covid-19 local marketing changes hero image

Restaurant brands across the country are eager to get employees back to work and cash registers ringing again. While no industry has been untouched by the devastation of COVID-19, foodservice brands have been dealt a particularly difficult hand. Over 8 million restaurant workers were laid off or furloughed, and the industry had already lost $80 billion in sales by the end of April, according to the National Restaurant Association. Some restaurants were forced to close temporarily, while others have operated only on a limited takeout or delivery basis. As your brand plans to reopen restaurants or ramp up from reduced operations, communicating these updates to customers is mission-critical. Customers are looking to their favorite brands for guidance and reassurance as we enter this next phase of the Coronavirus pandemic. We will provide three crucial local marketing tips for restaurant brands reopening locations to help guide you below.

As America reopens, your customers may be wondering:

  • Is your restaurant location nearest to them open for takeout, delivery, or curbside pickup?
  • Are you offering your full menu in every location?
  • Do your restaurant locations offer contactless payment at pickup?
  • Are there special hours of operation at any of your locations?
  • Are there any changes to your food safety practices as a result of COVID-19?
  • What measures have you put in place to ensure the safety of employees and customers?
  • Are people allowed to use the washrooms in your restaurants?

How and where you make important business information and updates available to potential customers is crucial. As your brand takes steps to comply with federal, state, and local regulations and guidance, you may have locations in various phases of reopening over the coming months. Here are a few tips to ensure that as consumers begin to consider your restaurant, your location information makes that transaction as seamless as possible.

1. Update location information on Local Listings and Pages across the brand.

Keep important business information front and center with updates to your Local Listings and Pages in as near to real-time as possible. Restaurant hours and preferred ordering methods may change several times in the coming months. Make sure your customers in any location have the most accurate, up-to-date information by using local listings technology to push updates to a location’s GMB profile and all networks, data aggregators, and directories concurrently. 

Update local listings with:

  • NAP – Name, Address and Phone Number, making sure that the phone number listed is one customers can use to contact you at this time.
  • Hours, including any special hours if applicable
  • Services update, such as dine-in (if available now), or delivery and takeout options
  • Menus, making sure that if locations are offering a limited menu that is reflected on their GMB profile
  • Business name, we recommend returning business names to normal and removing any special services you may have added to the business name for locations with limited services.

Local Pages are often the next step for consumers looking for more information about your restaurant’s location and menu. What services and ordering or payment methods are available? How is visiting your location different today than it was pre-COVID-19? What special instructions or safety precautions should customers know about? 

Not only does this provide important information to customers, but this relevant content on Local Pages can help improve your search rankings and visibility, as well.

Local Marketing Tips for Restaurant Brand, update your services

2. Communicate safety information on your website, Local Pages, and in Google Posts.

Customers want to know how COVID-19 is impacting operations, what steps you are taking to ensure food safety, how you are protecting customers and employees, and more. Share these details on your website, to Local Pages, and in high search visibility Google Posts.

The recommendations in the federal “Opening Up America Again” guidelines, a collaboration between the White House and the CDC, state that owners should develop and implement policies “in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and guidance, and informed by industry best practices,” regarding:

  • Social distancing and protective equipment 
  • Temperature checks 
  • Testing, isolating, and contact tracing 
  • Sanitation 
  • Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas 
  • Business travel

Employers should have a process in place for monitoring their workforce for symptoms of COVID-19 and should not allow symptomatic people to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider. All businesses including restaurants should develop and implement policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing, in the event that an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Restaurants have the additional challenge of having to anticipate consumers’ food safety concerns. 

Adding a COVID-19 resource to your website gives you a place to house a collection of FAQs you can refer customers to from social media interactions, customer service calls, etc. Go that extra step and make it more accessible by sharing the information in a series of reassuring, engaging Google Posts. Tell customers how your curbside, contact-free pickup service works. Show them the types of PPE your workers are wearing. Link back to your Local Pages and website FAQs for more in-depth information.

3. Monitor and respond to local reviews.

A quality, robust approach to online reputation management is one of the underpinnings of a successful local search strategy, and has implications in both organic local and Local Pack rankings. In addition to helping to improve your local rankings, responding to reviews demonstrates that social validation consumers crave. 

As your restaurant locations take steps to reopen and adapt to the “new normal,” what your customers are telling you in reviews will be an important source of business intelligence. Negative reviews may point to opportunities to better prepare customers for what to expect at your locations as operations evolve. Positive reviews may help your brand identify new best practices and top performers to showcase to all local managers. 

In any case, carefully gathering those review insights and ensuring that each review receives a response is challenging for multi-location brands. Empower your team with a local reviews management solution that allows for new review alerts and assignments, sentiment analysis, and the ability to monitor and respond to all reviews from within one dashboard.

Example of Owner responding to a review

Helpful COVID-19 Resources for Restaurant Brands

See Opening Up America Again: Phase One for more detailed federal guidelines and recommendations on managing your workforce and physical space.

The Coronavirus Information and Resources page from the National Restaurant Association contains important food safety advice, FAQs about foodservice employee rights, and more.

See Rio SEO’s up-to-date list of local marketing resources related to COVID-19 and check back often to get more local marketing tips and best practices during all phases of the re-opening.

Learn more about local marketing and SEO solutions built for the unique needs of multi-location restaurant brands here.

If you are in need of support or local marketing advice, we are here to help. Get in touch with the Rio SEO team or take advantage of a free local search audit to find ways to improve your restaurant brand’s local presence.