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How to stay relevant by building an online presence

A strong online presence is worth its weight in gold: it’s a great way to keep customers engaged, up-to-date, and loyal to your brand. If your restaurant is only offering pick-up right now, and even if it’s closed completely, the internet is always open.

We spoke to chef Adrian Forte , a consulting expert who has appeared on several popular cooking shows like Top Chef Canada, to get his take on how to promote your business online. Here’s what he had to say.

Stay connected with your community on social media

There are ways to create buzz and keep local customers interested in your restaurant, even if you aren’t serving anyone right now. If social media was a helpful advantage to have before, it’s absolutely essential now. Remember: the most important thing right now is to be present and stay connected with your clients. It’s alright if your content is not perfect.

Now is the time to join the conversation. You can use Facebook or Instagram to do the following:

  • Post pictures of you, your chefs, or your team cooking at home, trying new menu items or revisiting classics. Talk about cooking being a shared passion, and get people excited about your food.
  • Post surveys to find out things like what types of sauces people like best on their pizza, or ask them to vote for their favourite item on your menu to keep your offering top of mind. This way, you’ll get more engagement on your page, your posts will receive more views and you will need to spend less to gain visibility in the future.
  • Post throw-back pictures. If you have great photos of your restaurant or your food, share them with a caption about how you can’t wait to be back in business. Focus on comforting menu classics that will have people feeling nostalgic.
  • Promote user-generated content. Sharing pictures that your customers post online is a great way to show the world that people love your food (just ask their permission before and tag them).
  • Advertise your delivery and pick-up options, if applicable. Post pictures of your crew working or your food being prepared, highlight menu items that are perfect for delivery, make sure the ordering process is clear and communicate your safety measures. You can also participate in initiatives like #TakeOutDay to get more exposure.
According to Chef Adrian, now is the time to engage with your community. Food builds bridges between people, and that is especially true for small businesses with a story to share. Reach out to your followers. You can even offer gift certificates as a way for people to support you in the meantime, and as a promise that you’ll see each other again soon.

Get people excited about food and cooking

In the absence of being able to visit their favourite restaurants, more and more people are trying new things in the kitchen. Adding to the conversation is a great way to stay relevant!

  • Share simple recipes that people can cook at home, either as a how-to video or simple written recipe. Try to stick to ingredients most people will have on hands, or jazz up ordinary dishes. You can even add your recipes to your website to increase traffic and clicks. The added visibility will be great once business comes back to normal.
  • Ask people to share pictures of their results after trying your recipe. You can even ask followers to vote for the best result, which will spike engagement on your page.
  • Host an online cooking class. Simply choose an easy recipe from your menu, and create an online event. It could be a free, live event on social media or a more official class on Zoom or Skype with a small group for which people can register. Some chefs even sell meal kits for delivery or pick-up that include all the items to cook your recipe. You can then show people how to prepare the dish step-by-step on the day of the event. Just like a regular cooking class. This super-engaging activity gets people intimately involved with your restaurant: they’ll get to know you and feel sincerely invested in the success of your business.
  • Partner with other local brands to share inspiring recipes. For example, create a new sandwich using bread from a local bakery, or create food pairings with beer from a brewery in the city. Both you and the other business can share the content online – that way, your brand can reach their followers and vice versa.

The key to success is balancing new, creative ideas with tried-and-true classics from your menu. The goal is to convey hope and excitement for the future, while showcasing most-loved items to create a sense of nostalgia. Maintaining a strong, meaningful bond with your customers is possible, even if you’re closed or have reduced your service – all it takes is the internet.


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