For over a year, we’ve been in uncharted territory as COVID-19 has ravaged the travel and hospitality sectors. While the government and health officials may advise citizens on how to deal with the virus here and now, there are still a huge number of unanswered questions facing SMEs in the hospitality sector as we move into the future.
What we can say for certain is that ‘business as usual’ is not an option for bars, pubs and restaurants anywhere in the UK, and around the world. According to a Food Standards Agency survey, 31% of respondents said they would not eat in restaurants for the foreseeable future, which is a significant jump from 25% in the previous month. People are cautiously adapting to restrictions on movement and activity, and the ripple effect of those restrictions affects bars, pubs and restaurants up and down the country.
To prepare for the ‘new norm’ SMEs must adjust to evolving consumer attitudes and behaviours. The Food Standards Agency found that on average older people were more likely than young people to say they would not go back to eating out for the foreseeable future.
(Latest statistics from Statista regarding drinking and eating out trends in the UK due to COVID-19.)
What’s clear is that a significant amount of people continue to spend time at home. With no sign that these new habits will change anytime soon, bars, pubs and restaurants must think outside-the-box to survive alongside a new generation of consumer mentality.
In this marketing guide you’ll find a variety of ideas and inspiration. This includes everything from embracing online innovation to offering your customers discounts and loyalty schemes. Continue reading to explore ideas that will help your bar, pub or restaurant transition successfully into a post COVID-19 world.
Offer Discounts and Loyalty Schemes
The 'Eat Out to Help Out’ Scheme was designed to incentivise customers UK-wide to eat in restaurants or other eating establishments by giving them a 50% discount on food and drink, which businesses could then claim back from the UK government. Originally, the scheme ran from 3 Aug 2020 to 31 Aug 2020.
What was the response to the UK government’s scheme?
According to a YouGov survey conducted in August 2020, 59% of Brits supported the suggestion of extending the program for another month. This statistic also includes 77% of people who made use of the discounted offer in August.
On top of that, diners spent 34% more money at bars, pubs, and restaurants on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August than they did in July as a result of the Eat Out to Help Out initiative. This shows a positive response from the public to the government’s scheme to support SMEs in the hospitality industry. As well as that, the scheme managed to bring a much needed boost to an industry that's struggled during lockdowns.
(A group of friends enjoy a meal out in a restaurant once lockdown restrictions are eased.)
What can hospitality businesses do to entice customers?
As the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was so popular among consumers, a number of owners of bars, pubs and restaurants took matters into their own hands and continued the scheme themselves without the help of the government.
Pub chain, Wetherspoons, slashed food prices on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays until November 11th 2020. Restaurant chain, Yo! Sushi, continued to offer their customers discounted meal prices throughout September 2020 as part of their own ‘eat out longer’ scheme.
While significant discounts offer consumers incentive, other hospitality businesses tried more innovative ways to get customers coming back through their doors. Coffee and sandwich chain, Pret a Manger, launched a mobile app as part of a new digital strategy. The company created a monthly subscription service for £20 a month, where customers can redeem up to five coffees per day at a discounted price compared to the price of buying one cup of coffee at a time.
Like all other hospitality businesses, these loyalty schemes aimed to win back some of the business lost during the pandemic. With people eating out less, and many workers still comfortably doing their jobs from home, town and city centres still remain quiet.
If the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has proven anything, it’s that consumers respond well to discounts and value for money, and implementing enticing discounts and/or loyalty schemes is a sure way to keep potential customers coming through your doors.
Provide Home Experiences
If consumers can’t go to the pub, why can’t the pub go to the consumer?
Of course, turning the idea of home deliveries and quality experiences into reality all depends on the size of your bar, pub or restaurant; the availability and size of your team of staff; and what exactly you could offer consumers at home that makes for a unique and novel experience.
If your restaurant is known and loved for incredible dishes, you might consider creating recipe boxes with exactly measured ingredients so that your customers can make their favourite food from home. If you're a pub or bar owner, providing home-kits, drink recipes and cocktail ideas is a great way to keep your customers engaged without having to physically visit your premises. Signature Brew is a great example of a company creating an at-home pub experience.
(Providing take away services and delivery options allows customers to enjoy your food from the safety of their homes.)
What can hospitality businesses do to create experiences for their consumers at home?
As any British person is well aware, a Sunday roast dinner is a sacred tradition, and many families typically take the opportunity to go to a local bar, pub or restaurant to enjoy their meal. With hospitality businesses forced to close across the country throughout the lockdown, a few savvy London pub owners proactively decided to start a roast dinner delivery service to people’s homes.
Parlour Kensal, in Kensal Green, provides customers with top-notch, high-quality ingredients to help them prepare a special meal from their own kitchen. This hospitality business has established a brand new ‘Market Place’ aligned with its strong brand image of fresh and delicious produce. Customers can order and pay online, then collect their fresh ingredients the next day.
Another London pub who wasted no time in pivoting their business model is The Stag, located in Hampstead. Throughout lockdown, this pub created a takeaway menu that offered customers every type of meat they could want on their plate, including all the trimmings. Since reopening their doors, The Stag has continued their takeaway menu for customers who would prefer to keep enjoying food & drink at home.
Outside of a roast dinner delivery service, there are a host of other home experiences pubs, bars, and restaurants are embracing. Brewdog has released a virtual pub space called the Brewdog Open Arms, which offers virtual beer tastings, homebrew masterclasses, and live music and comedy, as well as pub quizzes.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) have also launched the Virtual Red (On)Lion Pub, a video platform where you can book a virtual table with friends, or join the public bar for a lively, online chat with others looking to have fun and meet new people.
