8 tips for restaurant & café owners to sell well during COVID-19

Navigating the crisis together with smart IT solutions

COVID-19 has changed the pace of the business worldwide. Governments of countries all over the world have been implementing strategies to slow down the spread of the virus, which logically caused implementing the social distancing measures.

Across Asia, Europe and America, non-essential businesses were limited or completely closed down - Food & Beverage businesses are not an exception. All the consumers needed to change their habits & behaviors of meeting friends & family for a cup of coffee or dinner, to spending time home with a home-made meal or a take-away.

Even if COVID-19 looks like a huge threat to all the restaurants & cafés, it does not necessarily end up like this. It is a huge business opportunity to move to the online environment and tackle different market segments.

Here are our 8 tips for restaurant owners to boost sales during COVID-19:

1. Make sure you cooperate with delivery platforms

In the US, food delivery platforms like UberEats, WMT grocery, and other popular UberEats clone apps have reported an increase in user engagement as people were stranded inside their homes. This trend is also happening in other corners of the world. The delivery services are definitely an integral part of the life of a modern person, who wants to save time & effort in preparing their own meal. And that is definitely an amazing business opportunity for all the bistros, cafés and restaurants.

delivery platform cooperation

How to use these opportunities fully? In the Southeast Asian market, there are some popular delivery services like Grab Food, Food Panda, Go-Jek, Now, Vietnammm, Yangon Door2Door, while Ubereats, Takeaways dominated the food delivery market in Europe & America.

Definitely, the advantage of partnering with Grab, Go-Jek and other mentioned platforms is that they make sure thousands of consumers will see your menu and offers daily, as well as you do not need to have any delivery boy in-house. On the other hand, it is necessary to consider that the commission of these services can be up to 30% of the order made through these platforms.

2. Build your own delivery platform

Customers are engaging with technology more than ever, especially in the time of social-distancing. Most of their daily activities happen online and people expect everything to be within the reach of the fingertips. The increased usage of mobile devices only contributes to the overall growth of delivery services.

Restaurants & food businesses can benefit from building their own delivery platform, for several reasons. First of all, you can get full control of the data of your customers. The delivery systems will record names, addresses, phone numbers, emails & dining preferences for each and every one of your customers. You can use this information to send them personalized promotions, vouchers, updates of your menu or a simple thank you note for being your loyal customer.

delivery platform

To build a good digital platform, businesses must identify the must-have functionalities. A digital platform needs to include a website with a well-presented menu, an e-commerce system with a delivery tracker & a reliable customer service. Choosing a suitable & reliable digital platform is the most important step in this process. Luckily, there are delivery ready-made systems, which can cover all basics to set up your own platform in a matter of hours/days.

There are plenty of advantages of an own delivery platform, which make it one of the best strategies of boosting your sales:

  • You have full control of the customer experience, from receiving the order until you hand it to your client.

  • You have a full overview of all your orders & you can easily see the trends (what are the busiest times, which meals or combos are the best sellers, which promotion programs work the best)

  • You collect important information about the behavior of your customers and you can prepare personalized recommendations & offers for them to sell more.

3. Make research of relevant Facebook groups & engage the community

There is no better way to find out the customers’ insights than Facebook - the largest social community on the internet. With Facebook groups, you can easily find the interest of people, which food they like to have an accurate approach with networking opportunities.

To discover Facebook groups, you can use the Discover tab in the left column, under Explore heading. On the Discover tab, Facebook will bring up some recommended groups based on the Pages you’ve liked, locations, groups your friends belong to and other clues from your activities.

research Facebook groups

In those groups, you should keep an eye on the conversations to find out what your potential customers are speaking about, what information & recommendations they are looking for. If you look for the relevant Facebook groups, just enter related keywords in the search box.

Engage consistently with the posts in those groups and click the Groups tab to see a list of groups related to your search terms.

You need to keep in mind that people are not interested in too many offers and spam. Remember that less is sometimes more. Focus rather on the content your people want to see - nice pictures of your meals, interesting promotion, seasonal specials or stories from your kitchen.

4. Re-engage your customers with marketing activities

Did you know that when you increase repeat orders by 5% (orders from people who already ordered from you before), you can raise your profits anywhere from 25 to 125%? One of the best things about restaurant businesses is that people need to eat every day. It means you have a perfect opportunity to turn your one-time customers into loyal ones, who order from you regularly!

Re-engage customers

All consumers love tasty food, interesting meal combos, free deliveries & new dishes to try out. And you have a perfect opportunity to let them know about that! Luckily, as soon as you receive the first order from your customer, you have all the information you need to have about him or her - the name, e-mail address, phone number & order history.

