How to Win Back Restaurant Customers After Reopening with WiFi Marketing

Your agency’s restaurant clients are reeling from the impact that the current health crisis has had on their businesses. 

You can help them rebound faster.

Restaurant customers are still out there, but their feelings about visiting your client’s establishment have fundamentally changed. WiFi marketing can be instrumental in addressing the major shift that’s occurred in the relationship between restaurateurs and their customers. You can leverage customer intel to tailor outreach so it speaks to the COVID-19-related concerns of your target audience.

In this article, we’ll recall what customer engagement was like before the pandemic, examine how customer attitudes have shifted, and help you remap your marketing strategies to account for that shift.

Pre-Pandemic Customer Types

Digital marketing involves developing different communications strategies for the various target audiences you’re trying to reach. If your agency has strategies in place, they probably address some or all these groups:

  • Prospects—Agencies reach out to people in pre-customer status with specialized ads and messages designed to attract interest and ultimately convert them into customers.
  • Regular Customers—Marketing to frequent patrons typically involves offering targeted discounts and asking for positive reviews.
  • Loyal Customers—Agencies have had great success with restaurant loyalty programs, rewarding long-time customers with regular discounts, exclusive offers, etc.
  • At-risk Customers—Customer outreach aimed at formerly loyal customers is often the most carefully crafted messaging than an agency produces.

There are proven strategies for engaging each of these groups, and they’ll still work. Agencies simply need to redirect existing tactics to account for the massive shift in the customer-restaurant relationship that the pandemic has caused. That’s our next topic.

An Across-The-Board Shift in the Customer-Restaurant Relationship

The type of outreach that was effective before the pandemic can still be effective. Your agency must address the shift in the customer relationship that restaurateurs are facing.

Let’s look at three customer groups that, due to the pandemic, have shifted from one status to another.

Receptive Prospects
Armed with customer profile data, agencies could target highly qualified prospects who were eager to hear about your client’s restaurant.
Are Now…Wary Strangers
The general public is freaked out by the pandemic. If you don’t address current health concerns head-on, people will ignore your outreach, or worse, they could develop a negative impression of your client’s business.
Regular Customers
The people who regularly patronized your client’s establishment were prime targets for discount offers, review solicitation, and requests to join your loyalty program.
Are Now…Uptight Prospects
In the most severe demotion that’s occurred among customers, regular patrons must now be handed like mere prospects. As receptive as these people used to be, that’s how leery they are now. It will take some carefully crafted messages to ease their minds.
Loyal Customers
Long time patrons and members of your loyalty program could be lavished with exclusive discounts as a way to express the client’s appreciation and build a lasting customer relationship.
Are Now…At-Risk CustomersNow, even formerly loyal customers have a downgraded status—they’ll have to be treated as at-risk customers. You can win them back, but it will require highly specialized outreach.

There’s a way to refocus your existing marketing strategies to address this seismic shift in the customer-restaurateur relationship. Let’s get into it!

Remapping your WiFi Marketing Strategies

In the relationship between restaurant owners and their customers, the three status shifts discussed above have had a devastating effect.

Each customer group has transitioned to a different status, but the good news is, people have landed in customer status groups that you already know how to market to!

That being the case, all you have to do is take strategies that would normally work for a particular target audience and redirect them to the corresponding pandemic-spooked customer groups. We’ll cover how to do that in the following sections.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Reaching out to Wary Strangers—Reclaim Lost Awareness

The world has been in the grip of the pandemic for so long, with people drastically limiting restaurant visits for months on end—your client’s restaurant might have been completely forgotten by now. You can put the establishment back on people’s radar by using broad outreach like ads. This approach should give equal attention to these two points:

  1. Your client’s restaurant still exists and is open for business.
  2. Your client has taken the necessary steps to address health and safety concerns for staff and patrons.

Part of helping your restaurant clients rebound involves the most basic of all marketing goals: getting the word out. It’s like what you would do if the restaurant were having its grand opening—there’s no customer contact data involved; ads are your best tool. If you have a target audience defined, you may find a way to leverage social media to reach receptive people.

By now you may be wondering when WiFi marketing comes into play. The outreach described in the remaining sections requires customer intel, something WiFi marketing produces a lot of.

Ideally, your agency has customer profile data or at least contact info that predates the pandemic. If you had WiFi marketing in place before the health crisis started, you have plenty of customer data to work with. Let’s see how that data can be put to use.

Photo by Danielle Rice on Unsplash

Former Customers are Now Like Prospects and They Need Reassurance

Past customers will require some encouragement before they start visiting your client’s restaurant again. Recalibrate your marketing outreach to account for that.

You might normally send these people messages designed to increase reviews or promote loyalty. Now’s not the time for that sort of messaging. Instead, your approach should give equal attention to these two points:

  1. Your client misses their patrons and is eager to resume normal operation.
  2. Your client has taken the necessary steps to address health and safety concerns for staff and patrons.

Number 2 should look familiar. For the moment, it must be part of all your marketing outreach. Former customers need a lot of hand-holding and your agency can provide it.

Using customer contact info to reach out through email and social media campaigns, provide details about how your client is making their establishment safe for patrons. In doing so, simplify your messages. Temporarily shelve your campaign to solicit reviews and suspend your push for loyalty program opt-ins.

A straightforward approach that addresses the public’s fears will work; some people who were staying away will come back. When that happens, the WiFi splash screen is a good place to reiterate how seriously your client is taking the pandemic, as is your post-visit “thank you” message.

It’s not “fun” messaging but it’s what’s right for the moment. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to resume normal marketing after the health crisis is under control!

Appeal to Formerly Loyal Customers—Act Now or Lose Them Forever

Your agency must capitalize on the relationship that existed between your restaurant clients and their loyal customers before the pandemic. More than any other group, those people will be receptive to an “it’s safe to come back” message.

This group should see a discount offer in your very first attempt at re-engagement. Messages should stress the following:

  1. Your client loves their loyal customers, is eager to see them again, and is offering an exclusive discount that only loyal customers will be getting.
  2. Your client has taken the necessary steps to address health and safety concerns for staff and patrons.

There it is again—the COVID-19 message. Unfortunately, even formerly loyal customers need to see reassurances about your client’s response to the health crisis.

When loyal customers do return, every message they see should acknowledge their loyalty, from the WiFi login screen message to the “thank you” message you send right after they log off the guest WiFi network.

While this sort of targeted outreach requires a well-seeded customer database, if you’re helping an existing restaurant client get back on its feet, there’s a good chance you have the data you need. Even if you start with very little customer intel, going forward, WiFi marketing will have your database fully loaded in no time.

Use WiFi Marketing to Help Restaurants Rebound

When it comes to engaging with restaurant customers, the pandemic has changed everything.

Targets for cold outreach have become less receptive, former customers have reverted to prospect status, and loyal patrons have transformed into at-risk customers. On a grid of restaurant-customer relationships, everyone has moved to a new square.

Your agency can fine-tune customer outreach to address those shifts in customer status.

If you use WiFi marketing to help your clients rebound from the devastating loss of business they’ve been suffering, your agency can chalk up a major win that will keep paying dividends as restaurants roar back to life.

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