December 18, 2020

Your Restaurant Survived 2020, Here’s How You Get Through Q1 2021

By Sam Littlefield

Do you remember January 2020? I think it was about 5 years ago when your restaurant’s goals and objectives were clearly defined. This was going to be everyone’s best year yet. We were riding high off of a great 2019. Consumer spending was at an all-time high. Life was good.

Here we are, 11 months later, and you know the rest of the story. The world is tired, our nation is anxious, and everyone is ready for things to go back to normal (and who knows what this new normal looks like).

But here you are, still in business, and still with people to feed. Your goals and objectives have changed, but pivoting is the name of the game these days. As we approach the new year, we thought it would be good to focus on what we and you have learned so you can harness those tactics and start 2021 off with a bang.

Your restaurant must cut through the digital noise

We’re constantly preaching to our restaurant clients about the importance of a content strategy. Heck, we are so passionate about it we decided to publish a part 2. Now more than ever, you have to think beyond an ad or a social post.

When we say think beyond an ad or social post, make sure and remind your restaurant team that you’re competing against hundreds of thousands of local/regional/national chains. What campaign can you concept to stand apart from your competition? What messaging resonates best with your ideal customer? How do you get that lead to convert to a sale? These are questions we are constantly asking our clients (and even ourselves).

And while social is absolutely important, especially for Millennials and Gen Z, there are other opportunities digitally for you to invest in. Keep the marketing funnel in mind—from brand awareness down to conversion, how is your restaurant feeding the funnel to get your customers to buy? For example, I attended a Google webinar in late November with some great Q1 suggestions regarding paid search:

  • User search behavior in the last 3 months has shifted to what’s local, and what’s available. Make sure your keyword targeting reflects “local restaurants open for delivery” or “restaurants open near me” as Google’s indicating there is a high volume of these search queries.
  • 90% of dining is now off-site (used to be closer to 50%). Emphasize carry-out, catering, and delivery as you bid for search terms in early 2021.
  • Experiment with Google local campaigns: we’ve introduced this for some of our restaurant’s 2020 media plans, and found great preliminary success. The primary focus is to optimize towards foot traffic, but you can also optimize towards phone calls and direction clicks as well.

Delivery & pickup is how your restaurant survives Q1

As much as I can’t wait to consistently eat indoors at a restaurant, it won’t be happening for most people until Q2 as numbers (hopefully) decline and vaccines are distributed. At this point, pickup and delivery at your restaurant are your best friends until things settle down. I’ve had seamless pickup experiences and I’ve had horrible ones over the last 6 months.

I had a colleague recently tell me he visited a regional franchise pizza chain where he had to wait 45 minutes in his car because his order got lost in the restaurant ordering system. They never checked on him, the manager never came out to apologize, nor did they offer him any incentive to come back a next time so they can make it right. Luckily for this franchise, my colleague empathizes with all restaurants given we are in the business of marketing restaurants. But hopefully, a lesson is learned because most people aren’t willing to give restaurants that second chance.

You’ll have people calling to place orders and ordering online for those who like a streamlined version of communication. Continue making sure your restaurant capitalizes and efficiently handles delivery and pickup orders. Crazy thing is your customers have adapted to the new normal we are currently experiencing. They want fast, easy, and seamless as they get home to feed themselves and their family.

Hang in there

We are so close to an actual turning point. I feel like everyone has been saying that for months, but it couldn’t be more true now. Finish out this year strong, let’s battle through Q1, and from what I’ve heard on recent economic webinars I’ve attended, the rest of 2021 could really look good.

Happy Holidays to you and your family from Littlefield Agency. May 2021 be prosperous for us all.