How about an upsize with that to-go order? Or adding on a drink with the curbside pickup order? Or adding a dessert? The time for up selling, cross selling and everywhere in between is now. Never before have curbside pickup and delivery been such a fantastic opportunity to sell more to the customers already placing an order.  

Who Doesn’t Love a Deal?

From fast food to casual dining, believe it or not, restaurants have an edge in attracting customers right now. Consumers are in a strange place financially. Sure, many have gotten stimulus package checks that provides a bit of a cushion, but they are no doubt thriftier than they were even two months ago. But restaurants can bring more to their customer’s table, so to speak. They can capitalize on two things: one, their ability to make their customer’s lives easier and two, tempting package/special offer deals.

“Let Us Handle Dinner” or “Click and Pick Up” or “Take a Break and Let Us Deliver”— these messages couldn’t come at a better time for weary customers. Those who have been homeschooling, while also working and running a household. So relieve them from making yet another meal and make dinner for them. And, take it a step further, and add an eye-catching package special that they can literally just click to buy. Here’s a package special that sparks smiles with a bit of fun—“Dinner for 4 (With Masks Included!)” or “$40 for Dinner for 4 with No Dishes to Do!”  

Package deals or family style meal deals are an easy way to drive sales because cost conscious customers feel like they’re getting a special deal. And if ordering is easy, there’s prime opportunity for upselling drinks, desserts and appetizers too.

Offer Big Rewards

Got a rewards program or an app? That’s a marketing opportunity screaming to be put to good use. How about taking the typical “Download the App and Get a Free Appetizer” and changing it to something with a cliffhanger, “Like Free Food?” or something catchy like, “Our App Will Make All Your Other Apps Drool”. Make that funny message or call to action guide customers in signing up for the app, then walk them through placing their order (showing them the special package special that they will of course want to order) and then seamlessly checking out. The goal is still bosting sales, but in a more captivating and creative way.

Put That Expensive Real Estate to Use

Whether or not the parking lot is packed with cars or the restaurant is full of customers, that building, that real estate, is costing money. Why not make the most of it so that it speaks to every car, bus and van passing by? So that, at a glance, they know what deals and special offers the restaurant is offering because they catch attention immediately. Consider the impact that a few advertising flags promoting “$40 Dinner for 4” or “Curbside Pickup” would have on restaurant revenue. Or “Add a Dessert for $2.99” would have on dessert sales. Nothing’s more powerful than getting instant results. And by using the real estate around a restaurant, well, the power is in the increase in sales.

Finally, Show AND Tell

Customers have a lot of options. Even being forced to stay at home and order food to go – there’s no shortage of places to grab that next meal from. So it’s not enough to offer a package too good to pass up or reward them for downloading the app… keep those customers coming back for more. Now is not the time to be humble – show off your amazing reviews, give them a glimpse at an empty restaurant missing its guests, show and tell how the restaurant is handling things during this trying time. Because at the end of the day, it’s the experience they get when they enter the restaurant that they’re missing out on right?

Christine Brady is the Marketing Director for Air Ad Promotions, an onsite décor advertising agency. Whether promoting a sale, curbside pickup, limited time offer, or a grand opening, Air Ad Promotions helps you use all of your real estate to get your locations noticed and entice customers to make a right hand turn and make a purchase.

Marketing & Promotions, Menu Innovations, Outside Insights, Story