What’s a restaurant to do when road construction takes a bite out of their sales? While these projects ultimately provide better and safer access for your customers, the loss of parking, blocked driveways and confusing signs can repel customers and put you right out of business. Bulldozers outside your door are not appetizing!
In the past year, there have been at least three major road construction projects that have threatened the livelihood of some of my favorite restaurants – “under destruction” as they call it! As a social media marketing coach for restaurants, I’d like to offer several low-cost or free marketing solutions to keep your restaurant open and thriving during the destruction.
12 ideas restaurants should consider if road construction is driving customers away:
- Offer a discount or special deal to motivate customers to make the extra effort to dine with you. It may be 10% off a meal or a free menu item, but it gives them a reason to visit. This could be advertised through social media, a local flyer/mailer, or direct email.
- Ask local food writers, bloggers, or social media influencers for help. It’s time to swallow your pride and let them know business is suffering, and ask for their help in letting the public know what’s happening to your business. Everyone suffers when local businesses don’t survive.
- Contact other local businesses (not affected by the construction) if they might like lunch delivered to their office, or offer a discount if they bring their employees in for a group lunch.
- Post frequent (more than you ever imagined!) updates on Facebook and Twitter that you *are* open during construction. Provide tips to avoid the mess and find your driveway, remind them of your best menu items with mouthwatering photos so they’ll brave the inconveniences to dine with you. Give them reasons to come in and support you during the madness.
- Visit your local Chamber of Commerce meeting or other business networking groups to share your predicament. Solicit their support for your local business and ask them to spread the word through their organization’s email list or newsletter.
- Send a newsletter to your mailing list that includes a special offer just for them – “sorry for the inconvenience, let us treat you to this.” You could also communicate ways to avoid the mess and access your restaurant safely (What, you don’t have a mailing list? Ooh, we should talk…)
- Mobilize your social media followers by posting a special offer for fans/followers who share one of your updates (about the construction) with their friends. Utilize their support to spread the word that business is slow, and give them a reason to come visit. You’d be amazed how many people will share your updates just to make sure you succeed and stay in business.
- Invest in a few signs or banners for the side of your building, or at the corners of your intersection. The small “businesses are open” sign posted by construction crews won’t cut it! You might even hire one of those sign-spinner guys to stand in your driveway and direct traffic into your parking lot.
- If you have a Loyalty Club or Rewards Program for diners, offer double or triple points during construction. If you don’t have such a program, start one now and give bonus points for joining
- Give a “bounceback” offer to guests who dine during construction, which could be as simple as a $5-$10 gift card that’s redeemable in the month after the construction is over. Incent them to return and see the beautiful finished project!
- Create a themed discount to attract customers (Wine About It Wednesday, Tell Me About It Tuesday) to solicit their support and let them come in and vent about the nuisance to their community! They could drop a business card in a construction hat for a free daily gift card drawing.
- Make friends with the construction workers – you want them on your side! Perhaps you could offer them a deal on lunch, or invite them to use your restrooms. They will likely be more inclined to keep access to your restaurant clear, and maybe provide help steering confused drivers into your lot. A little goodwill goes a long way!
Has your restaurant been affected by road construction? Have you been frightened away from dining at your local neighborhood spot because of the mess and madness? Share your tips for surviving construction barriers in the comments below – it takes a village!