With Omicron cases spiking nationwide, it’s more important than ever for restaurants to communicate with their customers
By Rhett Doolittle, CEO of Business Warrior
COVID-19 Omicron cases are spiking nationwide. On Jan. 18, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said “the next few weeks will be tough,” as the surge hadn’t yet peaked.
For restaurants and other foodservice businesses, this is tough news in an already competitive industry. Most restaurants are still short-staffed due to the pandemic, and it’s been made even worse during this recent surge. This is causing delayed services, shortened restaurant hours and, in the worst cases, shutdowns.
What restaurant owners need to know is that acknowledgement and transparency are more vital now than they have ever been. With most restaurants experiencing staffing shortages and longer wait times, owners might need to adjust business hours to accommodate for staff changes. While these last-minute adjustments are understandable, they can frustrate customers, especially if there’s no information posted anywhere alerting them to the changes.
It’s important for owners to inform their customers of these updates immediately. The most effective means of communication is the internet, where 97% of consumers find local businesses. Owners should post these updates on their website, followed by a reminder to consumers that they’re grateful for their business.
Next, utilize social media. Right now, many restaurants have specific requirements and safety protocols in place to keep COVID-19 cases down and protect their staff. Customers need to know if restaurants are requiring masks and vaccines, or if their employees need to be vaccinated. The most popular and effective platforms to post these updates include Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp and Bing. Google My Business listings are 70% more likely to attract local visits and will increase a business’s sales and web traffic. Owners need to make sure customers who are worried about Omicron know that measures have been taken to ensure their safety.
In addition, keep a constant eye on social media and restaurant reviews. In this current climate, restaurant owners must take the time to respond to every customer review, especially if it’s negative. A whopping 90% of buyers reported having checked business reviews before they reach a decision on where to eat. If customers see that a restaurant hasn’t responded to a negative review, or to any questions on social media, it could compel them to go somewhere else. Owners must be diligent about reviews and transparent that they’ve offered to help in any situation.
Pivot and adapt to a new way of business. The Independent Restaurant Coalition collected data from 1,200 restaurants showing that 46% reported their operating hours were impacted due to the pandemic. Additionally, a total of 58% of businesses reported that their sales decreased by more than half in December 2021 alone.
To compensate for loss of dine-in revenue, owners should possibly consider another means of food service. A curbside option could bring costs down since fewer staff members are required. Similarly, take-out or delivery could be a solution to satisfy COVID-worried customers and ease staff concerns.
Lastly, and most importantly, customer service is key. Of course, customer service is always key, but with the decreasing number of people dining out due to the spread of Omicron, it’s important to make a lasting impression on customers. Restaurants should treat every customer exceedingly well and teach their waiting and hosting staff to do the same. Staff should know to keep an eye on who is returning and what they ordered last. Owners will want to create repeat customers and be vigilantly aware of their standing in the community. In this difficult time, customers will appreciate the effort.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rhett Doolittle is chairman and CEO of Business Warrior. Doolittle and Jonathan Brooks, president of Business Warrior, took their company public in 2020 during the pandemic while also managing to triple their subscriber base, launch two new versions of their software and improve 2021 Q2 revenue by over 220%, along with growing the team to over 30 people. The Business Warrior software takes a holistic view of a business’s online reputation, listings, website search results and social media. Predictive algorithms are utilized to recommend the most imperative actions needed to drive new customers, positively impact daily operations and improve profitability. For more information, visit businesswarrior.com.