Follow these steps to gain ground during uncharted times.

As governments on the local level continue to take action against COVID-19 and mandate the temporary closure of restaurants for dining-in, it is more important than ever for brands to adjust and adapt their approach to food service. Brands need to keep customers engaged and purchasing from them during these unprecedented times. Below we have outlined our top five food service tactics to guide your customer engagement strategy.

Offer Meal Kits

Lack of time is often cited as the top motivator for eating out. For the first time, many individuals and families need to prepare more meals at home and have more time to do so. Restaurants and especially those with more health-conscious branding, can create “take and bake meals” to adapt to this changing circumstance while keeping convenience in focus. Include a card that tells customers how to prepare, serve, reheat and store the food. Plus, don’t forget to ask for their next order.

Create Family-Bundled Meals 

Instead of relying on consumers to choose individual entrees a la carte for their families, restaurants can prepare and promote pre-orders for different meal bundles each day. All meals can be made to feed whole families and available for delivery or pick-up. Restaurants, particularly those that offer international cuisine, can help families who crave something particular and need an easy approach for meals.  It also lends itself well to more families gathering around the table together each night.

Take online or phone orders 

Providing customers with a way to order-in is a capability that is paramount to a restaurant’s success in our current environment. Have staff available to take orders and/or immediately determine a path for a partnership to get you up and running with online ordering. During the ordering process, upsell or cross-sell menu items that help solve customer concerns related to other dayparts. Have a ton of wine in stock?  Offer half price bottles for pickup, where states allow.  Slip in a cocktail recipe to complement the family meal.  These extra touches bring a more personal touch.

Expand Delivery Options

Broaden the ways customers can get their food by offering drive-thru, pick-up or delivery. Free delivery is a great option to eliminate any price sensitivity. Restaurants can either take this on themselves or leverage third-parties who already have processes in place. Restaurants also can offer contactless delivery where customers place an order, pay with a credit card and get food delivered to their doorstep. If offering this feature, clarify how customers can request this service, such as including this request in the directions or comments section of an online order.

Establish Curbside Pick-up

Curbside pick-up targets customers that don’t want to get out of their cars or pay for delivery. Make sure to let customers know where the “curb” is, and how they should contact the restaurant once they are there. By ensuring customers are receiving their food quickly, restaurants can motivate repeat experiences that incentivize their customers to come back time and time again.

In a time of such uncertainty, restaurants need to adapt to changing consumer needs in order to continue to support their communities and keep customers engaged with the brand throughout this time and beyond. Restaurants should clearly communicate all of the ways customers can order and use the brand through all platforms from social to loyalty programs. By following these tools, we hope as many restaurants as possible strengthen their guest connections to survive these unprecedented times.


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Sastry Penumarthy is the co-gounder and VP of Strategy at Punchh, a world leader in delivering dynamic, one-to-one customer engagement through artificial intelligence, mobile-first expertise, and omnichannel communications for restaurants and retailers. Along with his co-founders, Sastry built Punchh from its alpha product to becoming the market leader in the restaurant industry with nearly 200 global enterprise brands. Prior to Punchh, Sastry led Product Marketing teams, launched products, and ultimately grew revenue at various CRM and marketing platform companies like HotSchedules, InsideView Inc., BEA Systems, and Siebel Systems. In addition, he co-founded Nuevora, a big data analytics services company where he designed and developed analytics capabilities for Fortune 500 companies. He holds a Masters of Science in Chemical Engineering from UC Santa Barbara and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the University of Chicago.

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