Enas El Masry

The only constant is change, especially in the food and beverage industry. Market fluctuations are influenced by everything, from the cyclical turn of seasons to holidays and drastic events, like an economic meltdown or a global pandemic. Whether or not you can see the blow coming, you should always be prepared to pivot, readjust, and play every possible card to stay afloat or, better yet, ahead of the game.

For the second year in a row, summer is approaching amid the uncertainty of coronavirus restrictions and the ever-changing precautionary measures set to curb its spread. The market couldn’t be tougher to navigate, but there’s nothing that a little creativity and smart strategizing can’t solve.

Emerging from the long, cold quarantine nights, everyone is yearning for the energetic freshness of the summer, and that’s exactly what you should serve your customers. If you’re short on ideas for ramping up your sales this summer, check out the following suggestions.

1. Meet your customers where they are

Over the past year, the inability of so many restaurants to offer a seamless delivery experience has proven to be detrimental to their survival. But, now, delivery is the new normal, and in order to attract some attention, you need to spice up your approach. Although not novel, food trucks are one means of expanding your reach and going the extra mile to be where your customers are. So, pack up your kitchen and get ready to spread your scrumptiousness all over town.

2. Give your venue and menu a summer splash

Despite its harsh weather, the summer feel is one of cool and freshness. Beyond chillers and tropical smoothies, put a summer twist on your menu and dare to go wild and inventive with your use of seasonal fruits. Complement your summer menu and channel this vibe by redecorating your venue with plants and colorful ornaments. As a bonus, remember to source locally and support your community. (Add the Lokali story) Nothing says fresh like a ‘farm-to-table’ menu.

3. Make sure there’s something for everyone on your menu

From committed vegetarians and low-carb dieters to last-minute summer-body goal seekers, the way people eat is becoming ever so varied. Being inclusive doesn’t necessarily mean compromising your brand identity, but it certainly means a wider audience who feel welcomed at your restaurant.

4. Pack a little fun with order deliveries

Delivering food to your customers’ doorstep went from a luxury to a necessity overnight. Now, that you’re -hopefully- a pro at offering a smooth delivery service, it’s time to slip in a little add-on with the delivered meals. It could be a ‘thank you’ note for the customers who have supported your business during the rough times, a simple printable version of classic games like Ludo, or even a coloring sheet to occupy the kids while the parents attend to work or set the table.

5. Offer DIY meal kits

Cooking can be a fun activity for the entire family, especially when the ingredients are half-prepared and ready for the final touches. DIY meal kits add a homey feel to the meal and allow your customers to feel connected to your brand on a different level. Complement DIY meals by sharing some of your recipes with your community. Using a campaign hashtag, your community can record their attempts at recreating your recipes, or they can simply snap photos of the final outcome, which makes for a great pool of user-generated content.

6. Host dine-in and virtual event nights

Hosting events at your restaurant is a great way to generate traffic and attract new customers, especially if you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space. However, with social distancing and COVID-19 concerns, you will only be able to seat fewer tables than you usually would. Meanwhile, some customers may feel reluctant to attend out of fear for their health. To overcome this, you can offer a discounted ticket for a home-delivered meal and a private-access link to attend the live gig virtually.

7. Entice reservations

As you have to adhere to the regulations of social distancing, you can only seat a few customers at a time, limiting the number of walk-ins you can receive, which will in turn increase the length of your waiting queue. There’s nothing as frustrating as waiting for a table to clear up when one is hungry, which may cost you some customers who choose to find another place to dine.

Thanks to virtual queue management apps, your customers won’t have to physically share a tight space as they wait. But, what’s even better is serving them a smoother experience by encouraging them to make a reservation so they don’t wait at all. Encouraging more customers to reserve a table also gives you more control over seat planning and kitchen operations. You can do this by offering a discount on reserved tables or offering free dessert as a complimentary ‘thank you’.

8. Get creative with pick-up packaging

Where will the customer eat their picked-up meal? Will it be somewhere controlled such as their home or their office, or could they simply want to have a fun and casual meal on-the-go? To cater to customers hoping to enjoy fresh air along with their meal, some restaurants (check Zyda’s own Section F) invested in designing pick-up packages that guarantee effortless and hassle-free dining. So, whether the customer is in a park, in the car, or out in the middle of nowhere, they can enjoy their food with ease.

9. Paint a more personal picture of your brand

Marketing communications are key to your business success, but you mustn’t overlook the quality of communicated content as you push for quantity. Oftentimes, restaurants pour all of their marketing efforts into promoting new offers and menu items. While your food might be delicious, there is certainly more to your business than the items on sale - there is the story that got you and your business to where you are today, and this story is valuable and worth telling.

During the dire times since the pandemic swept the globe, everyone was reminded of the value of community and the need to belong to one in order to survive. Telling your story and inviting your customers into your world is the first step towards building a community and reminding the world that business is equally about the people as it is about the transaction.

So, go out there, embrace the summer spirit, and let the festive paradigm color your business in the fresh hues of life and celebration.