COVID Strategy Series: Promoting a refreshed food and beverage service

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Leverage your original F&B selling points in combination with your renewed health and safety measures to attract patrons.

 

As you gear up to reopen, getting the word out about it is key to attracting those first visitors. As you might expect, competition will be fiercer than ever as venues around you fight to make up for revenue lost during the lockdown. 

Follow the steps below to let your loyal patrons and new customers know you’re open for business.

These insights were provided by: 

Nathalie Mulder of Kimpton De Witt Hotel

Angelo Vassallo of Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I Hotel

Localise SEO and social media

In the first weeks and months after lockdowns ease, you’ll be primarily attracting guests from your area and drive-to markets. Help them find you by localising your SEO and social media presence. 

  1. Set up or optimise your Google My Business page: Include revised opening hours, feature your menu and highlight your new options such as pick-up or contactless delivery. Google allows you to give detailed information about your venue, so take advantage of this to answer all your potential guests’ questions. Don’t forget to add some beautiful and convincing imagery!

  2. Leverage online business listings: Get your venues featured on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Foursquare (or your local equivalent) to get eyes on your business, drive traffic to your website and engage with people who leave reviews. If this is covered for your hotel, think about your F&B departments specifically to attract people searching for brunch or dinner options, for example. Highlight your restaurant and bar USPs across all listings!

  3. Update your menu: Keep your menu updated on your website, social media, Google listing and other third-party sites. This shows guests what they can expect, and your target audience will know they’ve come to the right place. It’s also helpful for guests with dietary restrictions or preferences because they can check your options ahead of their visit.
  4. Target local guests via social media: If you’re not doing this already, use your local language on social media to better connect with people around you. Create promotions around upcoming holidays or events and make your content relevant to your area. Also consider working with local bloggers, influencers and media to expand your reach and promote your venue. 

 

Encourage staff to leverage their social media networks

While you staff should be motivated and encouraged to be brand ambassadors in regular times, this period would especially benefit from public support from staff. 

  • Invite your team to share your story on their social channels: Encourage your staff to show behind the scenes shots of how you’re getting ready to reopen or how you’re operating now. Tag your team members in photos and invite them to comment, like and reshare your posts. Before you start: let your employees know they are not obligated to do this, but tactfully emphasise the difference it would make.
  • Host social media training for staff: When sharing business-related content, there are legal aspects to be aware of (e.g. privacy protection). Communicate this with your staff so everyone is on the safe side. Highlight branding guidelines as well to ensure your team’s posts reflect your venue’s style. 

 

Drive reviews and customer-generated content

When people research a new bar or restaurant to go to, review sites can have a huge impact on their decision. Plenty of good and recent reviews, will make potential customers much more likely to stop by. Use this to your advantage!

  • Encourage guests to leave reviews: Do this as guests pay or when you say goodbye. Tell them how much it would help your business if they shared their experience. Many will be happy to support you in this way. 
  • Reward guests who ‘check in’: Facebook allows users to check in and publicly share their experience at a restaurant, store, hotel, or city. Their connections can observe their experience  at your outlet, which is a great form of organic publicity. Since not everybody checks in automatically, you can consider offering an incentive like a free starter or a drink if they do. 
  • Promote user-generated content: If your food or drinks are beautiful or your design is quirky, chances are guests will take some pictures for their social media. Like the check-in feature, you can encourage them to post photos of your venue and tag you. This not only gives you extra exposure on social media and lets you engage with your guests by resharing their posts or stories on your channels. 

 

Share your hygiene and safety measures

You’ve probably seen many hotels share their new hygiene and safety measures on their website and social media. If you haven’t already you should do the same. After all, you’ve gone to great lengths to implement all the new regulations, so why not tell people about it?

This doesn’t mean you can’t break the mould by communicating your measures in a more fun and engaging way. Try recording social media stories or short videos of staff following the new procedures. You can show that you’re taking the situation seriously but are still focusing on providing a fun experience for your guests.

Remember though, if you promise something you’ll need to deliver. Once a guest arrives, they need to see these measures in action. Encourage patrons to ask questions and ensure your staff is ready to explain the how and why behind your new procedures. 

Angelo Vassallo

Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I Hotel

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Creative ideas to increase your F&B sales

Of course, getting guests to come to you is only half the job. Now it’s time to drive sales in your venue. Try these tips to avoid your offering becoming stale while your attention is devoted to health and safety.

  • Regularly update your menu: Your customer base will be smaller with fewer out-of-town guests. You’ll probably have more repeat business from locals and this is a good thing, especially in these trying times. Keep things interesting for your repeat customers by having a small menu that you change regularly with regional or seasonal specials.
  • Revise opening times and seating options: Capacity restrictions mean you can welcome fewer guests in your regular opening hours. Consider whether it would make sense to extend your opening hours or expand outdoor seating options during summer to serve more guests. 
  • Consider pick-up and delivery: Many restaurants have had great success with this approach during the lockdown. Would this fit your restaurant and appeal to your guests? If normal delivery isn’t an option, are there other creative ways you can implement this? Think: a box with ingredients for a lavish meal and a video tutorial by your chef or ingredients and a guide to making cocktails. 
  • Offer new dining settings: If your outlet is in a hotel, can you offer packages where you serve a meal in an unusual location? This could include the Presidential Suite, the terrace, spa, beach, or garden. 
  • Train staff to upsell: Every penny counts, so encourage your team to upsell guests whenever possible. Host training to teach them the right techniques and ensure guests don’t feel harassed by it. You can start with something simple like proposing an aperitif to every table or pushing your high-profit low-cost dishes. Create incentives for your team to make this more fun. For example, the one who sells the most aperitifs wins a bottle of Champagne. 
  • Collaborate with other departments in the spirit of total revenue management: Check with front office or the spa if you can create packages for hotel guests. This could include a spa day with a healthy meal or an upgrade to a suite which comes with a set menu at your restaurant. You can get creative here – the sky is the limit. 

Angelo Vassallo

Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I Hotel

Hopefully these ideas and pointers will get your creativity flowing and help you create and implement a strategy to bring back your F&B venue with a bang. 

As you navigate these challenging months, keep in mind that even with new rules and a more difficult situation overall, you can find a way to delight your guests and keep giving them the fantastic experiences you’re known for. 

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