How to Control Your Restaurant's Narrative During COVID-19

    A fast casual leader on where reputation management begins.

    Little Greek Fresh Grill
    Little Greek Fresh Grill
    Focus on maintaining consistent communication and marketing.

    Communication with guests right now may seem like a daunting task. The ways restaurants are interacting with everyone has been changing constantly for the past few months. Finding the voice of your concept is different for every restaurant but should share common factors such as empathy and safety guidelines that every guest is looking for when they enter. These tools can help your restaurant maintain control of your narrative and establish community traction.

    Communication with customers

    Finding avenues to make sure you are continuing communication with your customers is key. Although you may be physically seeing less of your customers, they are still receiving your meals. Whether it happens by curbside service or third-party delivery, call back coupons in to-go packaging is a great way to thank them for continuing to support you.

    Other communications including through automated responses should be always up to date and an avenue where customers can have their questions answered with links to move on with their transaction. Review your stores google questions and reviews for topics that are most often asked. Inquires that completed automatically give your store the foundation of being in control of every aspect of dining.  This line of answers can and should be updated frequently to reflect new questions being asked by customers.

    Reaching out to customer by collecting their contact information and sending out cues of what is happening in your stores can elevate a casual consumer to a loyal brand ambassador. Text-messaging, email, app alerts and social media are all excellent choices and can bring different demographics onto your ordering platforms. Rewards for being loyal to your brand can bring a closeness that will form a relationship bringing customers back with more frequency.

    As the larger companies are changing the ways they are marketing to consumers your money will go farther. Do not cut your marketing funds. Taking the time to strategize your marketing efforts to accommodate to your known variable. 

    Representation of Empathy

    Between holiday stress and pandemic stress, emotions are heightened everywhere. Empathy for stressors should take a priority while communicating directly with guests. This would include reassuring guests of the precautions your staff are taking to keep everyone safe. If guests are communicating with you that there are safety issues such as washing hands and slipping masks, take this as a time to readdress cleanliness routines with staff. Your guests are wanting to frequent your location, but if there are clear social and safety violations, they are less likely to come again.

    Connecting with local communities

    Find local community groups that need assistance within your means and develop a plan to provide meals or time on a regular basis. Community assistance is essential to developing a foothold in the community and a goodwill relationship can spread benefits for others and your restaurant will see the benefits. Examples include donating meals to frontline workers, donating time to help a local charity, or using the restaurant as a collection center for donations.  Connection to local communities is a great opportunity to include the restaurants staff not just in the logistics of giving, but also in choosing which opportunities work with the community. Typically, employees live in the area and choosing opportunities that bring fulfillment to employees can increase job satisfaction.  

    Focusing on maintaining consistent communication and marketing for your restaurant can help to control the narrative surrounding your locations.

    Kassie Shearouse is the director of marketing and franchise support at St. Petersburg, Florida-based Little Greek Franchise Development/Little Greek Fresh Grill, a fast-casual Greek-themed multi-unit with an American influence.