Spotlight Series: Brands that Give Back

As the restaurant industry deals with massive change, we’re spotlighting the brands that are spreading positive messages and uplifting their customers during this isolating time. Many have lessons to teach us all as they work to foster a deep emotional connection with their community.

Taco Bell & Panera Bread

School meal programs provide children of low-income families with reliable sources of nutrition, but with schools canceled, some families are left wondering how they will fill the gap. Thankfully, large brands like Taco Bell and Panera Bread are launching initiatives to help feed children and enable easy access to food for everyone who needs it.

To make sure students receive meals, the Taco Bell Foundation is donating $1 million to No Kid Hungry. The brand is also teaming up with other restaurants and food distribution networks to donate food and produce to local food banks. And for the greater community, Taco Bell gave out free tacos to all drive-thru guests earlier this week. Similarly, Panera is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Children’s Hunger Alliance to deliver boxed lunches to students. The program will launch in Ohio on April 6th with plans to expand to other states in the future.

Taco Bell is also working to go beyond the student population by converting its taco trucks into mobile commissaries, delivering food to people working in essential roles in healthcare, education, and grocery stores. All efforts brands make, whether great or small, can add up to help communities stay healthy and battle this global crisis. 

To learn what other brands are doing to build customer relationships during this time, connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out our site for more COVID-19 related resources.



Spotlight Series: Encouraging Fun at Home & New Traditions

As the restaurant industry deals with massive change, we’re spotlighting the brands that are spreading positive messages and uplifting their customers during an isolating time. Many have lessons to teach us all as they work to foster a deep emotional connection with their community.  

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant and Silver Diner

Our lives turned upside down. Between social distancing and staying at home, our lives are quite different from the busy, on-the-go existence that we typically lead. Kids are temporarily out of school, young adults in college have shifted to online classes, and those still fortunate enough to be employed are working from home. To help their customers get through the trapped-at-home blues, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant changed its offerings to create an activity that families can do together: cook! 

Iron Hill has make-at-home meals available for curbside pickup. Instead of taking a trip to a grocery store the brand offers three kits filled with high-quality ingredients. They can choose from the “steak and bake”, “fun on a bun”, or  “pizza party”. 

During this time, lots of customers are missing the joy and comfort of dining out and socializing. Iron Hill offers a way to make dining more personal within families by turning a takeout dinner into an experience.

Speaking of experiences Silver Dineran east coast-based American restaurant chain, encourages its guests to stay positive and create fresh traditions. In a recent email campaign, the brand shared a personal story of a couple that, until recently, had breakfast every week at the Silver Diner in Frederick, Maryland. Although dining-in was ruled out, the couple ordered takeout and decided to dine in the parking lot. They even brought their own chairs and table! 

The story helps Silver Diner remind its customers of the unique traditions that families can create together during this time, and the brand is asking its guests to share those new traditions with #SilverDiner. It’s the type of program that demonstrates the true relationship between a brand and its guests. 

To learn what other creative brands are doing to build customer relationships during this time, connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out our site for more COVID-19 related resources. 

Keep it Human: Communicating During COVID-19

Communication with guests is always important, but during times of change, transition or challenge, it’s paramount. With so many businesses having to totally rethink their standard approach due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Paytronix team has compiled a list of communication best practices.

Exercise empathy

This is a scary time for everyone – including your guests. Make sure they know you’re a brand they can trust by being transparent about your operational changes, safety precautions, and closures or new operating hours.

Just about every brand out there is sending messages conveying what they’re doing to mitigate the virus’ spread, so ask yourself what information you really need to share. For example, everyone is washing their hands more now, so focus instead on what your brand is doing differently that will foster a sense of comfort and trust in your guests. That can be as simple as telling guests you’re closing down in the interest of their health as HuHot Mongolian Grill did.

As a rule of thumb show an awareness of the struggle many people are going through, welcome feedback from your guests, even if it means asking for it, and above all, stay true to your brand.

Keep your guests informed 

If you’ve shut down operations, make sure your guests know about it, and be sure to explain why. Consider adding a footer to your emails or a banner on your website to keep them updated about closures and plans to reopen.

If you’re still open, remind your guests of your hours, which locations are in operation, and how they can place an order. Prioritize online ordering with hyperlinks or banners on your site. Make sure they are in a bold, obvious place, and consider giving discounts or double rewards points for takeout and delivery orders.

Be sure to let guests know about any additional services you’ve added to minimize contact, like contactless delivery or curbside pick-up. If you have a dynamic concept, consider how you can continue to provide value in nontraditional ways. Host, a company that offers bartenders for hire, has pivoted to sending regular “Drink of the Week” cocktail recipes to its subscribers via email. They’re still providing a service while tailoring their approach to fit within social distancing guidelines. 

Practice and promote social responsibility 

Guests want to support businesses they consider socially responsible – a trend demonstrated through the rise of farm-to-table restaurants. At a time when many are struggling, guests will appreciate – and remember – the brands that supported their employees, communities, and guests when it mattered most.

Charitable donations are also a great way to support the community while simultaneously promoting your own brand, without appearing tone-deaf. For example, New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees announced he would donate $5 million through partnerships with restaurants like Jimmy John’s and Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day to children on meal programs, seniors and families in need.

That said, be careful not to appear you’re taking advantage of the crisis. If you’re going to offer a discount, don’t make the coupon code “COVID” or “coronavirus.” Keep in mind that your guests are struggling too – provide comfort, service, or distraction from the daily anxiety, but don’t pretend it’s not happening.

Suspend or tweak untimely campaigns

Email and marketing campaigns are often set to recur or are planned in advance. Don’t forget to review the campaigns you had scheduled to avoid awkward messages, like visit challenges, missed visit campaigns, and We-Miss-You reengagements. These messages can be postponed until they are appropriate to send.

Campaigns that will still be relevant – like birthday rewards – can be adapted by including accommodations for guests who cannot redeem them now. Let them know you’ve remembered them and are working on ways to provide their reward at the appropriate time.

Extend reward expirations and reevaluate tier structures

It’s important that guests don’t feel penalized for not visiting during the pandemic. Communicate to guests that their points and rewards won’t expire during the shutdown.

Dunkin’ Brands did this with a simple email to its guests, assuring them that yes, their free drink rewards will be available later, while maintaining a supportive and friendly tone: “We’ve got your back.”

For programs that reward guests in tiers based on their annual spending, consider adjusting tier definitions, extending status or giving guests a boost to make up for lost time.

Spotlight Series: Brands Spreading Positivity During Difficult Times

Throughout this crisis, brands are searching for a way to maintain their strong customer relationships. A number have lessons to teach us all as they work to foster a deep emotional connection with their community. Here, twice a week, we’ll spotlight specific brands that are spreading positivity.

Thursday, March 26, 2020 Spotlight: The Pasta Bowl

The Pasta Bowl, a chain of neighborhood pasta shops, has maintained its fun and friendly tone throughout its customer communications. Still, it is serious about addressing the current environment. Take this snippet from a recent communication:

“Lots to be frustrated about these days. Lots to disagree and argue about too, it seems. We can all agree on one thing, though: we ALL wish none of this was going on.”

To address this undeniable truth, The Pasta Bowl has taken a different approach to uplifting its customers by collecting its stores’ playlists and sharing them through Spotify and Apple Music. Sometimes sitting down and throwing on some tunes can help people relax, or maybe even validating their feelings by listening to lyrics that resonate with them. Maybe a few will break out and dance! 

To learn what other creative brands are doing to build customer relationships during this time, connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out our site for more COVID-19 related resources.

The Apple Music Playlist