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7 Lessons from China & USA to Corona-Proof Your Restaurant Business

7 Lessons from China & USA to Corona-Proof Your Restaurant Business
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The coronavirus is taking over the world. It’s the only thing that everyone in the world is talking about right now & we fear that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. 

China has been on lockdown for over 2 months and now it’s finally starting to get better. Just staying at home for 2 months is a scary thought for all of us, but as a restaurant operator, it’s even scarier because we’re worried about what’s going to happen to our business.

Now, our government in India is learning from China, Italy & the USA government and just executing decisions by following in their footsteps. By doing that, the Indian government has been able to act faster than those countries & in India, we might be able to solve the Coronavirus challenges at a faster pace.

In the same way, as a restauranteur, we can learn from what restaurants in China & the United States have done during these hard times to help our business in the best way possible.

To make it easier for you to grow your sales while being empathetic to customers, our team searched the internet to find out the ideas executed by restaurants in China & US which worked really well for them.

Here we go:

1. Starbucks focussed on employee training & processes and that enabled them to open 90% of its 4,200 outlets in China just a month after closing. Starbucks executed seamless crisis management processes that helped them rebound back in no time. As of right now, Starbucks in China is following a “TO-GO” model to make sure that the practice of social distancing is followed and its sales are back to 80% of their expectations.

Rossann Williams, Executive Vice President, Starbucks wrote: “As we all know, the situation with COVID-19 is extremely dynamic and we will continue to review the facts and science and make the proactive decisions necessary to protect our partners, customers and communities,” If you spend the next month while your outlets are closed to focus on setting up the right processes & systems, you’ll be able to start your outlets again faster.

2. Enterprise Fish Company based in the US took it a step further and made sure their Employees wash their hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after handling cash, credit cards, before and after breaks,”.

This way, Enterprise Fish Company was able to show to the customers in front of their eyes of how much they care for them. Making customers more attached to the brand and building trust in their minds.

As a first step, create awareness among your employees about COVID-19. Educate them about how it is transmitted, ways they can minimise risks and maintain hygiene while maintaining a positive outlook. By doing so, you will achieve two things. First, your employees will know the best practices when it comes to mitigating risks around COVID-19. Second, while interacting with your employees, the customers will feel safe knowing that your employees understand and are practising all that’s required to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Also, brands can train their employees to communicate the importance of taking the best preventive measure to customers. This way, not only you will showcase care towards your customers, but you will also be doing a great service towards reducing the spread of the outbreak.

3. Domino's has initiated the practice of following No-Touch delivery. Following which the food delivered would be kept on a clean surface outside the door and a photo of the package would be sent to the consumer. The latter can collect the package from thereon.

Since the movement of your customers is now restricted, they will be more likely to order food online. This can be a great way for your business to practice safety during this pandemic and also to keep continuing the cash flow. The practice of social distancing will ensure that both your employees and customers are safe while making and receiving deliveries.

So, this is the best time for brands to leverage the power of food delivery aggregators like Zomato, Swiggy & Dunzo to make safe deliveries on their behalf. If possible, running paid advertisements on these apps can help you make sure that the daily order frequency is maintained.

If you have a strong tech and delivery infrastructure, you can also take orders from your own websites like Domino’s, Pizza Hut, KFC and others. 

4. ThickShake Factory recent marketing campaign which is about the hygiene practices used while preparing customers orders. This campaign has resulted in a huge surge of online orders for the brand. In these times, marketing is about educating customers about hygiene and best practices to avoid spreading the disease.

So, sharing behind-the-scenes videos to give a peek in your kitchen showcasing that the team is following every needed hygiene practice to ensure food and packing safety from infection helps you win the trust of your customers.

This shows how customers are now picking up the restaurants for their daily meals - at this point of time, they care more about your hygiene practices rather than brand value. So, this is how F&B brands can win over new and existing customers by simply sharing behind-the-scenes stories.

5. Stickyrice, a Chinese cuisine restaurant has started to send out free sanitiser bottles with every order. During all the panic surrounding COVID-19, the market is facing a shortage of Sanitisers.

You can do your bit and start to send out small complimentary bottles of sanitisers on every order. This will surely go a long way in ensuring that your brand comes across as a customer-conscious brand. If you are unable to get your hands on sanitisers, you can create much of it in bulk and send it across. Here’s a helpful video to get you started:

You can also send out small leaflets detailing how your brand prepares food in the best hygienic way possible. And tips for your customers to stay safe. An ending note from the owner of the brand will surely go a long way in delighting your customers.

Chinese company DaDa, which facilitates delivery for Walmart, retail stores and restaurants in China has stated that their sales more than quadrupled from a year ago during the 10 days of the Lunar New Year holiday that ended this past Sunday.

6. Chinese brand Lin Qingxuan got 100+ of its beauty advisors to become online influencers who used online platforms such as WeChat to engage customers and drive sales. This creative idea was implemented after Lin Qingxuan was forced to close 40% of its stores during the crisis.

The online strategy became very successful and the brand registered an increment of 200% growth compared to last year. Your F&B brand can also use the same strategy by replacing makeup tips with recipes that customers can easily prepare at home.

Through the next month, many Chinese F&B brands banked upon the power of instant messaging services such as WeChat to run different kinds of contests and giveaways for their customers.

As a creative idea, you can also run marketing campaigns for people who might be feeling homesick as they cannot travel back to their hometown. By partnering with influencers, you can conduct Facebook LIVE sessions on themes of safeguarding, tips on using the time available to do something productive and spending time with your loved ones.

If you’re a delivery restaurant that’s currently running you can use some of the ideas right now to grow sales. But if you’re a dine-in restaurant the focus right now needs to be on shoring up the operations and having the right Corona-proof processes in place, plus the marketing strategy pre-decided so that you can attract customers the moment doors open again because customers will be really eager to go out as that happens.

As is evident from many of the examples and takeaways, all you need to do is “CARE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS”. This simple step during these tough times will go a long way in ensuring that your brand gets cemented in their minds forever because, in times of crisis, customers don’t want another marketing pitch from brands that try to sell them their products, but to make their life easier in every way possible.

We know, times are hard, but it’s very important that you take care of your family and your team. Spend this time with your loved ones, play video games with your kids, learn to play a new instrument, try to know more about your team members through video calls and understand them more like a human than they are in the office. 

This too shall pass. Empathy with love will ensure it goes off smoothly.

Take Care, Stay Safe.

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