With continued restrictions on movement and public gatherings, several businesses in the hospitality industry have had to change their mode of operations. This is especially true for food service providers and bars who can now mainly offer take-away products and services to their customers.
These past months have been a wake up call for several businesses as their everyday systems have been rendered somewhat obsolete. They are either courting closure or forced to pivot online.
How can bars, eateries and food houses better adapt their businesses to the changing times?
Here are some tips:
1. Go digital
This essentially means allowing your customers to purchase your products online through web or mobile based applications. With the expansion of third-party delivery services such as UberEats, Glovo, Jumia Food and Yum, you can now easily move your business to the digital space.
Eliminating the middleman, if you have the financial and technical resources to implement your own business solution, can also be a good option as this will allow you to have first hand communication with your audience.
2. Be discoverable
Several bars and food service providers have an online presence, but how many actually stand out? At a time when online food orders are surging, how do you get a customer to pick you?
While having a website is a good start, your site still needs to get traffic or be found online by your buyers. On the internet, your business is not just competing with the hospitality industry, it's competing with the billions of websites out there. This is why investing in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) should be a priority for your business.
Just from the foods you serve, your location and your pricing, you can develop unique keywords or keyword phrases that will rank your website higher than your competitors’ in search results. You can additionally improve your ranking by encouraging third-party site mentions and optimising the technical elements of your site. Diversify how customers can find you by having your information shared on review sites, travel sites or any other relevant platforms.
3. Leverage social media
Social media is an important tool that food service providers can utilise at this time. Your top priority as a business right now should be sending out awareness messages to your audience especially if you have had to pivot to a new model. Ensure there is continued communication on how your services, pricing, delivery details and operating hours have changed.
Conversations are crucial right now. You could consider using chatbots to automate replies to customer queries as you focus on production.
Be intentional about which platform you use and what content you share. Your business goals and target demographic should guide you with this. Remember, just as things have changed for you and your business, so have they changed for your customers. This means that there's a shift in their behaviours, needs, wants and even priorities. Strive to understand how their needs and priorities have changed and what role your business can play in meeting them. You can start by building your customer persona right here.
4. Elevate customer experiences
These trying times are exactly the moments businesses should be striving to stay top of mind and offer value. Food service providers and bars can achieve this by leveraging digital experiences to strengthen their relationship with customers (whether or not you are making hard sales).
Develop fun ways your customer can engage with your brand online such as preference polls.
You could even offer your customers an experience where they can build their own meal by selecting images of their ingredients.
You could also create an online loyalty program where customers are awarded badges depending on how often they order from you.
The value of these activities doesn’t end with the participants - as a business, you get to collect insights that you can use for decision making (especially when it comes to your digital marketing strategies). Operating on digital platforms allows you to collect data that you can analyse and observe trends.
5. Have offers
Everyone’s life has been impacted in some sort of way these past months. Giving your customers meaningful offers would demonstrate to them that you understand what they are going through. This will not only humanise your brand, but will also strengthen your relationship with them.
Offers don’t just have to be discounts. You could do a typical offer like banding of your products to make combo meals where customers can get a free soft drink or you could even pair your food with household items such as a free roll of tissue - at this time, such an offer can go a long way. This gesture is both whimsical and thoughtful and will leave lasting impressions on your customers.
6. Offer different payment methods
Diversify how you customers can pay for your products or services. Try to accommodate customers who cannot or prefer not to pay with cash by providing them with secure alternatives.
If card payment networks such as Visa or MasterCard might not be applicable to your target customer, mobile money remains an easily accessible option for many. According to the Sector Statistics Report done by Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), there were 28.9 million active mobile money subscriptions as of December 2019. With 54% of the population onboard with mobile money, businesses are assured it's a worthwhile investment.
Even with the uncertainty in the world right now, you can still be at the top of your game. Use this time as an opportunity to gain insights on how you can elevate your business.