COVID -19 Guide for Local Restaurants and Food Businesses

March 31st, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis took us by surprise, without any preparation. It is affecting everyone, in every industry. The restaurant and hospitality industries are without a doubt some of the most affected in Victoria.

More restaurants are announcing their closures day by day. Some are offering take out and/or delivery, and others are getting very creative when dealing with this situation.

For a list of restaurants offering delivery at the moment, click here.

Even though there’s uncertainty in food related businesses, I still think that there’s a lot we can do to get the most out of this time. We have the opportunity to reinvent our businesses.

What we, as business owners and teams, have to do is adapt. Pause and give yourself some time to decide what is best for your business. Most of the time, these crucial moments turn into inspiration and creativity.

It’s time to help. It’s time to think beyond sales. It’s time to think about the future of our business and all those who depend on it. Get creative!

Think about what’s relevant and helpful to your audience. Add true value. Sell from a place of service.

What can you change right now? Yes, your business model can change its structure. It must.

How can I serve people right now? How can I use this time of uncertainty to connect with my customers?

Don’t be discouraged. We will get through this!

Now, the majority of your customers are working from home. Adapt and convert your business to find a way to get to your customers in the safest possible way.

You have a chance now to create deeper connections with your loyal customers. They will be the ones who will help your business out.

Just be patient.

Here are some of our tips and creative ideas for local food businesses to do during these uncertain times. We hope this information is helpful!

1. Consider Delivery

If you don’t do delivery now, it's time to change your business model a bit. During a time of crisis, it is ok to change!

We encourage you to create your own delivery service, hiring the unemployed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Or simply partner with delivery apps in Victoria: Tutti Delivery, Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes and Doordash. Most of them are offering free delivery to the customer and special offers or free trials to the restaurants.

You could also partner with other local businesses or restaurants who offer this service.

2. Go online

Technology isn’t just an option anymore, it’s a must. At this time of crisis, you’ll make your business more efficient by going online. You’ll generate more value, give a much better customer experience and this will be very helpful in the future.

The online world is alert and active 24 hours, 7 days a week, and your clients expect you to be as well during a crisis situation. People are no longer waiting until the next day’s newspaper to find out what is going on or what you are doing.

Your audience is searching for your info on your website and your social media. Use pop-ups on your website making special announcements, announcing that you are open, doing online orders, etc.

You can also offer a unique service to your loyal customers by developing an online store where you can sell your main products for delivery, besides them, you could create different items for your customers to use at home, for example, sauces, dressings, hummus, soup, etc. Give your menu a twist and offer more essentials.

If you need help building an online presence, please contact us.

3. Go beyond your business model

As stated before, during a time of crisis, the best you can do is reinvent your business model. Try to support your customers during different times a day. Expand your reach.

For example, if you are a restaurant specialized in dinner, why not offer breakfast and lunch options during these tough days? If your main business is breakfast, why not offer dinner? Offer family meals, comfort foods, kid-friendly meals, home-office lunch specials.

During these days, we are gathered mostly with our families or roommates; do not offer only a one-time meal. Offer more affordable meals, meal prep style meals, frozen meals. It would be very appreciated.

How about a subscription service including breakfast, lunch and dinner per week? and maybe add some snacks and a few desserts? Do a service like this and offer add-on options to your order.

This could help a lot of people during these stressing times, avoid going to the market or the stress of thinking there will be a shortage of food in supermarkets. Plus, we don’t know how long this isolation may last. I am sure your customers would love you to solve this for them.

Take local restaurant Zambri’s as an example. They offer family-sized lasagnas, sauces and more!

Restaurants are getting very creative.

San Francisco Michelin Star sushi bar Ju-Ni is offering Chirashi Bowls of fish and rice to go for only $39 USD, instead of $170 regular meals.

Another great idea would be to offer Make your own pizzas at home. Sell a box including all the ingredients and instructions on how to make your own pizza. You can create a little box with dough, cheese, and all of the other ingredients. Anyone can deliver pizza, but now you can offer this option in a completely new way.

4. Offer experiences

Offer online classes and tutorials. You could build your own website, use an existing online class platform or simply teach on instagram.

