COVID-19 Restaurant Resources

5 New Types of Diners and How to Entice Them With Restaurant Marketing Strategies

By Dana Krook

Waiter wearing a mask while showing a menu to a woman on a patio

The pandemic has been tough on all restaurateurs. One of the biggest challenges (aside from the sheer financial burden), has been atmosphere – the absence of guests’ conversation and laughter as they celebrate an occasion, reconnect with friends, or simply wind down their day in your cafe, dining room, or bar.

Dine-in service has started up again at many restaurants, but with safety concerns at the forefront of everyone’s mind, the relationship with your guests look a little different now. This means your restaurant marketing strategies need to change to reflect how your guests feel about restaurants today, which can range from very nervous, to excited and eager to support you.

Putting yourself in the shoes of your various customer segments can help you create and implement a plan for reopening that will let your guests know you understand their mindset and that you’re committed to delivering an outstanding – and safe – dining experience tailored to their needs.

In this article, we’ll cover how you can adjust your restaurant marketing strategies for five new types of diners:

  • The Eager Beavers
  • The Patio Lovers
  • The Takeout Enthusiasts
  • The Delivery Die-Hards
  • The Extra Cautious Crowd

Let’s dig in!

Cafe owner wearing a mask as he reopens his business

Why You Should Plan for Different Types of Guests

The pressure is on for restaurateurs to recover lost profits, which means you can’t afford to neglect any guests. For example, if you only focus on your eager customers, you might cause more hesitant diners to think you’re not taking the public health crisis seriously, or to lose trust in you and take their business elsewhere.

Spend some time assessing the different types of guests you have, and think about their concerns and expectations when you’re creating your new restaurant marketing strategies. The key to achieving restaurant recovery is to find ways to serve each group so they all have a good experience.

While safety should be your top priority when serving any guest, your marketing efforts can emphasize various elements of your new offerings for different guests. For example, some of your messages can highlight dine-in safety measures like a new floor plan, while other messages can focus on contactless delivery options.

How to Identify Your Guest Categories

Before you get to work on your new restaurant marketing strategies, you need to understand how to position your brand and create marketing campaigns that will resonate with each type of guest. This requires digging into your data to categorize your diners into groups. Or, if you don’t have any data yet, you can gather information directly from your guests.

Technology is your friend in this process. You can use customer relationship management (CRM) software – which could be part of your reservations platform or your loyalty program – to collect and organize information about your restaurant guests.

Once you have some information at your fingertips, use your software to build customized guest profiles, which can include everything from a guest’s name and contact details, to notes on their dining preferences and food allergies. You can use this valuable data to deliver a personalized restaurant experience to each of your guests, putting you on their “know, like, and trust” list – as well as in their calendar for a coffee break tomorrow or dinner next weekend.

Want to know how your guests feel about your restaurant in the wake of COVID-19 so you can market to them effectively and offer great service? Don’t underestimate the power of simply asking them! Send a survey to your email list to find out what’s top of mind for your guests. This will further help you categorize them into distinct groups.

Woman wearing a mask in a restaurant working at a laptop

Restaurant Marketing Strategies for 5 New Types of Diners

1. The Eager Beavers

This group of guests has been feeling cooped up at home over the past few months, and they’re eager to reconnect with the outside world. They’re missing in-person connection and craving the familiarity of pre-pandemic life. While most of these diners do care about safety, they want the world to return to normal, which means they’re more than ready to dine at your restaurant again.

Restaurant Marketing Strategies for The Eager Beavers:

  • Help these guests feel a sense of comfort by promoting something as close to the pre-pandemic restaurant experience as possible. For example, feature your most-loved menu items or daily specials on your website and social media, as well as drinks or dishes that can’t be packaged for takeout or delivery.
  • Stir up some buzz about your reopening and give diners a chance to get in on something exclusive by promoting a limited time offer across your various marketing channels. Bonus points if your exclusive dish or drink includes ingredients from a local business – these guests are eager to get out and support their community.
  • Incorporate language into your marketing messages to emphasize “we’re all in this together.” This messaging can help foster a sense of community and reduce guest frustrations about some of your new dine-in safety measures, such as asking your in-house diners for their name and phone number for contact tracing purposes.
  • Encourage these visitors to become ambassadors for your restaurant by offering them easy ways to share their recent successful dining experiences – for example on social media or via online reviews. Be sure to reward or at least thank your guests for taking the time to help spread the word about your restaurant.

2. The Patio Lovers

This crowd is cautiously optimistic. They’re eager to dine out again, but still a little wary of dining inside a restaurant. These guests want to balance social interaction with safety and enjoy a delicious meal in the process. Plus, who doesn’t love a good patio session? If your restaurant has a patio, you’re well positioned to wow this group. Even if you don’t have an outdoor space, you can still use some of these tips.

