For the first time seemingly in a while during this pandemic period, we have enjoyed some encouraging news, and restaurants are beginning to re-open.
While I always try to look at things with a “glass is half-full” view, I think we must acknowledge that the near term will at the very least – be uncertain. All of us desperately want a return to a full recovery, but the next 12-18 months are going to be “choppy”- with marketplace conditions changing frequently. So, how should we operate during this “In-Between” period from now until we have a scalable, successful vaccine?
Here are 6 strategies I propose:
- Build a Great Team – You can be choosey right now, if you act. Do you bring past employees back? I say only the best ones….those that are committed, represent your brand well, and who truly want to be there. There’s no better time to raise the bar. Is someone “all-in” – i.e. willing to go above and beyond to help recapture the business? These are the people you want now.
- Be Your Very Best Self – The “In-Between” breaks the adage “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I say to treat this as a fresh start. How do you re-attract the guest and give them a reason to love you again? Guests need to “relearn” us. What are you about: the food? your people? Value will be important to convey. Be genuine. Net: What’s your “It” factor and be sure to communicate “it” in all of your marketing.
- Embrace New Approaches – What’s different now from what you were doing before? Yes, guests are looking for what they expect from you — but they also want to be “wowed”! How will you be even better than before? The “In-Between” is a chance to try out new ideas. Listen hard to your guests; talk to your managers and front-line staff… they often have great insights. Invite ideas, try the best ones, and applaud the effort. Many guests will be willing to take a chance, and particularly in this time, I know they will appreciate the effort.
- Focus on Your Best Customers – Your “best” customers are those that have dined with you over the past 12 months. Most e-clubs and Loyalty programs can only enable reach 10-25% of your guests; however, many of these guests may not even be active. I recommend that now you go beyond this group and talk to as many of your active customers as you can. I am currently working with restaurant brands to deliver increased traffic by more than doubling the number of your guests (not look-alikes) that you can reach. These are guests who already visit you — yet they aren’t hearing from you — but they can now.
- It’s Time to Adjust Your Lens – Our industry has been changed. Significantly. The trend towards Off-premise was in progress, but this has been a major accelerant. For Fast Casual and QSR, their Off-premise numbers will undoubtedly increase; in Full Service – most brands will see a doubling versus pre-period, if not more. Take the time during the “In-Between” to optimize this part of your business, and set yourself up for long term success. Self-delivery may not have made sense before…does it now? Refine your menu, packaging, service & access to deliver an at-home/ office experience that goes above and beyond the food itself. This will be a winning strategy.
- Finally, Be Prepared for Just About Anything – What can you do today, this week, this month, to take care of your staff and recapture the business lost? Yes, your brand may have reopened, but are you ready if things suddenly change? Utilize tools that are flexible, and can adjust in real-time to quickly get in-market. Having contingency plans and the ability to implement them quickly, will be key in the “In-Between”.
For more than 15 years, Growth Partners has provided outsourced Chief Marketing Officer consulting to restaurant companies. I am a fresh set of eyes for current CEO’s & CMOs, as well as a Part-Time or Interim CMO for concepts looking to grow their businesses and brands. Learn more at www.growthhq.com or follow me on LinkedIn, or Facebook @growthpartnersllc.