Food and Beverage Hospitality seeing through COVID19

By Oliver Clay, Senior Paid Media Account Manager at VERB

Brands across the world are struggling to generate revenue, though few are facing as big of a challenge as luxury restaurants. After all, they rely on customers leaving their house to eat out. Step forward innovation, pushing these businesses out of their comfort zone and into 2020 – where everyone can thrive online, with the right strategy.

With customers looking to replicate a Saturday evening dinner in their favourite restaurant or their regular morning coffee stop at home, we’ve seen a rise in wine subscriptions, gin subscriptions, and even coffee subscriptions. And for those longing for chef-prepared meals, luxury restaurants are stepping in to fill the gap with high-quality food delivered to your door. 

Here we break down key tips to help luxury food and beverage businesses to thrive, not just survive through the coronavirus, and future-proof luxury restaurant marketing for the challenges beyond.

Adapting to change

While the front door may be closed, the digital world remains open for business. This doesn’t need to be siloed to businesses where eCommerce is an existing offering or an obvious transition – luxury restaurants should take this opportunity to grow their online presence too. To begin, beneath any revenue-driving efforts should be a strong awareness strategy. Building interest now equates to a steady stream of customers when restrictions are lifted, providing luxury restaurants a boost for what is sure to be a tricky second half of the year. Alongside this, existing customers should not be forgotten, but instead rewarded for their past loyalty with incentives to take up any new digital offerings.

To make this work, restaurants, bars, and cafes should look to adapt their offering so as to reach consumers in their homes. This can be as simple as keeping their kitchens open with a skeleton staff and moving onto a platform like Supper London, or Deliveroo to provide a revenue stream as much as customer loyalty.

Our client, GAUCHO. We helped GAUCHO launch on Deliveroo at the start of lockdown.

Marketing for wineries could evolve into a flexible wine subscription service, peppered with a unique personal touch that elevates this above those that already exist in the market. The same can be applied to marketing coffee – demonstrate to customers that in lieu of a visit to their favourite barista, a coffee subscription can allow them to get the same taste and feel without stepping outside. This is evidenced in a rise of alcohol subscription services in the UK – regardless of the circumstance, people want to enjoy the things they did before the coronavirus, and a supermarket substitute doesn’t make the cut.

A gift for you, and a gift for me

The hospitality industry relies on celebrations – anniversary dinners, birthday drinks, private functions. Unable to service these face-to-face, there exists a huge opportunity for luxury food and beverage online in the form of gifting. A recent report by RLI shows a rise in gift buying for loved ones, delivered to the door, where social distancing prevents people from celebrating together. Sending a friend a beautiful bottle of wine from their favourite city bar again provides a personal touch to online gift delivery, and this model can be applied across many businesses in the luxury hospitality industry.

This extends to the growing trend of ‘self-gifting’, where consumers are comfort buying to stay positive in light of coronavirus. Businesses that allow people the freedom to treat themselves and enjoy an experience they would typically seek outside the home will see themselves favoured when movement picks up again.

Future-proofing a digital presence

Though it may seem distant (right now), restaurants and bars will reopen, and it is more important than ever that luxury hospitality businesses position themselves to be a customer’s first choice when restrictions are lifted.

As many will know, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, and so the work needs to be done now to ensure a brand is in a good position later in the year. When users begin to look for their first luxury restaurant to visit, whether that be through Google Maps listings or browsing online reviews, the fight will be on to be present. Key to this is maintaining or improving local SEO rankings so as to appear at the top of the Google local three-pack.

With budgets squeezed, many will consider this the time to reduce restaurant marketing spend, but this will be to the detriment of the recovery of business when revenue generation becomes a real possibility again. In the meantime, adapting your offering to meet the needs of the customer today, whether that be through online gifting efforts or a luxury home delivery service, will set you ahead of competitors. Combined with specialised local SEO for restaurants and bars, customers will see you and appreciate you, and reward you when their freedom returns.