So your cafe is reduced to takeaway, or your restaurant is closed - you still have plenty of customer loyalty and people who want to stay in touch. This is very a valuable resource. If you've gathered together a customer list and have a bunch of social media followers, now's the time to connect and communicate like never before.
Set up a simple calendar to stay organised – what to post or send on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc, and bring in a helper if you’re busy. Use Facebook, Instagram and Email – as many as possible, plus SMS for a special occasion.
Reach out for Customer Support
Ask for reviews - for all those times when customers meant to say nice things but forgot! Share links for your Google My Business listing, Facebook Page and TripAdvisor profile so it's easy for people comment.
Sell gift vouchers for future bookings right now - set up a listing on SOSbusiness.nz and ask people to buy a voucher for future dining or takeaway meals. These will also make great gifts for friends and family.
Remind people about the caps and t-shirts you sell. If stock's running low, do special pricing and 'family deals' with caps and t-shirts.
Sell coffee beans and coffee-making equipment. People need their coffee fix, and they trust you to do it right. See how Colin Harmon of Dublin's 3FE Cafe is rising to the occasion and selling beans.
Sell off the cellar. You're proud of the wine and cocktail list, so now's the time to share it even further. You have better uses for the $10K tied up in your storeroom - have a civilised sale to lighten up, maybe with a minimum 6 bottles per purchase.
Pump up your Social Media
Add to your Google My Business listing, and claim your TripAdvisor page. Now's the perfect time to do this. Posting photos and updates on your Google listing gives you extra brownie points with the Big G, and the same with TripAdvisor.
Sort through your photos and share on social media. The opening party all those years ago, favourite pets on the pavement, pics from Christmas party events last year, 5 years ago, 10 years ago. Tag anyone you recognise in them.
Explain your food. Why are there different noodles in your laksa, or how the fresh cheeses are made. What's the history of the double chocolate cake you serve, and what is your most popular wine? Keep the posts simple and frequent.
Share your Spotify playlist. If you love music, now’s the time to create one or share what you use in the cafe. When you post this, ask others to share theirs as well – music lovers are passionate people! Here are great lists to inspire you from Sul Ronda at Avoca Beach, Old Railway Cafe in Townsville, Monkey Business Coffee at Warrnambool and Little Fern in Barcelona. You can also share Spotify lists on Instagram.
Pet Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday and Promo Friday. On Tuesday, ask people to share a photo of their furry friends (this will get a big response), on Wednesday, it's time for a funny YouTube video or silly photos. On Friday, encourage local businesses to share their services and promotions - this show of support will earn lots of appreciation.
Go Live on Facebook. Yes, you in front of the camera once a week and streamed to your Facebook Page. Set up your phone at eye level and talk about what's happening - keep it real, honest and upbeat. And interruptions from children are absolutely OK. Practice with a friend first, take a deep breath and do it - here's an easy guide :)
Engage with the sports fans. Share the drama and stories from great games gone by, or any that are still playing. You may want to use a friendly sports fanatic to help with this - they will dive in with enthusiasm. Maybe Thursday is the one for talking about sport?
Share about working from home. The crazy, the difficult and some new things you've discovered, adding a couple of photos. Ask for other people to share their setups and stories on your Facebook page.
Search YouTube for the best videos on a theme. Combine them into a YouTube playlist that you can share with others - it could be music, food, travel, sport or highlights of the home countries from some of your staff.
Build Your Community Connections
Run a Zoom virtual coffee or drinks session. These are fun - many customers miss their social life, and a Zoom session can be an enjoyable substitute. Use the (free) Zoom Meetings and share the link and time on Facebook or email. When you set up the meeting, set videos to be On, so people's faces will be visible - that's what it's all about. Learn about Zoom meetings - everyone is using it.
Like and comment on local social media pages - community groups and businesses in your area. Small gestures are appreciated and favours are often returned.
Share staff hero stories. The chef who handled service single-handed when his helpers were away, or the kitchenhand who's been with you for 8 years. Plus funniest waiter and the barista who all the customers flirted with.
Share highlights of the neighbourhood - a favourite park or shop, a personality or story about how things have changed or improved. Keep it light-hearted.
Call out local heroes. The people delivering to house-bound seniors, the teachers struggling to teach from home, and the nurses and doctors doing amazing work. If you know any of them by name, personalise it by mentioning their first name and remind them a free coffee is waiting next time they visit.
Support a cause. If you've been helping a local food bank, school activities or refugee project, keep it going if you possibly can. Share this proudly with photos and regular updates - everyone is more conscious of the world around us, and you are taking the lead.
Create and share a helpful information page. Local resources and markets, survival tips, managing Centrelink, cooking on a budget etc. Write it on a Google Doc and set the sharing to 'anyone can see it', then add the link to your Facebook or emails etc.
Tell different stories for different age groups. Some people want to hear about your parents who started the restaurant in the 80's. Others want to hear about how the bar guy creates the music playlist. And others would love to hear about your family and how you balance work and home. Now's the time to be more open and personal - it is always appreciated. If the woman at this top of this article is a regular customer, what will she relate to?
Have fun with this - you've looked over thousands of people over the years and they're keen to keep in touch and support you!