Dining Communications in the Age of Coronavirus

Effective critical communications start at the top, with senior leaders using email marketing as a means to share news about COVID-19, what they are doing to help, and also what consumers can do to stay safe and help others. But apart from the commonality of top-of-mind emails from the C-Suite, communications in the age of coronavirus should not be one-size-fits-all. 

The novel coronavirus is having a massive influence on the global economy and marketers need to be able to respond and adapt to a quickly changing landscape. That’s why Movable Ink’s client strategy team is sharing industry-specific tactics that quick-serve restaurants can employ to maintain transparency and keep customers at the core of their critical communications.

Share safety measures and focus on health 

With the quick impact we’ve seen on customer behavior and lifestyle changes, many organizations are rethinking their communication strategies. Many leaders from global Food Service organizations are communicating with their customers about the steps being taken to keep staff and guests safe. These communications are showcasing normal safety protocols that are always in place, as well as any additional features have been added due to COVID-19

Kim Lopdrup, CEO of Red Lobster assured customers that the chain has robust quality assurance and safety standards and will closely monitor and follow guidelines from the Center of Disease Control. In addition to this, Red Lobster installed wall mount hand sanitizer dispensers in the lobby and restroom hallways of each restaurant and began to offer curbside pickup and delivery options at many locations to encourage social distancing.

Offer alternatives to dining in

As individuals take care to social distance and municipal governments instate restrictions for dine-in service, restaurants have to adapt and find creative ways to fulfill orders. As new calendars are being built, be sure to think forward to what could change as the situation progresses. Having easy to pivot plans will help as rules continue to shift as the virus impact changes. 

Boston Market shifted to all the ways customers can get meals, from delivery, pickup or drive-thru, plus they offered a discount for larger-scale family meals. 

Be transparent about operations 

Brands should reassure customers and educate them on what the organization is doing to keep customers and employees safe. Showcase the safety and cleaning protocols that have been put in place to give your customers peace of mind.

In addition to implementing contingency pay to support their hourly workers, Starbucks issued a response to share the proactive measures the brand is adopting to keep customers safe and healthy. The brand has temporarily adapted its service model in all company-owned stores in the US and Canada, making all orders to-go and pausing on seating in order to encourage social distancing.

Joe Erlinger, President of McDonald’s USA, assured customers that their health and safety is of utmost importance and inform them of the proactive steps the company is taking in partnership with local and national health authorities. High-touch areas are cleaned more frequently, the company encourages and supports sick employees staying at home, and is enhancing their delivery system so customers can enjoy their food at home.

Prepare to modify messaging based on lifestyle and operational changes

If there’s one thing that brands can predict in this current climate, it’s the fact that the situation will keep evolving, and messaging should evolve with it. 

Many of your customers are spending more time at home and in some cases are working remotely. Because of this, they are likely to place orders at very different times compared to their BAU behavior. Leverage time-based marketing messages to help those who might now be looking for a breakfast delivery when they have back-to-back conference calls and meetings. As people become increasingly restless, you can promote date-night-in menus with wine pairings. Be compassionate to how customers are feeling and modify your strategy to align with the current social situations. 

Unfortunately, many restaurants may have to temporarily close to the public in an effort to keep staff members and customers safe and healthy. In these instances, it’s best to clearly communicate why you’re making those changes. As you’re speaking to your loyal customers, don’t be afraid to offer them alternative ways to support your company. Whether that’s offering a modified menu for contactless delivery, creating “care package” kits to lift spirits, or promoting gift cards for future dining at physical locations is up to you. Your customers are your fans and want to help their local restaurants survive. There’s a large, communal drive to keep businesses open during this trying time, and if you communicate clearly and candidly, you might be surprised to see how supportive your customers can be.

About the author

Elle Kross

Prior to joining Movable Ink, Elle worked at TravelClick, a SaaS-based travel technology company. She later moved into Financial Services where she worked in ECM marketing, B2B marketing, and communication strategy.

She joins Movable Ink from Citi, where she led the overhaul of the Credit Card businesses servicing communications. Most recently, Elle ran a team focusing on Citi’s ongoing initiative to drive digital as SVP of Drive-to-Paperless Strategy.