What a bloody mental few weeks.

It feels like watching a disaster film in many ways. But it’s not one. And the Covid-19 health crisis is fast turning into a global economic crisis with travel, leisure and hospitality businesses amongst the ones suffering most.

The Government’s hefty cash injection to help businesses is a generous one but with closures looming and no set end date for the measures, these are trying times for restaurants, cafes and pubs in particular.

These businesses, more than so many others I feel, are the lifeblood of a lot of communities. The local pub is still the primary source of social interaction for lots of people. And where I live and where my office is based, cafes and restaurants are some of the most loved independent businesses still thriving. It’s desperately sad to consider losing so many of these establishments.

But in times of crisis, we often find creativity

And I’ve been blown away reading about what some food and drinks businesses are doing to survive this storm.

I saw a Tweet from Rand Fishkin

What this fine dining restaurant did in an incredibly short space of time is amazing. In their own words:

“This is the story of a fine dining restaurant deciding that fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now”

Incredibly quickly, Canlis converted its business entirely from fine dining to 3 separate offerings:

  • A takeaway bagel bar
  • A burger/salad/ice cream drive-thru
  • A family meal delivery service where they’ll drop a family meal and a bottle of wine on your doorstep

They have enabled contactless transactions so people pay online and the food is dropped at their house with no risk of transmitting the virus.

And most importantly, they have been able to retain their staff who’ve simply adapted to this new business model. More people keeping their jobs, more people in isolation who can get a tasty dinner delivered in. Win win.

Another Example

They’re not the only ones.

Cambridge Fruit Company is a business that delivers fruit boxes to offices. So of course, orders start drying up as offices send staff to work at home.

I came across this when I saw this Tweet from @Optimisey (side note: the people I follow on Twitter share the BEST stuff):

Owner, Neil, when faced with the desperate situation of orders drying up took to Twitter to crowdsource ideas and feedback on an at home fruit and veg delivery service within Cambridge.

It didn’t take long for Twitter to respond in droves and for Neil to announce that he was up and running with 2 different at home delivery products and that he was drowning in orders.

While people are crazily stockpiling in supermarkets, Neil is able to adapt his business and offer something they need right now.

You don’t have to look hard to find more examples either.

Switching it up

Small and micro business owners generally have, in my opinion, a solid attitude when it comes to their businesses. They’re used to being hands on with every element of the business. They’re used to overcoming issues that you can’t just throw money at.

They’re used to adapting.

And that’s what’s needed now – adaptation. At pace.

Turning your restaurant into a delivery or takeaway service

I’m no food business expert. The extent of my restaurant and cafe experience starts with deciding where to eat and ends with a Google Review.

But I do know marketing reasonably well. So here are a few pointers I hope will be helpful for any such business looking to convert from a footfall eat-in establishment to an online order/takeaway/delivery service.

1. Facilitate online orders

If you can, the ability to take payments online is ideal. You could sign up to something like Deliveroo (but expect a cost of a few hundred £ to sign up) if you’ll also want to use their delivery drivers.

But if you’re hoping to keep your existing staff on for delivery or you don’t want to do delivery at all, your own website could be a better move.

Shopblocks has an offering for restaurant websites. It’s a very slick, affordable and fast-to-get-running with solution where you basically just input your menu and any content you want to include.

This would enable online orders and payment fast.

If you’ve already got a website, you can potentially adapt it to take online orders and payments. There are WordPress plugins that offer this for those already on WordPress (never used any of them myself so I couldn’t really give you a review).

But ultimately find your solution and make it one you can get rolled out fast. 

2. Tell Your Customers

Your regular customers will know you for your regular offering. But if social media and the stories emerging of these changing restaurants in the past couple of weeks teaches us anything, it’s that customers can be your biggest fans and advocates.

Reach out to your existing customers (by email, on social or however you normally get in touch with them) and tell them about your new offering. Encourage them to help you spread the word on social media.

3. Sort Your Google my Business Listing Out

Driving people who search Google for takeaways in your area to your website is a sure way to drive orders. Now with “local searches” (those where a place name or a “near me” is appended), we tend to see more Google my Business map style listings.

These listings come from Google my Business. If you’ve already got a Google My Business listing up and running, then you’ll need to update it to specify new take out and delivery services and to add a new website if you’ve got one up and running.

If you don’t have one, then get one now. Verification by postcard can take a few days, so do it right now if you haven’t already. Go on. Do it now…. this post can wait.

Optimising and promoting local listings is a very in depth post unto itself. But here’s some material a dear friend of mine made earlier…

Claire Carlile’s expertise in local search is outstanding. Read that deck, follow her on Twitter and start implementing her practical advice and tips.
The basics to get your kick started: pick the most appropriate category and secondary categories for your listing, populate your listing with as much information as you can and encourage lovely loyal customers to pop an honest review on there.

4. Basic Website SEO

Although Google my Business listings take up a lot of space on the page, it’s not to say people won’t scroll a little further down the page and reach the “organic” listings. These are listings not powered by ads but actually listings that SEO has influence over.

It’s certainly worth, if you have a website of your own or you’re getting one in order to switch things up during this crisis, putting in place some basic optimisation like page titles and copy on pages.

There are tonnes of great resources out there for beginners here and I’d start with the Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO.


5. Paid promotion of your delivery/takeaway services

If anyone in the area is looking for “food delivery near me,” or “sandwich delivery in Oldham,” or whatever relevant queries there are – if you fulfil that need then being seen before you rank in Google’s organic results can be achieved through Google Ads, which Google has some great entry level support material for here. Google Ads allow you to be very specific in location terms with regards who you market at, so if you’re only delivering in a certain area, you can tailor your advertising that way.

You can also pay to promote posts on Facebook and Instagram as well as Twitter. Facebook advertising in particular lets you get very specific in terms of targeting. Maybe you just want to show a post to people within a certain town.


6. Move Fast

The pace of change is in this situation is quite hard to fathom. And that means you acting fast too, finding the quickest way you can to change your business in line.

I really believe we’ll see amazing restaurants and cafes adapting and that some of the changes they make could even become long term changes that continue to aid business growth long after this crisis is over.

Good luck out there!

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