It’s hard to think of a sector of the UK economy which has been more profoundly impacted by the coronavirus crisis than the hospitality industry.
At the time of writing, our restaurants, bars, pubs, hotels, and self-catering properties have already been closed for several weeks. Many hospitality businesses have come up with imaginative ways to keep trading, a few of which are collated over on Barefoot Cornwall. For the time being there’s no end in sight; indications from the Government are that hospitality businesses will be amongst the last to see restrictions eased.
One thing we do know is that when hospitality business are able to open up again, people will want to be out and about more than ever. From booking a holiday for a change of scenery, to heading out with friends and family for a celebratory meal, there will be better times ahead.
So to ensure your business is at the forefront of everyone’s minds when they take their first step outside the coronavirus bubble, we have put together some suggestions to keep you busy in these uncertain times.
Take time to research your customers, and identify which groups you will need to re-attract once the disruption passes. Great places to start include looking at the Google Analytics data for your website, and also insights of your Facebook and Instagram pages, and cross-reference with your own customer databases. You have a huge advantage over many businesses in that you get to meet 100% of your customers face to face, so have a first-hand understanding of who they are. Combined with data at your disposal, you can make plans from an accurate starting point.
The uncertainty of when people will be able to start travelling freely again makes promoting travel for this year highly problematic. Plan for several scenarios, based on different points in the year ahead, of when you will be able to open up again. Be prepared to react quickly when restrictions are lifted. Introducing more flexible booking and cancellation policies will help customers feel more comfortable about booking in the future.
This is an ideal time to think about new photography. From interiors, to food photography, and lifestyle shots of your local area – make the most of this unique opportunity, and the fact you don’t have to organise shoots around bookings, combined with the beautiful lighting of this spring sunshine. You will be able to use the images across all your marketing channels, giving you a great way to remind your customers that you’re still here and making plans to welcome them back soon.
With many people having lots of time on their hands at the moment, engagement with social media is also increasing during lockdown, creating additional opportunities to interact with your current and future customers through providing inspiration for future trips and experiences. Make sure your profile pages are updated to reflect your current trading status or opening hours. It’s also a great time to create a bank of social media content for the weeks and months ahead, so when business picks up again you can focus on the operational side of things.
Update your website to make sure it has the most current information for anyone browsing online whist at home. Create a dedicated page on your website to explain the impacts of coronavirus on your business and any variations to your booking policy, along with practical information about how customers and suppliers can contact you during lockdown including your likely response times. Once that’s in place it’s a great time to review your website content: remove old events and outdated blog posts, ensure your current menus are correct, refresh old photography, and add details of any new events or services you offer.
Once you have reviewed your website content, it’s important to make sure your site is well-optimised for search engines. Check your metadata is in place, especially page titles and descriptions. Research relevant keywords and search trends to make sure your content matches the terms your customers are looking for. Improvements will take a few weeks to take effect, so consider running Google ads and PPC campaigns to make sure your website appears alongside organic results when people are at home researching their next holiday.
Whether it’s updating your logo, or creating some new marketing assets, taking some time to make some eye-catching designs will help you stand out. From new menus and posters, to packaging and point of sale merchandise, new visuals will help to attract your customers again.
This is a great time to spring clean your customer databases, making them leaner and meaner. Most email marketing platforms will allow you to create multiple segments in your lists based on the information you hold on your customers – create segments for your most engaged guests; locals vs regional customers; or repeat visitors. This will enable you to tailor your email communications to different audiences. Remember to check that GDPR compliance is maintained.
Keep your team engaged by running online training sessions. There are masses of organisations and businesses providing online training sessions covering everything from customer service, wine, to improving marketing skills. Internally, think about learning more about your suppliers, or exploring new business processes. A great place to start is UK Hospitality’s online learning platform which is free to use while businesses remain closed.
I hope these suggestions have given you some inspiration on practical steps you can take yourself to prepare for reopening. Good luck, and stay safe and well.