When the marketing team here at Zenreach discovered I was a former San Francisco restaurateur and nightclub owner, they asked if I had any advice for those who are struggling with the COVID-19 quarantine orders. Though I’ve been out of the business for a few years, I still have ideas you can immediately roll out:

Email your patrons

  • Explain the hardship your business is going through—be real and human.  
  • If you’re open for business, tell everyone and ask for their support by ordering takeout. 
  • Explain the extra sanitary precautions you’re taking during food preparation (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, etc.)
  • Consider expanding your delivery menu to provide an online ordering experience similar to what a customer would get in the restaurant. 
  • Offer curbside pickup if available, or consider OneDine’s parking lot solution.
  • Announce your delivery app partners.
  • Sell gift card “bonds” (e.g. buy a $75 gift card now for $100 redemption when the business reopens).
  • Create an online tip jar for your waitstaff. 

Create a virtual restaurant or bar 

  • People are struggling with cabin fever and loneliness, and you can help bring people together in a whole new way—it’s also a fun way to get feedback on your food. Invite your loyal patrons, takeout guests, and mobile app customers to come together and chat with you, your staff, and other guests online using Google Hangouts

Apply for financial assistance

  • Just in case you missed it last week, check out this growing list of financial resources that might assist you during these difficult times.

Partner with others

  • Typically you are in competition with your neighboring restaurants, but now is a time for cooperation. Consider sharing kitchen space, staff, and supplies—now is a good time to pay it forward. You can also join forces to reach out to their customers and vice versa. 

Analyze your data

  • Most restaurant operators view their POS systems as a means of calculating daily sales totals, but the truth is there’s a wealth of insights you can glean from the data if you take the time to examine it.  Here are a few examples:
    • If you find that you have an abundance of particular ingredients, consider selling them as a retailer.
    • You may realize that your most popular dish has a low profit margin. Think about bundling that item with other, higher-margin items to create a takeout-ready family meal.
    • Segment your customers and send them offers based on their value. For example, send your most loyal customers a high-value offer, or send infrequent customers an offer to re-engage them.

Surprise and delight

  • People are stressed, so do what you can to delight patrons when their food arrives. Throw a roll of toilet paper or homemade hand sanitizer in with takeout orders. This goodwill will not be forgotten.

Everything’s negotiable

  • Ask your landlord or bank for forgiveness or deferral of your monthly rent or mortgage.  There will likely be an excessive amount of retail space available when this crisis ends; convince your landlord it’s better to have a long-term tenant over next month’s rent check.

Join a local program

  • Consider joining a grassroots program like Help Main Street or Rally for Restaurants, which are websites highlighting restaurants in your neighborhood and the available services they are offering.
  • Another program gaining momentum is Takeout COVID, which has launched in 18 cities and helps local businesses offload extra inventory.

I hope the ideas above provide you and your employees some relief and resilience during these challenging times. In the words of J.K. Rowling, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” Hang in there and we’ll all emerge stronger than ever.


General Marketing Restaurants