Effective communication and its importance is nothing new to the restaurant industry. It’s evolving at an unprecedented pace and customers have increased their expectations. In fact, 76% of consumers report that they will take their business elsewhere if their experience doesn’t match their expectations. This is why your communication with your customers needs to be top-notch.

These days, the way we interact and engage with customers happens on multiple levels. What once took face-to-face customer interaction has now shifted to mobile. With the prevalence of social media and mobile technology, communication tactics have advanced. Fast forward to now, as we deal with the effects of COVID-19, it becomes even more important.

Your customers need and want to hear from you. Below, we’re going to show you why you need a customer communication strategy and how to create one that pays off.

The Importance of a Communications Strategy

In order to reach your business goals, it has to be backed up by a communications strategy. This is a series of specific tactics and communication channels that will help you reach your target market. Your communications strategy can be broken into three simple parts. This is going to be what you want to say, to who you want to say it, and what mediums you’ll use to do so.

There are various types of communication such as:

  • Phone Calls & SMS Messaging
  • In-person
  • Email & Newsletters
  • Social Media
  • Online Review Sites

Check out our Restaurant Communication Checklist to learn more about these methods. 

How does a restaurant stay competitive during COVID?

The answer is simple, provide better communication. There is so much uncertainty that COVID-19 has caused and your customers want to know what’s going on. Providing useful and up-to-date information can help them feel more at ease.

Let’s check out these 4 tips for better communication during COVID from a previous blog post:

  1. Be as transparent as possible
  2. Have consistent messaging
  3. Expect customer questions and give necessary updates
  4. Listen to your customers

These are the baseline for improving communication with your customers. Think With Google also shares some insight on how to help your customers during COVID we want to point out.

First, you must proactively communicate restaurant changes on all customer-facing channels. Make updates to your Business Profile on Google so your customers are always aware. This would also be the place where they can see the status of offerings such as take out, delivery, and or dine-in.

Not to mention the “take out” search on Google has increased by 285% because of COVID. You must communicate your off-premise efforts to help your customers remain safe. Consumers’ concern levels remain high. In fact, there has been an increase in the search for “is food delivery safe” by 650%. Safety is of the highest importance and you need to reassure your customers this is a priority to you.

Keep reading to learn how to create a strong customer communication strategy and how to manage it during COVID-19.

The 5 Steps to Creating an Effective Customer Communication Strategy

1. Identify Your Business Goals

Your business goals are the foundation of your communication strategy. Here is where you can refer to your restaurant business plan. Think about your mission statement, core values, and brand. From here, what do you want to achieve? Create goals that are realistic, specific, and actionable.

2. Define Your Communication Goals

Once you’ve outlined your business goals, you can specify your communication goals. These both will come together when you use the SMART strategic process. SMART stands for:

  • S: Specific – What is it exactly you want to achieve?
  • M: Measurable – How will you track the process and measure the outcome?
  • A: Achievable – Is the goal within reason to be accomplished?
  • R: Realistic – How is this goal relevant to you?
  • T: Time-bound – When do you want to reach your goal?

Here’s an example of a relevant business goal supported by SMART communication goals:

  • Business goal: Increase online ordering sales by 20%
  • Communications goal: Increase awareness of online ordering
  • SMART Strategy:

Specific: Compare awareness growth through social media vs advertisements over 2 months. A budget of $3,000.

Measurable: Track sales and actions that are taken from each online order social post and channel.

Achievable: Add a bold, visible online ordering button to your restaurant’s website. Add call-to-actions on each social media post – “Order Online Now!”.

Realistic: Awareness of online ordering will help keep business running due to dine-in closures.

Time-bound: Design social media calendar and advertisements about online ordering the first week. Launch both starting the same day and check progress every 5 days.

3. Create Messaging that Supports Your Vision & Business Goals

Your message is what brings together your communication strategy and business goals. It’s a representation of who you are and what you do. Your messaging is like your personality. It’s your brand’s voice. This will set the tone for all your communication methods. Clear targeted messaging will help attract customers and support your business goals.

4. Decide The Communication Channels

Start off by identifying what channels you currently use. Then, analyze the performance of each of them over specific periods of time. Which communication channel is going to best serve your goals? You want to direct your effort and spending on the channels that will have the greatest ROI.

A big factor in determining the channel will be your communication goal. As this varies, some messages may be better in a newsletter versus on social media. Make sure you’re going through each step from the stop as you set new goals.

5. Create Metrics and Evaluate Your Strategy

The last and most important step in your communication strategy is evaluating how well your strategy is doing. Your strategy is only as strong as your ability to make changes when needed. In this final step, use your SMART strategy as a baseline to review quantifiable findings.

You want to create metrics for each of your goals as well. For instance, this could be the number of online orders per channel. Or, the number of new Instagram followers after a giveaway. Your metrics will depend on your communication goal and however many you want to track is up to you. But, remember to have relevant reasoning behind it. Include in your communication strategy how you plan to track your efforts.

You can find communication plan examples and free templates here. Now, let’s look at a couple of examples of effective communication.

Examples of Effective Communication

To begin, here is an example from Acambaro Mexican Restaurant. This video features a clip of their website and then an easy tap to their online ordering. In their caption, they include a clear call-to-action “TRY OUR ONLINE ORDERING TODAY.” They redirect their customers to the link in their bio and have all up-to-date information.

Here is another example from Pizzeria Boema. This is an effective communicative post to their customers about a take out update. They make it clear they will be offering take out only for the week and will resume on-premise dining next week. If you slide through the carousel, the next photo is their ongoing special. The last part is a video of them doing a full sanitation cleaning of their restaurant. This is the kind of content your customers want to see to know you’re doing your part to keep operations safe. 

The next example we want to include highlights honesty and transparency. This was a tip from above for improving communication with your guests. Rose & Louis coffee shop shares this post discussing their tough time during COVID. They also make it clear of the safety measures they are taking to keep their guests safe. While they thank their customers for their support, their customers thank them for their honesty and hard work.

Centralized communication is key

The secret to staying competitive in the restaurant industry is providing effective communication. Consistent strong messaging leads to consistent loyal customers. Navigating communication throughout COVID-19 can be difficult but we’re all in this together. Your customers want to hear from you so they can continue to support you.

Use the 5 steps above to help you create a customer communication strategy. This is the go-to plan for all your business decisions. With all the changes in the ways we interact, a customer communication strategy will help you figure out what the best method is for you.

Your communication strategy is the structure of your social media strategy. Use our Guide to Social Media Marketing for Restaurants to enhance your customer engagement. Download the free guide below to learn how to use social media to connect with your customers.