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How to guarantee customers will come back post-pandemic

Busy sports bar
Photograph: Shutterstock

In a post-pandemic landscape, one might assume that it would be easy to get customers to come back to restaurants. After all, they’ve been stuck at home, cooking their own food in their own kitchens for more than a year. But consumers’ priorities have shifted; some are apprehensive about safety, while others may simply enjoy getting takeout more than they do dining in. For operators, drawing diners back to the dining room is key for business success; guests may order more food when they dine in versus when they order takeout or delivery, and they also may stick around for multiple rounds of drinks, which can add up quickly to benefit the restaurant’s bottom line.

So how can operators guarantee customers will want to come back post-pandemic? There are a few things to consider.

1. Highlight safety

In Technomic’s 2020 Future of FSR: Family Style & Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report, consumers shared the factors that would encourage them to dine in at a restaurant. Topping the list are some expected factors, such as that the restaurant is following government safety guidelines, as well as the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, 37% of consumers said that they’d like for the restaurant to go above and beyond government safety guidelines—that is, even if distancing is no longer required, some patrons may appreciate a more spaced-out dining room.

But safety isn’t the only factor that will get customers in the door—about a quarter of consumers said that special deals and promotions for dine-in visits would encourage them to do so, and about one in five said new or unique menu items being offered would encourage them to dine in.

2. Promote innovation

Unique menu items and promotions are going to be crucial for enticing customers to come dine in. Try introducing a couple of LTOs and showcasing game day promotions such as happy hour deals. Operators can also consider partnering with distributors or suppliers to feature a certain brand of drink, for instance, as another way to get people in the door.

Get creative—learn about current food trends, including better for you, plant-based and comfort foods, to inform menu changes and LTO plans.

3. Leverage entertainment and sports  

Finally, leverage entertainment as a way to get customers excited to dine in. Sure, watching the big game at home surrounded by friends and snacks can be fun, but it’s objectively more fun when they’re not the ones who have to prepare the food, refill drinks and, of course, clean up. Get customers out of their living rooms and into the restaurant by promoting game day options. DIRECTV for BUSINESS, for example, offers an array of exclusive sports content options, including live sports, perfect for ensuring customers don’t miss a minute of their favorite teams. What’s more, operators can list their establishment on DIRECTV for BUSINESS’s Sports Bar Finder tool, so interested customers can easily find a place to go to watch the game—no matter what game they’re looking for. Operators can also consider installing televisions on the outdoor patios where applicable, so even diners who feel more comfortable outdoors or those who want to enjoy the nicer weather can still enjoy sports entertainment.

To learn more about DIRECTV for BUSINESS’s offerings for restaurants and how offering sports programming can help entice diners to visit more often, click here.  

This post is sponsored by DIRECTV for BUSINESS℠

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