How restaurants can better assist customers during times of uncertainty

Ryan Olohan / April 2020

Restaurants are the heart of many communities. It’s where couples enjoy date night, friends catch up on life, and sports teams gather for a postgame bite. But as the world grapples with how to respond to COVID-19, both international chains and independently owned restaurants are quickly strategising to find new ways to serve their communities.

While I manage the Restaurant teams at Google as my “day job,” I am also a restaurant owner who is personally experiencing this crisis from the front lines. The pandemic presents unique challenges for the industry. And while the path forward depends on many variables, here are some strategies restaurants are adopting to support their customers in this unprecedented moment.

Proactively communicating changes that affect your restaurant across customer-facing channels is crucial.

Help your customers plan and prepare

When uncertainty is top of mind, people are looking for information they can trust. With governments closing all in-restaurant dining and people limiting visits to grocery stores, more people are looking for accessible and available food options nearby. “Takeaway” search interest has significantly increased in countries across the globe, including the Netherlands (‘eten afhalen’) and Denmark (‘takeaway’). Being there to help people navigate this new normal with up-to-date and relevant information can make all the difference to individuals following stay at home guidelines, or essential workers with little time to spare.

Proactively communicating changes that affect your restaurant across customer-facing channels is crucial in helping people plan and prepare. Updating your Business Profile on Google is one way to do this. Updates you make on your profile about your location, such as changes in your restaurant hours, including temporary closings or modified hours, will also appear on Google Search and Google Maps. And, at a time when people are assessing what best fits their needs, providing information, like whether you’re offering takeaway or delivery, is a way you can help users decide what’s right for them.

Communicate takeaway or delivery solutions effectively

For the last five years, “restaurants near me” consistently ranked as the most popular “near me” search.1 But consumer behaviour has changed, with a shifted focus to alternative mealtime solutions. We’re seeing more consumer interest related to “delivery” in the last three weeks as a result of global governmental guidance to shelter in place; search interest for “food delivery” related queries has also spiked across Belgium (‘eten bestellen’), Sweden (‘matleverans’), and Finland (‘ruokatoimitus’).

How restaurants can better assist customers during times of uncertainty

Informing people of your alternate dine-out options helps customers and your employees remain safe during recommended social distancing periods. Solutions like Local campaigns can help you customise your communication to include only locations where you offer dine-out options.

Reassure strict restaurant safety and sanitation measures

Today, more than ever, when choosing where and what to eat, safety is paramount. As such, search interest for “safe food delivery” has increased 650% across the U.S. since the beginning of March,3 and equally steeply in the Netherlands (‘veilig eten bestellen’). Reassuring customers that you understand the concerns for safety and are taking important steps to address the current situation is key.

Illustration of a white box truck with a yellow knife and fork icon on the side. Accompanying statistic reads: 650% increase in search interest for “is food delivery safe” across the U.S.

These actions include sharing updates on new implementations, like whether you’ve established a dedicated team to focus on food safety. Other examples may include applying more stringent cleaning procedures, increasing the frequency of hand-washing among staff, and updating training materials for employees.

Further, communicating your employee sick leave policy or addressing time off for ill employees is another way to show how you are minimising the possibility of putting your workers and customers at risk.

In this challenging time, the last thing people want to worry about are meal options. By alleviating these concerns with relevant communication and safe, convenient choices, you’re providing the assistance they’ll remember and appreciate.

Resources and insights to help you navigate uncertain times