Dear restaurants and food businesses and bars that serve food and wine shops and cafés and vendors and anyone else who is desperately trying to pivot and stay open right now:
Thank you for all your efforts. We’re so sorry for all the struggle and loss and overwhelming fear and hard decisions. But there are ways to help your customers support you! As someone who has been looking at thousands of Instagram accounts and websites and Yelp pages trying to confirm and find information during this crisis, it made me want to write this checklist for you on free ways to help get the word out about your business and share/update your status and current offering.
I know you have a million things you’re doing right now, it’s a scramble, and you have limited resources and time. But think about asking for help! Break this list apart into action items and send to your coworkers, your publicist, your rockstar customers who want to help you. There’s more help out there than you may think.
-Is your Instagram account current? Update your bio with your hours, what you’re offering (takeout? delivery? curbside?), list your delivery partners (is there one you prefer your customers use because of their commission fee policy?), and be sure to include a link to your website or current menu. (If you are temporarily closed, please let your customers know.)
-Create a post with a picture of what you’re currently offering, and let people know how to get it. Announce your new meal kits, and show your followers how delicious they look! You can do a food pic, or even a few, and then a snapshot of your current menu for the second image.
-Some hashtags to add: #supportsmallbusiness #saverestaurants #savehospitality #toosmalltofail
-Try to do a daily update in your Stories. Share a pic of your menu, your special, your cocktail carafe, a video of your staff, you! Remind people you’re still open! It’s quick and effective.
-Do you need to close for the day, or a few? Send out a Story and a Post so your followers know you’re taking a break (and when you plan to be back).
-Ask your customers to share a picture of their meal/beverage from you and tag you!
-Reshare any Stories or posts people tag/feature you in—they’re creating easy content for you to share.
-Any posts/Stories you do on Instagram, push them to your Facebook page.
-I’m also seeing restaurants run sponsored ads on Instagram for more visibility…
-Try some live video content! From a mini cooking show in your kitchen to a message from the owner, everyone is creating video content to help put a face to all these takeout meals.
-Do you still have a Twitter account? Time to brush it off, update it, and send a post with your hours and menu—you have followers for a reason!
Get added to these maps that list who is open and doing takeout/delivery (and tag them in your Instagram post): Edible SF’s map and tag @ediblesf; Dining at a Distance and tag @diningatadistance; The Chronicle; Woso and tag @wososf; Takeout Covid; and even Bud Light launched a nationwide map.
-Do you have an email list? Send out an email about what you’re offering (did you just start offering cocktails to go?), your menu, your hours, a link to your social media accounts, how your customers can help support you!
-Some restaurants are sending daily emails with menu updates, or once a week with a weekly menu.
-Be sure to update your hours.
-Yelp is now offering the ability to add a GoFundMe link to your page (after stupidly adding this feature automatically, without asking restaurants first, WTF), as well as matching funds—check it out.
-Take a look at some additional offers right now, from free advertising support (if you offer delivery or takeout, they will set up a $100 Yelp Ads campaign free of charge for the month of April) to access to upgraded page features.
GOOGLE BIZ PROFILE
I’ve been hearing of a bug on Google: restaurants are trying to update their hours on their Business Profile and a bot keeps changing them back. If you know someone at Google who can help, please give them a firm nudge. (You can leave a comment on their latest Twitter post if you’re having the same trouble, follow updates here.) But they just added the ability to mark your status as “temporarily closed.” Some good tips in this article, like setting “holiday hours” and adding an event post.
-Many businesses are launching crowdfunding/GoFundMe campaigns to raise money, or even creating a virtual tip jar and listing their Venmo handle. Some of your loyal followers will want to contribute and show their support to your employees and business. Make sure to share this to all your channels (social media, email list, website).
-Get added to this spreadsheet of SF restaurant GoFundMe fundraisers.
-Make sure to add your GoFundMe to your Yelp page (see above).
-Many businesses are encouraging their customers to buy gift certificates. Some businesses are offering GCs at a discount, like 25 percent off, as an incentive. Call it out as an option for your customers to help show their support.
-Get your gift certificate offer added here: Save Our Faves.
-Here’s a nationwide gift certificate map of small businesses where you can get listed as well: Help Main Street.
Is your phone ringing, or just going straight to voicemail? Update your outgoing phone message with your hours and options (takeout, delivery, temporarily closed?). Make sure it’s easy for people to contact you, whether it’s a customer with a delivery issue or someone checking to see if you’re open.
-I’m seeing restaurants all over the city create signs in their windows, boldly listing what they’re offering, their delivery/takeout hours, their wine discounts, curbside options, their website. You can DIY this, or even better, hire local sign-makers to make it nice!
-And get your sandwich board out on the sidewalk (if you don’t have one—maybe get one?). I also recommend these customizable light-up signs for your window, they really get attention.
Hang in there. We’re all pulling for you!
@squarepieguys has useful info listed on their Instagram bio: hours and a call-to-action/link to their online ordering.