You can then easily include them in one of your campaigns, which sends information about your promotions, limited offers & menu updates. These campaigns can be sent out as a series of emails, SMS or combination of both, to make sure you reach your target at the right time, in the right place.

The more information about the behavior of your customers you have, the better you can target & the more successful your campaigns will be. Platforms like Odoo ERP combine both customer & order databases with the e-mail/SMS marketing tools, so you have all the data you need in only 1 system.

5. Make sure to deliver quickly

People usually start thinking about ordering something to eat when they start to feel hunger. The more they wait for their delivery, the more hungry & grumpy they will get. Secondly, the faster you can get their meal to their doorstep, the warmer, fresher and crunchier it will be.

When it comes to delivery, of course, the faster you deliver the food, the better impression your customer will have. However, if your delivery time exceeds 60 minutes, the customer is less likely to order from you another time.

Deliver quickly

There are 3 main factors which can influence how fast you are able to deliver:

Well set & streamlined process

In case a process to prepare each meal in the shortest time is in place, you can reduce the time needed to prepare & pack the dish for your clients.

Well trained staff

Each business is only as strong, as are its employees. Good training to your employees on customer service, standardized processes and operating the IT system are fundamental preconditions for success.

Reliable platform to support both above mentioned

To support your employees and inform them in the shortest time possible, a business needs to have a reliable, automated system in place.

6. Prepare discounts/vouchers for free delivery

Ordering food is often a decision based on emotions. Customers compare multiple choices and in case they do not have experience with the restaurant yet, they tend to compare, which restaurant offers their meals for better prices, with cheaper/faster delivery or any extras (free drink/dessert).

Here are several basic tips on creating your promotions, coupons & delivery strategies:

People do not like to pay for the delivery fees. It is good to set up a minimum order value and if that one is exceeded, offer free delivery. Look at your average order price and set this limit slightly higher than that - you can expect you will start receiving slightly higher orders too.

Prepare discounts & promotions for your returning customers to attract them to order again from you.

Collect information about birthdays & special occasions. Customers always enjoy some little extras (small gifts - dessert) on their birthdays, or e.g. on Women's day.

7. Make sure your restaurant update visible changes on Google

You can not ignore your status on Google - the biggest search tool in the world. As Google informed in their post, you shall make sure your customers have the latest information about your food business, following these steps:

  • Change business hours: Update the exact operating time when you’ll open and close.

  • Mark “temporarily closed”: The important thing is if you mark “temporarily closed”, the “Dine-in”, “Takeout” or “Delivery” are not available in your profile. So don’t mark this status if you don’t offer these services.

  • Manage dining options to let your customers know whether your restaurant offers take-out or delivery.

  • Update your menu to attract more customers.

  • Create a post on the website to communicate with customers for information updates.

  • Use Google My Business so customers can easily reach you.

Find out more about these methods in the posts from Google about COVID-19 food business adjustment.

8. Good quality pictures of your meals are the key

food pictures

“A picture is worth a thousand words”, food lovers always have a good impression with restaurants or coffee shops having stunning pictures posted on Fanpage, Instagram, Website or Apps. It is also valid for online food delivery - the meals with a picture are more likely to be selected by your hungry clients. Eyes eat first!

However, clients are not looking for artistic and too artificial pictures. It is not even recommended to use pictures like that, as they can cause a huge wave of disappointment. Customers want to see how big the portion will be, how the ingredients look like and most likely, whether the meal meets their expectations of how such a meal should look like.

In case you do not have a budget for a professional photographer, it does not mean you shall have no pictures of your meals online. Luckily, there are tons of apps for smartphones to help you with this. VSCO is the classic app you can consider. It comes with presets and tools that’ll take your photos to the next level. Keep in mind that before taking any picture, make sure your real meal, your concepts are in the right order to take advantage of lightning.

What will happen next?

As can be expected, the safety measures around COVID-19 are not going to slow down anytime soon. Maintaining business operations in such a hard time needs your effort to act quickly & adapt new solutions to keep up with daily changes in the market. However, even during a crisis, people need to eat every day - and that is a good piece of news for all the restaurants, cafés, bakeries. Your customers are still there, you just need to approach them differently as you used to before.

Considering a digital transformation of your business might be the right step in the middle of the crisis to ensure your restaurant can keep up with the new trends on the market. We at Port Cities are ready to introduce smart IT solutions to you and your team - just contact our consultant.

13 April, 2020
Nguyen Vinh Kha
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