Restaurant Marketing Strategies for The Patio Lovers:

  • Consider a soft reopening. This type of event can include extending invitations to a small group of your most loyal guests to join you for a limited selection of menu items in an exclusive, safe environment. You can use email marketing to segment your invitation list and get the word out. Include a few words in the invitation to let your biggest fans know how much you appreciate their support.
  • If you’ve expanded your patio, make sure these guests know about the changes. This crowd wants to see that you’ve put physical distancing measures in place, but they’re also excited to dine in an outdoor space that feels inviting and comfortable. Share photos on social media of your new, spacious setup to create some patio buzz.
  • Promote the safety measures you’re implementing on your patio in your marketing messages and through your actions by showing you’re still taking the pandemic seriously. For example, if you’re using reservation software, let guests know that they can book a table in advance. Promoting online reservations shows that you’re making an effort to space out seatings and to promote social distancing on your patio.
Waiter wearing a mask while showing a menu to a woman on a patio

3. The Takeout Enthusiasts

These guests are tired of home cooking and want to enjoy food from their favorite restaurants, but they’re not comfortable dining in while COVID-19 is still a threat. This group cares about supporting local businesses, and they’d rather pick up their order from you directly than use a third-party delivery service. Here are a few ways you can show these guests some love.

Restaurant Marketing Strategies for The Takeout Enthusiasts:

  • There’s nothing worse than trying to navigate a complicated website when you’re hangry. Let this crowd know that you’ve made online ordering easy by using a system like TouchBistro Online Ordering, and promoting it in your marketing campaigns with a few examples that show how simple the process is. This not only improves the guest experience, but also helps you hold onto more revenue.
  • Don’t let takeout be an afterthought! There’s no better time to create some hype around your takeout menu, especially if you’ve revamped it lately. Consider promoting dedicated takeout-only dishes that travel well, or offering a discount of 5% or 10% off for guests who order takeout rather than delivery.
  • Diversify your restaurant’s takeout offerings and play this up in your marketing. Create and promote meal kits so your guests can try their hand at making their favorite menu items at home. You can even run a contest for people to win different meal kits by engaging with you on social media. 

4. The Delivery Die-Hards

This group is also craving restaurant food, but they want to interact with restaurants and staff as little as possible during the pandemic, which means they prefer delivery over takeout. You can show these guests that you’ve got their back by focusing on creating a great, contactless delivery experience and promoting it widely. Here’s how to make it happen.

Restaurant Marketing Strategies for The Delivery Die-Hards:

  • Make delivery accessible to as many potential customers as you can. If you use third-party apps, take advantage of the marketing services they offer to ensure your restaurant appears at the top of searches. If you have the budget, run a promotion through the app, too. This could include offering your delivery diners rewards for repeat business.
  • Let your guests know that you’re all about making delivery special. Your customers deserve to feel pampered, even if they’re not sitting in your dining room while they enjoy your food. Promote the special touches you include in delivery orders, like house-made condiments or sauces, and an attractive presentation. Share a few photos on social media that your staff can take pride in and that your guests can get excited about.
  • Pay attention to delivery packaging, and promote the steps you take to make it high quality on your website and social media. Nobody wants their order to arrive cold or falling apart. This crowd wants to know that your packaging will keep their food warm and intact from your kitchen, all the way to their front door. And don’t forget to inject an element of your brand – for example, your logo or colors – into your packaging to reinforce brand awareness.
  • Let guests know that safety is still top of mind, even when it comes to delivery orders. Update the messaging across your website, social media channels, and business profiles to include the phrase “contactless delivery,” instead of just “delivery.” This will make your restaurant stand out to diners who take safety very seriously. 

5. The Extra Cautious Crowd

These folks haven’t really been enjoying restaurant food in any way lately because of fears about the spread of COVID-19. They want to wait and see how the pandemic plays out and if a second wave is likely to hit before they venture out into the world again. These diners will be some of the last to return to your restaurant. So, how do you get them to come back?

Restaurant Marketing Strategies for The Extra Cautious Crowd:

  • Put health and safety at the forefront of your marketing messages for these guests. Communicate the measures you’re taking to protect your customers prominently on your website and your social media channels, and encourage these guests to reach out if they have questions or concerns.
  • Promote alternatives to dine-in, such as takeout and delivery, and communicate how you’re making those options safe – for example, by offering contactless delivery and having your staff wear gloves when they pack takeout containers.
  • Work to keep your brand top of mind by continuing to market to these guests through email blasts and social media posts – be as visible as you can! Though they may not be ready to enjoy restaurant fare just yet, you want to make sure that when they are ready to dine out again, your restaurant is the first one that comes to mind.
Waitress wearing a mask while holding a tablet

Ready for Reopening

If you take the time to put robust health and safety measures in place at your restaurant and invest in smart technology like reservation software, you can better market your restaurant reopening. By taking these steps, you can promote a safe and comfortable experience for guests of all kinds – even those that are still wary of dining out.

Check out the TouchBistro Restaurant Reservation System to learn more about how you can welcome back dine-in guests with ease.

Photo of Dana Krook
by Dana Krook

Dana is the former Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, sharing tips for and stories of restaurateurs turning their passion into success. She loves homemade hot sauce, deep fried pickles and finding excuses to consume real maple syrup.

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