How do you maintain a presence on social media when customers can’t always come in? Here are six ideas to keep your clients engaged.

Colin Fassnidge of Banksia has been offering online cooking classes through Facebook.

Many restaurants have a social media presence (at the very least, Facebook and Instagram). They use it to promote any special offers, or to showcase lovely photos of their meals. If your venue is either locked down or operating at reduced capacity, social media also offers a way to stay connected to customers and keep your brand front-of-mind.

But don’t just post photos of your lovely food. Remember, most social media users never visit your page—they only see your posts on their own feed. So serving up something new and different on a regular basis will grab their attention.

It also gives you the chance to gather new names to promote to, and potentially helps you launch new revenue streams. Here are six ideas for things you can put up on your socials that will keep customers coming back.

1. Post recipes and cooking demonstrations

After years of watching slickly produced cooking demonstrations on television, it was refreshing during the first worldwide lockdowns to see Jamie Oliver shooting his TV show on a mobile phone in his kitchen. If your customers are loyal to your restaurant, they’re not going to worry too much about the quality of your online video (sound is another matter). Having said that, head chef and owner of Melbourne’s Atlas Dining, Charlie Carrington, has been regularly posting recipes and cooking demonstrations for menu favourites on his Facebook page. He puts the ingredients list in the body of the post and adds a video of him cooking the meal—simple, and very shareable.

See examples for yourself at https://www.facebook.com/Atlasdining

2. Online cooking classes

If you don’t want to give away too many trade secrets, social media also offers a platform for cooking classes. If you offer classes, hints or tips for creating delicious meals from simple ingredients, it gives people a reason to seek you out. Encouraging the people who take the classes to like or comment on the class lets you build up a database of customers who you can later target with promotions for your venue. Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge offers live interactive cooking lessons through Facebook which he also sells tickets to. By making the classes an event, he also creates something that he can promote across his multiple venues.

See the way Colin is using Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/byfassnidge

3. Promoting your pivot to drive through take-out or meal packs

One of the many benefits of pivoting your offering during a lockdown is it gives you a whole new story to tell. For example, the staff at the Bella Vista Hotel made use of their warehouse space behind their hotel to create a drive-through, contact-free pop-up selling the food and alcohol that they had on hand at the time of the closures, plus essentials like toilet paper, which were missing from supermarket shelves. A great initiative like this can generate one press release or multiple social media posts, every time someone collects a meal or groceries.

Have a look at what they’re doing at https://www.facebook.com/bellavistahotelbarandbistro/?ref=page_internal

4. Meet the staff

An easy way to show your followers something different online is to profile your staff. It makes your venue seem to be about something more than just a plate of food. And it ‘introduces’ them to a friendly face before they arrive. The profiles don’t have to be long, or even that revealing—a paragraph on who this is and what they do to contribute to your wonderful restaurant is more than enough. Quay Restaurant in Sydney has been doing a good job of it lately, profiling a new staff member each month with a nice photo, short description of the staff member, and tagging it with the hashtag #quayteam.

See how Quay are doing it at https://www.facebook.com/quayrestaurant

5. Charitable ventures

The last six months have been a horror show for everyone, and it is no surprise that many hospitality businesses have actively found ways to help people impacted by the bushfires, then helping their communities impacted by the pandemic. Colombo Social in Sydney started a #plateitforward campaign with industry contacts and charities to help members of their local community who are doing it tough. And if you’re doing something that good, you should be telling people about it—whose only way of pitching in may be to come and buy a meal from you.

Check out Colombo Social’s initiative at https://colombosocial.com.au/plateitforward/ and https://www.facebook.com/colombosocial

6. Live streaming performers or adding playlists

Music, food and culture have always been associated with each other. If your venue already offered live music, a lockdown doesn’t mean a performer can’t still perform on a live Facebook stream (as long as appropriate social distancing measures are observed). All you need is a performer and a sound mixer. Many venues have done just that. But the video also doesn’t have to be live—footage of previous events can be re-posted, or even favourite Spotify playlists. It does require a bit of equipment and expertise to get the sound right on a live stream, so if you decide to go down this road it may be an idea to reach out to some professionals for help. Being locked down a second time in Melbourne hasn’t stopped Bird’s Basement from putting up video of performances, as you can see at https://www.facebook.com/birdsbasement.

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