It’s clear that consumers are still hungry for the bar, pub and restaurant experience - yet remain cautious about the threat of the virus. The SME hospitality businesses that have continued to thrive are the ones offering new experiences that complement their existing business model. Value lies in a hybrid approach - and adopting such an approach can very well help boost your business in these uncertain times.
(Example of an at home experience, shared with friends over the internet.)
Embrace Online Opportunities
According to studies produced from Ofcom, the average internet usage reached record highs throughout lockdown. As a result of lockdown and government social distancing regulations, the average UK adult spent a record 4 hours a day online. The impact of COVID-19 has, and continues, to change our relationship with the internet and means of communication.
The same Ofcom study found that the pandemic accelerated the adoption of online services (like Zoom and Google Hangouts) so that friends and family could keep in touch. Around 70% of adults in the UK are now making video calls at least weekly, which is a huge increase from 35% pre-lockdown.
But what does an increase in time spent online mean for bars, pubs and restaurants up and down the country?
One of the key routes to success in business is to go where your customers are. Unfortunately for hospitality businesses, fewer customers will be walking through the doors of your brick-and-mortar establishments. However, with a clear trend that consumers now spend more time online, bars, pubs and restaurants have an opportunity to think outside-the-box in how they can connect and engage with their customers in this era of the ‘new normal’.
So, how can your hospitality business make the most of the internet to keep customers interested?
List your business on Google My Business. This is a great way to provide a potential customer searching for your restaurant with all the helpful information they're looking for at a glance. With easy access to all the information they need, they are far more likely to reserve a table, order online, or stop in for their next meal.
Sign-up to delivery services such as UberEats, Deliveroo or Just Eats. Delivery has been a hugely disruptive force in the world of hospitality, and during lockdown restrictions it proved to be an essential part of survival for cafes, pubs and restaurants. The scale of these three delivery services shouldn’t be ignored. Signing-up to these companies is a great advertisement, but it’s important to be aware of the costs.
Capture and collect customer data. Consider incentivising people who walk through your door to sign-up to your mailing list. In exchange for data capture, offer a free drink or dish when the person signs up. This data can then be used to target specific customers via email marketing or targeted social media campaigns, encouraging further purchases through exclusive weekly or monthly deals.
Offer online cooking classes on Facebook or Instagram. According to Statista, there are almost 45 million people in the UK who use Facebook, and 26.5 million who use Instagram. Both of these platforms offer interactive features to help you visually keep your customers engaged while at home through live streams and video posts.
Host online pub quizzes with prizes & giveaways. Interactive events can be hosted successfully virtually. While you may have to do some marketing to make sure people know about your event, this can be an excellent way to keep your customers engaged from the comfort of their living rooms. Camden Town Brewery has been busy throughout lockdown putting on events such as pub quizzes, magic shows, and free beer giveaways.
Create an ebook of at-home recipes. Online, independent publishing is a popular way businesses can market their brand message to their target market. As an owner of a bar, pub or restaurant, you may consider creating ebook content that provides your customers with unique food & cocktail recipes tied closely to your brand.
Offer online food vouchers and meal deals with no time limits. Everyone loves a bargain. To incentivise more customers to order food online or book in for a meal, consider offering vouchers with discounts or meal deals that don’t expire after a period of time.
Social Media and Influencer Campaigns. On average, adults spend around 144 minutes a day on social media, and establishing a strong brand identity involves communication regularly with your past and potential customers. To capitalise on this, you might consider promoting regular social media competitions where customers can win large food or drink packages; partnering with local influencers to promote your business; creating customer polls; or sharing positive reviews and customer experiences to encourage other customers.
(Examples of Instagram promotions. From left to right: viewmyfood, an instagram influencer, promotes a local restaurant; The Stag pub promotes exclusive discounts and various ways, such as delivery or walk-in, to enjoy their food; Camden Brewery promotes their online pub quizzes.)
Are online and digital opportunities really the future of hospitality?
The short answer to this question is YES.
The digital world and new technologies open up innovative opportunities across the hospitality industry right now, and into the foreseeable future. As consumers increasingly crave certainty and security, using technologies that people are familiar with is a great way to build a digital bridge, especially when creating physical dining experiences proves challenging.
Through data collection and nurturing more in-depth and direct relationships with your customers online, you can better understand what they respond well to and what they don’t. As a bar, pub or restaurant, this provides a golden opportunity to try out new menus, unique dishes or even expand and grow your existing operations.
How We Can Help You
To implement our marketing ideas into your business, it takes time, money and resources. 365 Business Finance is a direct financial provider, offering a merchant cash advance product to small and medium-sized businesses across the United Kingdom. A merchant cash advance is designed as a quick way for any business that accepts credit and/or debit cards to raise capital without the need for a bank loan or hefty overdraft.
365 Business Finance offers £5,000 to £200,000 in unsecured cash advances for UK restaurants and pubs with no APRs, hidden costs or fixed monthly payments, letting you focus on running your business. Our merchant cash advance product can help give your business capital, so that you’re in prime position to adopt the innovative marketing ideas outlined throughout this guide and allow your business to reach new heights.
How Our Bar, Pub and Restaurant Funding Works
Instead of offering a traditional bank loan, where you are obligated to pay back a specific amount every month, our merchant cash advance funding allows you to pay back your cash advance using a small percentage of your future credit and debit card sales, meaning you only repay when customers pay you.
(Example of how repayments follow your cash flow.)
At every step of the way, you will have support from a dedicated funding advisor. They will help you throughout the entire process, from applying for financing to receiving your funding.
On top of that, you’ll never have to worry about things like APRs or fixed monthly repayments. Instead, you can focus on using your funding effectively to support your hospitality business.
Get a free quote today - we approve 90% of businesses that apply, and funds can be with you in as little as 48 hours.
In no time, you will be able to advertise your business to bring in more customers, strengthen your brand, and boost your sales revenue.