Preparing to re-open: Advice for hospitality businesses

Shooting Star Account Manager Nikhita Keshwara shares her thoughts and advice for hospitality businesses looking to reopen on 12th April and 17th May:

The Government’s COVID-19 roadmap out of lockdown in England is currently on track which means that on Monday 12th April the next milestone will be reached – and outdoor hospitality along with gyms, shops, beauty salons and hairdressers will be able to open their doors once again. But there is one vital ingredient to ensure a smooth-sailing re-opening – and that’s preparation!

The last 12 months have been turbulent to say the least for businesses not only up and down the country but also worldwide. While all sectors have faced severe disruption in one way or another, the hospitality industry is amongst those to have been hit the hardest.

After a year of on-off restrictions, lots of people are itching to get to the pub, enjoy their favourite coffee and pastry in the comfort of a café and eat a meal out in a restaurant instead of having to opt for a takeaway.

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease with caution it is vital that businesses in the hospitality sector prepare to reopen safely, but now is also the time to plan creative and effective ways to entice and welcome customers back using integrated PR, content and digital marketing.

If you’re the owner of a hospitality business and don’t quite know how to prepare for your reopening, here are some of our top tips for you to consider:

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
When running a business all too often the daily operations take priority over marketing, and as a result communicating and promoting all the wonderful things it has to offer falls to the bottom of the pile.

But in a world where over the last year people have relied on the internet and digital-first interactions to get information, communication with your customers right now really is key.
While you’re unable to reopen, your website and social media channels are acting as your shop window and it’s where people will be used to accessing information. So, you must utilise these channels and continue to update them with relevant information such as your reopening date, revised days and hours and contact information to communicate these changes. Don’t forget to update your Google My Business listing too.

2. Execute a fun marketing campaign
Regardless of whether you’re opening on 12th April or 17th May, both of these dates provide a real opportunity for you to cook up a storm and make an impact!

Marketing campaigns can be as small or as huge as you like – it really depends on your business goals and budget. But one simple thing you could do is run a competition on your website or social media channels. Providing that you offer a worthy prize, this will help to ensure you stay at the forefront of people’s minds in the run-up to the big day, which will in turn drive conversation and can lead to increased bookings.

Or perhaps you could add a ‘new’ element to your grand reopening. For example, will you be opening with an added new product on the menu or offering a new service which customers can take advantage of when they come back?

Regardless of the changes you make, however small they might seem, you must tell people about them and make sure you engage with your audience in a way they relate to. If you have some great ideas but don’t know how to execute them, we can help with your marketing campaign.

3. Use your social media channels wisely
While most of us have spent the best part of the last year at home and even more so on our phones, it’s no surprise that people have been more active than ever on social media.
When used properly, social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook can be effective and efficient at helping to generate results and increase brand awareness.

TikTok – a social media app for creating and sharing short videos which is set to be the next billion-user platform – has taken the social media world by storm and has positively impacted several brands by driving high volumes of traffic to their websites and increasing sales. In today’s ever-changing digital landscape, it’s worth considering whether you can adopt and use this latest social media craze to achieve your business goals.

Equally, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not essential for your business to be on every social media platform – you should be where your customers are. So, if you are considering branching out online, make sure you do your research first to find out whether this will be beneficial to you.

4. Encourage customer reviews
Confidence amongst consumers is and will continue to be an issue for some time, particularly for those operating in close-contact environments.

However, reviews on social media, Google My Business and TripAdvisor are great ways of instilling customer confidence and encouraging both new and repeat customers.

Under the current circumstances the best way to get reviews from your customers is to create a call to action. For example, you could create a social media post that encourages your followers to leave a review on your Facebook business page, or by directing them to other online review sites. Alternatively, if you have some five-star reviews from past customers, why not re-share those on your channels? This signals to both existing and new customers that you’re a business worth buying from.

5. Be patient
The world has changed significantly over the last 12 months and hospitality businesses have been challenged by new and changing restrictions, as well as by the numerous logistical aspects of closing and reopening in three lockdowns. However, there is now a big opportunity for food and drink businesses to get back to doing what they love and are known for.

At Shooting Star, we’ve worked with several hospitality businesses both pre-COVID-19 and during the last year, to successfully support the reopening of a new restaurant, promote the launch of new products and services, and drive sales through creative and purposeful social media campaigns.

If you need some help injecting creative ideas into your reopening or need some support with your website and social media strategy to reopen your hospitality business with confidence, please get in touch to see how we can help.