Maintaining Transactions and Customer Loyalty During COVID-19

As COVID-19 spread across the country, a national multi-unit restaurant chain had to shift to a completely off-premise model in a very short timeframe. This required company-wide changes – and strategic, clear communications around all of them – including increased safety protocols and additional off-premise options to drive transactions and ensure guest comfort.

Client
Services
Communications Strategy & Planning
Crisis & Reputation Management
Industry
Multi-Unit Restaurants
Awards

CHallenge

To retain customer loyalty and sales during a global pandemic, and without indoor dining, the restaurant chain needed to innovate and adjust rapidly to keep employees and guests healthy while also communicating to guests how they could continue to safely and conveniently enjoy their favorite menu items.

The brand called on Linhart PR for reputation management, message development and strategic media relations counsel, to tell these stories through earned national media coverage:

  • Enhanced safety protocols, quality assurance practices and overall efforts to protect the safety and wellbeing of employees and guests
  • Expanded off-premise options, from curbside pick-up to free delivery – ideally through the brand’s owned platforms for data collection; digital enhancements and new app capabilities to encourage loyalty program sign-ups for deals and to drive frequency; and new quarantine-friendly menu items such as family meals

Solution

Calling on its nearly 25 years of working with multi-unit restaurant chains and its extensive crisis communications and national media relations experience, Linhart PR quickly adapted to the new COVID-19 media landscape and activated the following approach:

  • Stayed closely connected to the brand’s marketing group to remain current on operations and marketing plans at a time when things were changing rapidly; key messages and communications plans were adjusted regularly
  • Leveraged existing national media relationships to break through the extremely crowded news landscape and overwhelmed news staffs to land coverage of key initiatives
  • Monitored the news multiple times a day as dining rooms closed and quarantines took effect to stay on top of coverage trends and shifts, and to ensure our story offers were appropriate and timely; also successfully targeted reporters after stories launched to ensure we were included in coverage and to make updates as offers changed
  • Elevated the brand with leadership interviews on the company’s proactive approach and successes during a challenging time for all restaurants

Results

In total, Linhart PR secured nearly 2 billion impressions for the restaurant chain during the initial months of quarantine, through stories that delivered key messages in outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, Forbes, Today.com, and CNBC.

By summer 2020, the company saw steadily improving sales since the start of the pandemic, including a more than 130% increase in digital sales and a 20% increase in loyalty program enrollment.

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