Before the pandemic, many restaurants had yet to adopt reliable formulas for gauging their customers’ experience. Less and less restaurants are relying on television, radio, or print advertisements to interact with the public. The digital interface has become a major way for customers to judge a brand and for that brand to gather information about how they are being received. With close to 50 percent of customers now relying on online ordering and third-party delivery systems, a brand’s digital presence stands to make a major impression on the overall dining experience where it might not have just a few years ago.

While digital strategy options for businesses remain expansive, social media marketing has gained significant traction during the pandemic. According to The Harris Poll, between 46 and 51 percent of American adults are using social media more since the outbreak of COVID-19 began. Even as we emerge on the other side of a catastrophic global event, the reliance upon and engagement with social media is likely to continue growing.

Social media has become an integral part of everyday life, and as such, marketers should look to capitalize on it with the utilization of social media platforms for marketing purposes. Yet, the pandemic has brought with it an abundance of change. As restaurateurs have had to pivot operationally, so should they adjust their approaches to digital marketing and outreach.

Some restaurants have shifted away from public relations and email marketing initiatives to invest more time and resources into organic and paid social media. More than ever before, every ad dollar counts, and brands must remain vigilant about allocating resources into marketing tools that translates into conversions. The reach extends beyond digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and the company website.

Restaurant executives are now analyzing and debating each advertising spend and whether it is meaningful and effective. The data gathered will justify the spending decisions. It’s not enough to simply gather impressions; new digital programs are making it possible to follow the customer journey and drive sales.

While the pandemic certainly presented very real challenges, this vital industry has found new ways to reach prospective customers and foster loyalty with existing ones, as well. In 2020, Your Pie started a partnership with InMoment to help achieve the goal of keeping customer experience improvement at the forefront of the brand’s growth efforts. This way, Your Pie will be able to further harness technology to prioritize feedback and experience data to drive continual innovation, better employee service delivery, and more modern and digital-based customer experiences.

Platforms like InMoment can combine with real-time customer data and feedback collection to capture customer sentiment to inform restaurants’ next moves. This data helps develop and prioritize recommendations for corporate leadership, restaurant staff, and franchise owners, with the primary goal of providing the best possible customer experience to attract new customers and satisfy loyal followers. In addition to cultivating relationships through social media platforms and real-time dining experiences, a multi-pronged approach to marketing is designed to prioritize customer feedback and drive immediate action to improve experiences across the entire brand.

The pandemic has compelled restaurants to think more creatively about their marketing outreach approach. Flexibility, open-mindedness, and innovation are crucial. As an industry that is comprised of people who are resilient by nature, restaurants have found ways to pivot quickly and efficiently. With crises comes the opportunity for growth. Restaurants must continue to adopt more integrated marketing strategies by combining tried and true methods with lessons learned over the past couple of years and new tactics and technologies to engage with customers. While COVID was an unprecedented challenge for the restaurant industry in many ways, the innovations emerging through creative necessity are making now an exciting time to be a restaurateur.

Dave McDougall is the CEO of Your Pie.

Marketing & Promotions, Outside Insights, Story, Your Pie