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Creative tips for restaurants impacted by the Coronavirus

Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has turned life upside down, and few industries have experienced as much pressure to completely change their operations as dine-in restaurants. 

Whether you’ve seen an impact already or are preparing your business for the changes that are likely to come, we’ve collected some helpful tips and ideas, inspired by what we’ve seen restaurants around the country doing to adapt during this difficult time.

Get creative with off-premise dining

  • Offer multi-person meals, like Brooklyn’s Pies-n-Thighs with its fried chicken-and-sides family packs. New York’s Spoon Table and Bar is selling frozen family-size entrees to help households reduce trips to the supermarket. 
  • Have extra pantry staples on hand? Many restaurants are transforming into corner stores to keep cash flowing and avoid wasting inventory. Zinc Cafe & Market in Los Angeles is selling excess perishable and non-perishable ingredients to customers, in addition to offering take-out and delivery.
  • Modify the way you use your existing front-of-house software to support your changing operations. J&M Diner in Framingham, Mass. is using Yelp Waitlist to help manage their takeout orders. Diners join the online waitlist, and once it’s their turn, the restaurant calls to take the order. When it’s ready, diners get notified via text.
  • Consider out-of-the-box ideas to offer diners unique experiences at home. ARDYN in New York is getting creative with its “Doomsday Dinner Party”—an upscale, five-course meal to enjoy at home, complete with drink pairings and a playlist to set the mood.
  • Many jurisdictions are relaxing their regulations to allow restaurants and bars to sell alcohol to go to help make up for lost revenue from the dining room and bar. That allows restaurants like Lost and Found in San Francisco to include beer, wine, and cocktails in their delivery and take-out menus. 

Go virtual: update your info and sell online

As many restaurants are forced to close their dining rooms, it’s important to keep customers up-to-date on what you’re offering. In addition, if you have something you can sell online or by phone and have the means to ship or deliver, do it. Customers are invested in your success and want to know how they can support you. 

Interact with your customers virtually

  • Keep your audience engaged on social media: share videos of kitchen hacks, offer a virtual cooking class, post staff spotlights, or share other kinds of online content. Brian Jupiter, executive chef at Ina Mae Tavern in Chicago, hosted a live online cooking demo on the restaurant’s Instagram—featuring his Nashville hot chicken po’boy—and making all of the ingredients for the dish available for pickup from the restaurant.
  • Maintain active conversations with your followers as well as neighboring businesses. Consider doing an online Q&A or AMA (ask me anything). If you aren’t into the live video idea like Ina Mae Tavern, you could simply post on your favorite social media channel and encourage your audience to add questions in the comments for you to reply to. 
  • When your audience mentions your restaurant in social media, be sure to comment on those posts to thank the diner for sharing. If a customer posts a great photo of your food, you can ask (privately, via direct message) if you can reshare it on your page with a proper photo credit
  • Check your Yelp for Business account for reviews of your takeout and delivery services and respond to those.
  • Yelp Connect—which is free for most restaurants and bars through the end of April—is another way to communicate with your audience about business updates or specials. Restaurants are getting very creative in the ways they’re using Connect to communicate with diners. 

Restaurateurs are known to be creative and scrappy, and that’s just what we’re seeing during these incredibly challenging times. The restaurant community is resilient, and Yelp is here to support you—we’re in this together. 

Tweet us at @yelpforbusiness to share your tips and other ideas for supporting our communities.