It’s no secret that restaurants nationwide are hurting as we combat the spread of COVID-19. Some have closed completely for the time being, while others have shifted all operations to takeout and delivery to keep business moving and guests fed; but even the most loyal guests can only eat so much takeout.
So how can restaurants drive revenue without dining rooms, alcohol sales, and stellar hospitality? The answer for many has been simple: promote gift cards.
When all is said and done, gift cards essentially boil down to interest-free loans from the consumer, making them the perfect way for altruistic guests to support their favorite brands, all while making a commitment to come back for a visit when dining rooms reopen.
Our Associates are our foundation, and we recognize the impact #COVID19 is having on them. An Associate Relief Fund was set up to donate 100% of online gift card sales to our associates through 3/31. Together, we can help our restaurant community: https://t.co/4EUMspSb3n pic.twitter.com/eHE63ma116
— Ocean Prime (@OceanPrimeCMR) March 19, 2020
By selling gift cards now, especially in large sums, restaurants can secure capital and liquidity to enable reopening when the worst of the pandemic is over. Gift cards are also a huge loyalty indicator: these guests are committing to come back, and 80% of consumers spend more than the value of their card.
Even better, restaurants can offer virtual cards through Paytronix , which can be easily purchased – and delivered! – directly from the restaurant’s website. The lack of face-to-face time with a guest may be unconventional, but during the pandemic, it will likely add an extra level of comfort for the guest in addition to enabling restaurants that aren’t providing takeout to keep revenue coming in.
Bloomin’ Brands’ Outback Steakhouse is offering a $20 e-Bonus when guests buy $50 in gift cards through March 29. Taking their own promotion in another direction, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants are donating 100% of gift card proceeds through the end of the month to a relief fund for employees, in a campaign similar to one being practiced by Prime Hospitality Group.
Others are seeking ways to ensure the guest will use the gift card for a dine-in meal.
Immigrant Food in Washington, D.C., has promised a complimentary glass of prosecco with each gift card purchase – a promise that will be honored when the restaurant is able to reopen for business.
— Outback Steakhouse (@Outback) March 23, 2020
Some campaigns are even being promoted by organizations outside of the foodservice industry. Beasley Media Group, a collection of radio stations across 15 different U.S. markets, last week unveiled “Operation Gift Card: New England,” a promotion that will feature local restaurants’ websites where gift cards can be purchased. The group’s Boston-area stations will also promote the campaign on-air.
Seek out local partners in your area who are offering platforms to promote your gift card sales, and ensure you’re targeting all of your guests by utilizing all channels of communication: email, social media, your website.
Ultimately, remember to keep your message heartfelt and honest. Prepare a narrative as to why you need the support, and what it will mean to your business and your staff. Your guests’ loyalty brought you this far – trust them to see you through this storm, too.