What To Do When You’re in Lockdown

We are in lockdown again. I've started to see some angry comments from restaurant owners about what it's doing to their businesses.  I totally understand the anger and frustration. But honestly, that's not going to do any good. If you just keep feeling those feelings and venting.  What you have to do is push those feelings aside and say to yourself, “how can I make this time work for me”?

The number one thing that you can do is work on your business.

When I have spoken to people about this previously they tell me that they don't have the time, they’re working such long hours already. Well, guess what, right now you're not working all those hours so you do have some time to work on your business.

What I mean by working on your business is instead of being in the kitchen or on the floor, is to look at what you're doing with your marketing? What are you doing with your team? What are you doing to connect with your customer base?

So I thought, since you have the opportunity right now, I’d give you a few ideas about the kinds of things that you can do.

One of the things that I've been talking about recently is Google My Business (GMB).  If you don't know about GMB it's something that Google gives you free. It's like a mini website. It's got all of your details on there including your address details so that you can appear on Google Maps, your contact details, reviews, photos, menus and so on.

Obviously one of the best things you can do to attract new business is to be found on Google.  When somebody in your area, searches for “restaurant in your suburb area name”, you want to rank highly so those people find you and connect with you.

This is the power of GMB, Google loves a good GMB and they will reward you for working on it by moving you up the search engine rankings.  That way you are more likely to be found than the competition in your area. 

As well as being a place that has static information (your restaurant name, address, contact details), there are other aspects of it that can be updated (and Google loves it when you do this). 

  • You can add photographs.
  • You can put video in there,
  • You should make sure that you respond to questions,
  • You can put offers in there.
  • You can post blogs in there.
  • You can correct your opening times and covid safe procedures.  If you're locked down right now, you should do this straight away.

There are so many different things that you can do that will let Google know that you're paying attention to it and as I have said already, they will reward you for doing so.

A big thing for Google is reviews, they judge the quality of what you do by the number of 4 and 5 starred reviews, the total number of reviews, the number of reviews by their “local guides”, the recency of reviews, how you respond to reviews (or not) and how quickly you do so.

So if you are working with a database, which all of my clients do, you could take segments of that database and email people and say, Would you mind writing me a review on our Google My Business Page, here's a link. GMB also has a “short link” for your GMB page to make that easy for you to do.

One of the things I suggest to my clients is to connect this strategy to their birthday club.  I advise them to connect with customers who have been in for their birthdays, or who have had birthdays in the last month.  Email them to say, “Hey, did you come in for your birthday? Did you enjoy it? We'd love to hear from you.  Here is a link to review us on Google My Business”. You have to realise that only a few people will do this for you, no matter how wonderful a time they had.  Sadly, this is human nature, people are quick to complain but seldom give compliments.  However, if only 1% do so, it may mean consistently adding one more review or 10 more reviews… which is going to be great for your GMB and it will lift you up in the search engine rankings.

Another thing to work on in lockdown is staff performance. Restaurateurs often tell me they don't have the time to train their staff because they and their staff are so busy. Well right now you've got time. So you can work with your front of house staff on how to provide hospitality (show they care), do the technical things well and of course up-sell and cross-sell.

You can tell them how to:

  • Present the menu and when is the best time to do this (it matters).
  • Encourage guests to order drinks, sides, desserts, cheese plates and coffees
  • Talk about the specials and
  • Sell pre-dinner drinks and extra bottles of wine.

Educate your staff  on your produce, wine, cheese, coffees and teas. Give them tasting samples, talk about where the ingredients come from, why they are chosen, why ingredients are combined, what’s in season and so on.  Explain how wines and beers can be paired with certain dishes and how to discuss this information with your diners.

If you don't know anything about how to do this yourself, I wrote a book on it called Selling at the Table.  You can get this at little cost from our website.  There are also details of a mini-course on this that you can study too.

Another thing you could do right now is connect with your customer base. One of our local restaurants does this great.

Whenever we are in any kind of lock down or under restrictions, Stella, the owner sells lots of lasagna, moussaka, curries, hotpots and winter warmer types of foods to take away.

I discussed the strategy with her recently and she told me that she hates cooking like this. It is so boring for her as she's having to cook trays and trays of them. She has a really big oven where she cooks massive trays of these dishes.  They then pull the trays out, photograph them and put the photos on Facebook.  She simply posts an image and announces that another batch is ready and the phones start ringing.  She recently did a special lasagna with a traditional Italian spicy sausage filling and posted about it and it was sold out in 24 minutes.  

Regardless of whether these dishes are “special” or not, they are all sold by the end of the day.  She makes a decent amount of money from that but the major thing to recognize here is that she is not doing it just to make money or because it fulfills her as a chef but she's doing it to look after her customers. Because this is what her customers want right now.

To reiterate, she doesn’t want to be cooking these dishes every day. It’s not the kind of restaurant she wants, but right now, this is what her customers want.  She has learned that when she takes care of what they want, they'll take care of her.  When she’s gone through a lockdown like this before, when she reopens her dining room the community support her.  They dine there in drove, it's packed.  The reason for this is they feel taken care of by her and then when it comes time to reciprocate, they go in and take care of her and her business.

  • So number one, work on your Google My Business,
  • Number two, work with your team on their Selling at the Table skills.
  • Number three, work on connecting and looking after your customer base.

So hopefully you have picked up a few ideas here.  You’ll find a lot more information on strategies on this website and particularly on my blog page.   If you want even more information or to contact me you can do that through the Contact Us page.