COVID-19 Restaurant Marketing Recommendations

As we continue to witness the everchanging impact of the coronavirus, Norton wanted to reach out to our restaurant community to directly share a POV on this situation based on the facts we have today. As many of you are aware, Norton works almost entirely within the restaurant industry and its marketers.

Two primary questions are being asked by our clients:

  1. When/How should we shift our messaging?
  2. Should we adjust our spend/channels?

Overall, we are preaching patience and are hypersensitive to a possible overcorrection. While hospitality “essentials” like hotels and airlines are getting proactive by sending out messages about cleaning and protocol guidelines, it’s not our recommendation for restaurants to feed into the frenzy. Instead, Norton believes we must offer solutions without engaging in the conversation unnecessarily. Our strategy is that we keep brands top of mind while consumers are searching for new ways to dine without dining out.

As the impact of coronavirus unfolds, Norton has identified four primary targets reacting to this situation:

  • The Frenzied – “The world is coming to an end and I’m not leaving my house.”
  • The Realist – “The media is probably blowing this out of proportion but I’m not going to take any unnecessary risks.”
  • The Skeptic – “I’m not overly concerned about the impact on my own health, but I’m very worried about how this is going to affect the economy.”
  • The Non-Believer – “This is all Fake news. You can buy up all the toilet paper. I’m gonna live my life.”

After careful consideration and conversation with clients, Norton is making the following recommendations:

  1. Be strategic. While this is not a time to pause your media spend, it is the time to shift budget and messaging. Delivery, To Go, and online ordering are top priority for the “Realists,” while value and offer-based messaging speaks directly to the “Skeptics” and the “Non-Believers.” Be honest with yourself: there’s no amount of messaging, targeting, or quality assurance behind your cleaning policies that’s ever going to convince a “Frenzied” guest to interact with your restaurant. Identify which target speaks most to your guest and style of your service.
  1. Be prepared for every situation. Hardest-hit markets like Seattle and San Francisco have reported impact of up to 20% and higher. If this continues to escalate in your markets, what are your A, B, C, D, and E plans? Could servers shift to delivery? Do you dramatically scale back your menu to omit shareables and limit server-food contact? Do your third-party delivery partners offer no-contact delivery? While Norton does not believe we’re currently in a “worst case scenario environment,” we do believe preparedness is the key to positive performance.
  1. Stay vigilant. As we anticipate disruption to your routine, each day could present new challenges that require a thoughtful mindset and encouraging attitude. Create a plan that will comfort your guests and serve as a guideline for the future. This can be accomplished by internally reaffirming your already high sanitization standard and by paying extra attention to the details of your cleaning and maintenance routine. Actions speak louder than words with your guests. This DOES NOT mean you should create in-store messaging or email marketing campaigns reaffirming how much your employees wash their hands. This only continues to remind and inundate the consumer with coronavirus conversation.

The restaurant industry will weather the impact of this hopefully short-lived event. As the news changes hour by hour, Norton is here to guide and support our industry through the good and the bad.


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