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How to encourage customers to support your hospitality business post-lockdown

To say COVID restrictions have hit the hospitality industry hard is an understatement; many businesses like yours still face paper-thin margins. Loyal customers often work from home or may live too far away to support your business during this time. Here are some suggestions to adapt and creatively encourage customers to support your local hospitality business if you're opening back up.

Why are local businesses important?

Local businesses are the heart of their communities. Cafes and restaurants are places where locals come to catch up on local news, sit and read the paper and meet with friends. But the hospitality industry offers more than a place to sit –  businesses like yours create jobs for locals and support the economic wellbeing of the community. And in hard times like this, small businesses can band together to support one another by exchanging ideas and encouraging customers to buy local. There are a few creative ways you can do this.  

Get involved with the local community

The best way you can get your customers to support your business is by advocating things that matter to them. Most areas will have a local sports team that you can help promote when a big game comes up. Get banners flying, fundraise for new equipment or offer a special deal on the day. 

Another fantastic way to help locals support one another is a pay-it-forward scheme. Customers can choose to pay for a stranger's food or drink in advance, which puts money in your pocket and contributes to a stronger community. These strategies show your customers that you are engaged with them and can offer them something valuable during this time. 

Encourage customers to sign up for your loyalty program

An effective loyalty program can be life-saving for your business. Most cafes and restaurants benefit more from customer retention than customer acquisition, so creating a loyalty program will encourage new faces to become regulars. You can incentivise customers to sign up for your program by offering an up-front reward like a discount or complimentary drink. They get a little serotonin boost, and you get a repeat customer!

Let customers know of specials and upsells

Upsells and specials are an effective way to increase revenue and customer satisfaction. Encourage your staff to tell customers about weekly specials and any upsells that go with their order. If the fish and chips are on special, let them know that ginger beer is a popular pairing! You can also do this through a digital menu or website by highlighting any specials and pairing suggestions. 

Offer takeaway packs and pantry items

Make it easier for customers to support you by offering takeaway packs and pantry staples. Broadening the goods you offer can increase average spend per customer. Someone who comes in for a coffee may end up leaving with eggs, a loaf of bread, and freshly made pasta. In this scenario, the customer has more than doubled their initial spend. Look at what your business makes and see whether you can sell raw ingredients, such as pasta sauce or fresh produce. This is also an excellent opportunity for you to support other local producers such as bakeries and farmers. Who doesn’t love a win-win-win situation? 

Offer pre-bookings for Christmas lunches and dinner

Once hospitality businesses can open fully, demand for in-house dining will skyrocket. Make sure you’re prepared by promoting pre-bookings for Christmas, New Year, and other festive holidays now. This will prevent your customers from the disappointment of missing out and give you an idea of what to expect for the festive season.

Upsell your gift vouchers

Give the gift of giving! Gift cards are one of the most underrated ways to increase revenue and customer engagement. They make fantastic birthday or Christmas gifts and can increase exposure to your hospitality business. And because dining is a social activity, it’s almost guaranteed the recipient will bring friends or family to redeem their gift card, increasing profits for your business. 

Sell some merch

Does your business have an interesting aesthetic or distinctive branding? If so, you could benefit from offering merch. Baseball caps, bucket hats, T-shirts, or tea towels can all be printed with your designs or brand and sold to customers. It’s a great way for regulars to show their support and comes with the perk of free advertising. Make sure your merch caters for your audience; if you serve mostly uni students, then try a hip, urban look. If your building is near a landmark or has an exciting style,  incorporate it into the design. Let customers know you’d love to see them wearing your merch with a hashtag. Increasing your online exposure is a good thing!

Encourage families and groups

Once restrictions lift, there will be a huge demand for in-person gatherings. Take advantage of this by creating special offers for groups. Advertise these in-house and through your website and social media channels for maximum exposure.!

Make sure your business is equipped to cater for families, playgroup outings, and birthdays. Early dining discounts and kids’ menus will encourage families to visit your establishment. A colouring pad and pencils will help kids and parents enjoy the excursion. For birthdays, work functions, and other large groups, offer a set menu that includes drinks and an optional dessert. This creates a minimum spend and encourages larger groups to dine at your business. 

Implementing these strategies can thank your customers for supporting their local businesses and encourage them to keep coming back. 

Good luck!