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maarketing-during-covid-traffic-slumps.jpg Tomas Rodriguez / Stone
With a full recovery still months to a year away, here’s how you can attract consumers in the meantime.

Viewpoint: Mid-COVID pandemic traffic strategies for restaurants

With a full recovery still months to a year away, here’s how you can attract consumers in the meantime

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality.

Don’t expect a total restaurant recovery in the spring. Maybe … maybe spring 2022. Let’s get real — vaccinations will take until Labor Day. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, is walking back his herd immunity words/numbers. It needs close to 90% vaccinated. Not just 67%.

So, what does all of this mean for restaurant traffic? Here are some strategies:

32311-GMS_Pictures_cc.jpgPhoto: Gary Stibel

It’s time for national marketing to take a time-out. “Two free toppings” is just not as compelling as it was before we were at risk of dying from a pandemic. Put more bucks into local store marketing. Families are cooped up and craving to get out of their cage. Give them your antidote.

Use social media to post today’s specials, as a daily excuse to stay in customers’ faces

Be on top of the minimum wage dilemma. Andrew Puzder, former CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, stated on January 17 that a $15 per hour minimum wage would destroy jobs. It will be a decade before the morticians conclude who is right. Don’t wait a decade . . . talk to your employees now about your pay policy, and how you won’t let them be left behind.

Get back to basics. Do your stores scream “Open now”? If not, your competitor’s stores are certainly screeching these words; get your word out. Not just for the ears, but also for the eyes.

Give back. If you want guests to care about you and your business, show them that you care about other less fortunate people in the community, do whatever you can and then some, and don’t be embarrassed to publicize it.

“Free mask with meal.” Why not? COVID is our current normal, and perhaps for the rest of our lives. Get on the bus. Make a name for yourself and become synonymous with safety.

Regularly hold all-hands-on employee Zoom calls. Explain what we know, and what we don’t. Keep regular communication. If you have regional offices, try to do calls individually, so you can conduct quality (local office) Q&A’s.

Get on the phone with your key external constituents regularly: your private equity backers, your lenders, your suppliers, etc.

Stay in touch with furloughed employees. You owe them that much, and they will be more likely to come back, hopefully, when the in-house dining cap lifts.

Above all, operators who embrace the opportunity, rather than being victimized by it, will be the winners.

The New England Consulting Group is a performance based marketing management consultancy focused single-mindedly on increasing customer acquisition, retention and expansion across all touchpoints with guests, crews, operators and franchisees.

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