covid-19 local marketing changes hero image

It’s Friday evening. If you’re residing in a state that is still adhering to stay-at-home orders, you’re likely lounging on your couch, contemplating what to eat for dinner. You’ve now become well-accustomed to ordering food for delivery or swinging by your favorite restaurant for curbside pickup. While going out for a nice dinner out may be out of the question, consumers are undeniably still interested in getting food to go from restaurants despite the current pandemic.

While the foodservice industry has dramatically had to shift its operations significantly to adapt to a new era of consumerism, many have been quick to adapt to new trends. Now, restaurants are getting creative with their service offerings, and for those that are allowed to operate in states that have lifted stay-at-home orders, their business model may never be the same.

Recently, I interviewed Krystal Taing, Director of Local Strategy at Rio SEO, to get her expert insight into how local marketers can perfect their local strategy for these new restaurant services. In this post, I’ll share her best practices and tips she has to help restaurant brands prepare for their reopening and what their future operations may entail. But first, let’s dive into some services restaurants have begun offering to better accommodate social distancing practices.

4 Unique Social Distancing Services Offered By Restaurants

Cloud/Ghost Kitchens

One of the newest restaurant models to help brands cut costs is ghost kitchens, also known as virtual kitchens, shared kitchens, and cloud kitchens. This new type of restaurant model allows several restaurants to share a kitchen and therefore, many of the costs to operate. These restaurants don’t have a traditional storefront or dine-in services, but instead, offer delivery-only. They rely on third-party apps such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub for ordering and delivery.

Wing Squad Ghost Kitchen

Pop-Up Restaurant Nights

Can’t open your doors for dine-in patrons or afford to offer takeout daily? Some restaurants have shifted to offering pop-up nights at their establishments on select days of the week (such as Fridays or weekends in most cases). Customers can order ahead of time and pick up their order within a specific timeframe on the night/s of the pop-up.

Meal Kits

Sometimes the process of cooking dinner at home sounds too arduous to take on. Meal kits have been a recent trend over the past few years. In fact, prior to COVID-19, an estimated 25% of consumers said they would consider trying a meal kit in the next 6 months. Restaurants have now hopped onto this trend to boost sales, offering pre-made meals or ingredients to make meals at home to better accommodate those seeking convenience. Meal kits are typically available for both delivery and pick-up.

At-Home Cooking Events

As another method to generate revenue, restaurants are getting creative by hosting virtual cooking classes. Prior to each class, customers must pick up the necessary ingredients from the restaurant. Then during the class, a chef walks customers through how to assemble and make the meal with these ingredients, resulting in a restaurant-quality dinner and a fun, interactive activity. Tahona, a San Diego-based Mexican restaurant, is a great example of this. Each Friday, the restaurant offers virtual mezcal tastings. Customers must first order their tasting kit online for delivery or takeout, and then log in on Friday on Tahona’sInstagram, where a sommelier walks through the flavor profiles of each of the Mezcal samples and answers questions live.

New Restaurant Services Q&A with Krystal Taing

How should restaurant brands communicate updates to their services through their Google My Business (GMB) profile?

Krystal: Your GMB profile may be the first place a potential customer interacts with your business. To ensure they have the best initial experience as possible, you must maintain accurate, up-to-date information about your brand. During times of uncertainty, when consumers are seeking to find out if your restaurant is open and what safety measures you have in place, it’s crucial to communicate this information via your GMB profile. To do so, we recommend you update the following:

  • Business description
  • Attributes
  • Phone numbers
  • Hours
  • Posts 
  • Menu
  • Website and order links

What information should restaurant brands add to their business description?

Krystal: Restaurant brands should update this field to reflect any special services you are currently offering, such as: 

  • Any information regarding your reopening
  • Changes in your operations (limiting capacity, temperature checks prior to entering your establishment)
  • Sanitation and safety measures you’re taking to protect your patrons
  • If you’re offering only curbside pickup and takeout at this time

What attributes should restaurant brands mark as available or unavailable on their GMB profile?

Krystal: Attributes have become a prime way to showcase special services businesses’ are offering amid the coronavirus pandemic. Google has been diligent in listening and learning about what information consumers are seeking the most during these times and adding the appropriate attributes to reflect this. Some of the attributes restaurant brands can utilize to better communicate their services include:

  • Curbside pickup
  • Delivery
  • No-contact delivery
  • Takeout
  • Dine-in

GMB Attributes

Pro Tip: We recommend updating all attributes available to you as available or unavailable, regardless if you offer the service or not. This will better convey the services each of your locations are currently offering.

Can we create a separate GMB listing for our ghost kitchen/meal delivery service?

Krystal: Due to the rise of special services offered during COVID-19, Google has since relaxed its guidelines in terms of allowing for new listings for ghost/cloud kitchens or meal delivery services. Businesses may now create a service area business(SAB) listing for these services. A service area business is:

  • A business without a physical storefront
  • A business that offers a service outside of its own immediate location (such as a Ghost Kitchen)
  • A business that services a specific area (you will determine what your geographical range in your GMB profile)

Note: Typically, SABs are required to make in-person contact to qualify for a listing but Google has updated that for ghost/cloud kitchens and they are permitting them to use third-party delivery.

Can businesses now control secondary sets of hours in GMB?

Krystal: Google is now allowing businesses to control secondary sets of hours in GMB user interface and is expected to be added to the API in the coming months. Consider surfacing secondary hours you offer to better inform customers, such as:

  • Senior Hours
  • Drive-through Hours
  • Delivery Hours
  • Takeout Hours
  • Pickup Hours 

What should brands update on their local pages to better reflect new services?

Krystal: Local Pages are an opportune way to communicate more information to your customers for each of your locations. Here, you have the real estate to integrate ordering or delivery services to easily facilitate transactions, drive customers to call your location, highlight meal kits or featured menu items, add safety information, or publish your menu, especially if you’re highlighting new meals or services. The more dynamic you make your local landing pages, the more encouraged customers will be to take action.

What should restaurant brands update on relevant industry sites?

Krystal: Similar to GMB, restaurant brands should fill out all attributes and fields available to them on directories they appear in with accurate information that reflects their current services. If your menu is integrated on those sites, be sure this is up-to-date as well if you’re currently offering a limited version of your menu or only select items at this time.

Yelp listing

For the most up-to-date information on restaurant-related information and resources, visit the National Restaurant Association. At Rio SEO, we are also proactively adding new local marketing COVID-19 resources on a regular basis to ensure you never miss an important update. We encourage you to check back often to equip your brand for local marketing success as your stores begin to reopen.

During these trying times, we are here to support your business. Please reach out to our support team if you are in need of more information related to local marketing or if you simply have questions. We are here to help.