Restaurant Reboot: Applying New Norm Practices with an Enhanced Marketing Approach

Linda Kavanagh, Total Food Service May 2020
Full Article

Let’s now start the process of moving forward with some major internal operations evaluation. The time is now for your restaurant reboot, a fresh new outlook on marketing, and a renewed energy towards your brand. As I always preach, “PR happens any time.”


While both the consumer and the industry can’t wait for things to go back to “normal”, re-entry should be approached with greater enthusiasm, resulting in a greater impact on the consumer. Now is the time to slightly reboot your restaurant and improve upon your existing brand.

  • Refresh your logo and content on your website and all social media and marketing platforms.
  • Incorporate fresh, high-quality photography into all your platforms. Focus on food, cocktails, interiors, exteriors, design elements, action shots, and owner/staff/chef images.
  • Produce video content. Short, long, and b-roll format.
  • New menu – seasonal changes and possible format/style variations on current menu concept.
  • Location refresh. Table configurations need to become more spacious. A fresh coat of paint and new design elements, artwork, and lighting have a tremendous impact on a space. Incorporate outdoor lighting, plantings, and new patio furniture layout.
  • Hospitality/Service – retrain your staff, incentify your team, and instill a stronger work ethic for this new chapter in your business. 


How did your social media, email marketing, delivery services, POS, online portals, and website all perform when you needed them the most?

  • When was the last time you ran analytics? Have your platforms consistently been gaining followers, sign-ups, reviews, opens, redemptions, reservations, etc?
  • Now is the time to rebuild and refresh all communications outlets with better content, a more robust outreach schedule, and additional consumer target markets. Utilize your marketing programs to their fullest and integrate additional program collaborations that are available.
  • Engage and incentify consumers in order to further build and grow all communication outlets. You can NEVER have enough emails in your database, and you will NEVER survive on your “regulars”.
  • Website capabilities: online ordering/POS tie-in, gift card sales, contact forms/information, and CMS accessibility will all need to be improved upon.
  • Add a minimum of one NEW marketing program. Text programs, collaborations, WiFi database capture, and lots of effective programs are available. Be open to new ideas.


For all of you out there (you know who you are) who just never seemed to understand or appreciate the importance and impact social media has on the restaurant industry or did so begrudgingly, there’s no denying that these hungry influencers became the number one promoter of restaurants and resource for the masses throughout this epidemic.  And no, email is not dead. In fact, it’s one of the strongest opt-in communication platforms for small businesses across the board. Were you able to communicate with your customers directly when you needed to the most?

It’s a new day. New approach. New (loftier) goals. Take this time to re-evaluate, re-structure, and reboot your restaurant’s social media and email marketing programs. Establish new relationships and strengthen current ones with your local social media brigade and start capturing (more) email addresses so you can stay better connected to your customer and community base.

  • Social Media – No more point-n-post! Quality pictures, concise content, meaningful hashtags, and understand how to get the most out of social media. Add a monthly budget for advertising (it works!).
  • Email Marketing – Give people a reason to want to read your newsletter. What are you offering them? Make information accessible with a click of a mouse. Is your newsletter really VIP material? Content and design are just as important as the promotion/offer itself.
  • Take advantage of marketing components offered by listing sites, business organizations, reservation platforms, etc. You pay to be a part of these. Utilize them to the fullest.
  • Utilize other outlets’ databases and reach through designated email blasts, paid posts, business collaborations, contests, and group platform inclusions.


Never has there been a moment in recent history to be so genuinely connected to current, old, new, and prospective restaurant guests than now. THIS is your moment to connect – and that’s all PR is. Connecting.

  • Resurface with the attitude of a NEW restaurant! When was the last time you put out a press release?
  • When the doors re-open, host media and influencer events on a consistent basis.
  • Engage with community platforms, chambers, social organizations, new (to you) events, and target markets.
  • Create your own signature events and offers and brand them as such.
  • Pitch and Post. Don’t be left out of seasonal media roundups. Submit recipes, photos, and videos to media outlets. Take advantage of free online news platforms.
  • Radio is not dead and local televisions is still a leading resource for local news. Revisit these “old school” mediums and create more opportunities to reach an extended audience. 


First, let’s address the obvious. Budget. While the majority of what’s outlined here imposes minimal cost, you will still want to invest the appropriate time and dollars into any marketing program to ensure maximum impact and continual growth. Start by utilizing this shut-down time to do some cost comparisons with your vendors. Evaluate the performance of your hardware, vendors, service staff, and platforms that you pay for. Reach out to new companies, or better yet, hire a reputable consultant to do the research and wheeling and dealing for you. It’s worth every penny – that you will do doubt be recouping in the end.

Most marketing programs fall short because they are not managed properly. PR, social media, and all forms of advertising and communications should be a consistent part of your day-to-day operations and calls for a strong and knowledgeable person to manage it. If you are assigning this to someone in-house, they will need the proper training, time, and compensation to manage it effectively. Incorporating a professional marketing person/team has tremendous advantages to a restaurant reboot, as it will provide you with the professionalism, talent, connections, and organization that it needs, while allowing you to concentrate on operating your business and managing your staff. Either way, it’s an investment, but when done smartly, it’s priceless.

Nobody can look into a crystal ball or project what’s down the line for the restaurant industry. All we can do is work with what we’re given, set the course for a new beginning, and just try to do things better than how we did before. I have faith in our industry, and even more faith in the talent behind it.