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  • M. Villarreal

How To Reopen Your Houston Area Restaurant Successfully

Across the U.S. and worldwide, few industries were as heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as the hospitality industry. However, 2021 is gradually bringing back a surge of normalcy, where business is resuming to life pre-pandemic and customers want to come back. Are you doing the right things to get them to YOUR business?

With Governor Greg Abbot’s recent executive orders firmly in this direction, Texas restaurants are now reopening. It won’t be an easy task; however, these unprecedented circumstances have created a unique challenge for bringing back the customers; and restaurant owners and managers are tasked with figuring it out. With this in mind, let us explore ways to successfully reopen your Texas restaurant this spring and come back strong.

Prepare your restaurant

Before marketing your triumphant 100% return to business, you will of course need to prepare your establishment. It’s not just about making it pretty. It also means functional as you scale up to 100% safely and keeping the kitchen in good shape from the cooking line to the hood vents and exhaust system. We’ve outlined how to safely return to 100% before, so let us keep this "practical" section brief.

Thoroughly clean your equipment and premises

Whether you’ve operated at lower capacity or paused operations during the pandemic, reopening should first and foremost entail cleanliness - for both the eating area and kitchen. Especially in such hygienically-conscious times, anything but spotless premises can strongly discourage customers and create bad reviews online. As such, you should ensure you deep-clean your kitchens and equipment, thoroughly disinfect your premises, and reinforce food safety practices. Lastly, ensuring your hood vent exhaust system is properly cleaned and maintained is not only a safety requirement by federal NFPA 96 standards, but it also impacts the entire restaurant- including the customer experience.

Manage your storage

Similarly, you may be preparing for any number of changes, from redecorations to new outdoor dining spaces and everything in-between. Thus, a crucial matter to address as you reopen will be storage. Whether you need a place for your extra inventory or warehousing solutions for equipment, you should choose the right business partners. Ensure your storage solutions offer a climate-controlled environment, added security, or anything else that meets your needs.

Follow your local laws and regulations

Finally, it’s crucial that you continue to follow your local rules and regulations. The Texas Restaurant Association offers excellent resources in this regard, as does the Governor’s Office. The first step to ensure you successfully reopen your Texas restaurant is to remain informed and legally clear.

Market your return to business

Now, with the physical groundwork in place, begin to market your return to full strength business. To do so, we’ve consolidated 5 steps you may consider – especially if you are a smaller business.

#1 Set up Google My Business (GMB) if you haven’t

First and foremost, a solid digital presence is imperative when customers become increasingly tech-savvy. Thus, if you haven’t set up a GMB profile yet, doing so now would be an excellent first step.

In brief, GMB is a free business listing offered by Google. It provides access to Google’s app ecosystem, most notably including Google Maps. As with all such listings, it gives customers immediate access to your Name, Address, Phone number (NAP) information. Finally, it’s central to local discoverability, as it informs “near me” Google searches. That’s why GMB is crucial to local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies, which you may also want to consider.

Additionally, this is one of the first places customers go to look at reviews. It provides not only what people are saying in reviews, but also pictures from what they have experienced. You can also load images you want to highlight to prospective customers along with important info line hours of operation, take-out options, social distancing/masking requirements, etc.

#2 Add reservation links to GMB

With your GMB profile in place, you may use it for marketing purposes, as we’ll outline below. However, since just last year, GMB also provides a “reservations” field. While undoubtedly helpful overall, now may be the time this feature is even more valuable to restaurants.

As the name suggests, this option allows customers to make reservations from your GMB profile by either linking to your website or a reservation system. This simple feature helps inspire professionalism, as it is becoming increasingly common in the industry. But most importantly, it’s a frictionless system that simplifies the process for both parties.

#3 Engage in effective marketing campaigns

Having started with GMB, you may expand your marketing efforts. Among others, here are 5 tried-and-tested marketing practices to help successfully reopen your Texas restaurant.

Newsletter and emails

A newsletter is a safe way to promote your return to business. While regular newsletters may actually be less effective, a monthly newsletter should still generate visibility. You may use it to promote new menu items, offers and discounts, and anything else that will attract customers.

Similarly, personalized email campaigns can offer even more value. Businesses that use Customer relationship Management (CRM) software and other analytics tools can personalize email outreach for each customer. Indeed, Mailchimp finds that email marketing for restaurants boasts an impressive 20% open rate.

Mobile ads

Mobile ads are also incredibly lucrative, as Wordstream reports. In fact, mobile ads account for nearly half of all Pay-per-Click (PPC) ads. As more and more customers search for dining options through mobile devices, this would be an excellent investment. And the best part is, it doesn’t have to be expensive. If targeted to the right demographics, you can effectively advertise on a small budget.

GMB posts

Finally, one can also use GMB as a marketing tool. Indeed, GMB offers time-sensitive posts that you can practically treat as social media activity. You may thus use it to promote your business and allure local customers with captivating visuals. You can even cross-post successful content to your social media for enhanced cost-efficiency.

#4 Promote your restaurant on social media

No list on successfully reopening your Texas restaurant could omit social media activity. The vast potential audiences of such platforms offer undeniable exposure opportunities, as Statista notes. Below are some best practices we have talked about before, but are definitely worth revisiting:

Embrace foodie photos

The trend of foodie photos is self-evident, even outside of the restaurant industry. What’s more, platforms like Instagram and Pinterest thrive on their visually-focused nature. You may thus promote your menu in this way by working on your dishes’ presentation. What’s more, foodie photos are highly shareable and are therefore very cost-efficient.

Showcase your staff

Similarly, you may use social media to showcase your staff. Doing so promotes the people behind your brand and makes it personal. Group photos, stories, and content that puts your team at the forefront can all work wonders in this regard.

Reach out to food bloggers

Finally, you may want to reach out to food bloggers to leverage their audiences. A simple dish review can easily evolve into social media exposure for your restaurant and brand.

#5 Continue to emphasize online delivery

Finally, especially in these times, you may wish to continue to promote online delivery. Indeed, McKinsey identified a market shift toward online delivery, which COVID-19 only amplified and may continue to be so even long into the recovery. May industry leaders see a what may be a permanent shift with how and where we meet and feed our customer.

Of course, logistics are involved. Moreover, it may not fit your operations to do so. However, if you have the option, it can only be beneficial for customer growth.

In conclusion, and above all else, there is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. We know there are many restaurants, especially small businesses, who are struggling every step of the way. As you look to the future, know we at Cornerstone Commercial Services are on your side and help in every way we can when working with you on any services we provide. We are all in this together and we will all make it through this together. #staystronghouston.

If you would like to learn more about Cornerstone Commercial Services and how we can help, please contact us at 1-800-274-3905.

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