As your customers spend more time at home, they are cooking a lot more. It would be wonderful to see a local restaurant or chef sharing easy-to-make recipes, written or video, online or instagram TV. You may not be earning money right now, but you are gaining exposure, credibility, awareness. During these uncertain times, the best a business can do is create engagement. As stated before, it is not about sales anymore, it is about creativity. When everything has passed, I am sure your customers would really appreciate this gesture and who knows, maybe you’ll get lots of new customers!

See as an example Michelin Star Chef, Massimo Bottura, who is teaching cooking classes in his “KitchenQuarantine” video series for his followers. How cool is that? His followers truly appreciate to be able to learn from him and are really thankful to get this recipes for free.

He is also doing Instagram Q&A after the show to answer any questions that come up when you watch.

Treat your clients and give them something that will make them go back to you when everything settles down.

If any local restaurant, chef or cook is interested in sharing their recipes through our Tasting Victoria channel, we’d be very happy to! Email us to info@tastingvictoria.com

5. Advertise and Communicate

Usually in a time of crises, businesses will start reducing costs. One of the first costs we reduce is advertising and promotion. We don't believe in that. Your brand should always have a voice! It has to be innovating, communicating, be present and engage.

You have to keep communicating. To keep traffic up during the COVID-19 period, create a new marketing campaign. Stop doing what you were doing and turn to social media, email marketing, your own website, pop-up notifications, etc.

Just keep in mind that not everything has to be sales, not everything has to be promotions, try to give your audience important information and value added content.

At this time, all the attention is on social media. Everyone is on their cell phones. Keep communicating through this channel. We’ve been doing it for years and you’ll be surprised of the power of social media (if you are not already) and how it can influence in the consumer behaviour.

The same way you rely on your suppliers, your customers depend on you.

Your customers are now heading to your website and social media to look up for your information. If your business is offering delivery, make sure to announce it in all of your channels and let your customers know the safety measures you are doing to do a contact-less delivery right to their doors. Make them feel safe. Don’t just clean to make your restaurant safe. Send a message to your customers that your restaurant is a haven from what’s outside. If your business is closed, makesure to announce it in every channel as well.

You already have a media contact list, why not send a letter regarding your actual situation? You may also have your clients database already, why don’t send them a message or email offering your new delivery menu? I am sure they would use your help!

Make the most out of every channel. A suggestion is to update your current information in your Instagram Bio. What you offer, phone number, website, etc.

You as a business have an incredible know-how already. Use it! Share your important tips, recipes, tutorials, useful information for your audience.

If you need any help reinventing your marketing campaign or with your social media channels, we are happy to help too!

6. Engage with your audience

The moment to engage with your audience has come. It is time for your brand to connect with your audience, not in person, but online. Use your social media channels to talk to your audience.

Now is the time for social listening and engagement. Pay attention to what is most important to your audience right now. This is your chance to jump in and offer solutions.

Your customers want to see you. We want to know your story. We want to know what you’ve been going through and how we can help. We want to be a part of it.

Everything you do at this time, will help for your brand to have a different connection with your audience.

Humanize your brand. We want community support and connection more than ever. It takes a great vision to get your business started, but much more is needed to stay ahead.

For example, if you are a local nail salon, you could share tips on how to remove acrylic nails at home, how to remove gel polish at home and more?

7. Think about yourself as a consumer

When you're at home scrolling, what do you want to see on social media? This will help you think like a content creator, not as a restaurant brand.

8. Donate

If you decide to close your restaurant, donate remaining food to your staff, local hospitality workers and local food banks. The Sidney food bank is very bare due to everything going on. They will take pretty much everything.

If you are still operating for delivery and would love to donate somehow, take a look at Ferri’s restaurant creative strategy. They added a donation button to their Doordash menu, where customers can donate either a meal or a family dinner to help other service industry workers affected by the situation.

Victoria-based company Fatso Peanut Butter is also donating products to Vancouver and Victoria area food banks. A great company dedicated to its community.



We truly hope this information is helpful to our community.
Please reach out if you need any help with any of the suggestions, this is what we do

Contact us at info@tastingvictoria.com

If you find these tips helpful, please don’t forget to tag us @tastingvictoria


If you know someone who is getting creative and innovative these days, please send your tip to info@tastingvictoria.com We would love to feature them on our next blog post!

Looking forward to visit all the amazing restaurants in Victoria again in the near future!

Stay safe and take care

WRITTEN BY

Amelia Acedo

Social Media Marketing Expert