Communication via newsletters and social media and a successful loyalty program has been a cornerstone of Terry O’Brien’s digital strategy at the Red Parka Steakhouse and Pub in Glen, New Hampshire. And that focus has helped Terry get through the initial challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the coronavirus effectively shutting down their dine-in business, her newsletter and Facebook were critical to highlighting what is going on with the restaurant. Unlike many restaurants, Terry’s concern for her staff and needing to work out the distancing guidelines in the kitchen meant the pub actually sold raw products, including their hand-cut steaks, to move stock rather than let it go to waste. Developing the take-out business of cooked food took longer to implement.
Terry posts at least once per day on Facebook, sends out a weekly newsletter and uses a local radio station for promotion. She monitors other sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google for reviews but does not engage with them in any real depth.
In the early stages of the shutdown, one life-line for the restaurant was the ability to sell gift cards via their e-Commerce enabled website. Terry developed an offer whereby purchasing a $100 gift card would get a $120 value and promoted that offer over her social channels and newsletter. This short term cash flow boost helped to weather many of the issues she faced trying to understand how to keep her business going and her staff on the payroll.
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With the “opening” of her take out service, and using the same communication channels as before, Terry was able to sell more dinners than the pub did in the corresponding period the previous year. Admittedly, this is not a peak period in their calendar, but it shows that there is demand, and when that demand is met, excellent results can happen.
The real challenge will be sustaining this pace when less of the summer tourists (canoeing and hiking) visit the area and further ahead for ski season. Red Parka Steakhouse also welcomes many visitors from Europe, and Terry is bracing for a severe drop in the number of those clients.
Things will slowly open up, such as allowing Patio dining, but it will take time to understand fully the long term impact. Indeed, with a recession looming, restaurants would be facing a challenging year without the additional requirement to resize and adjust their business due to Covid-19.
Terry does express thankfulness that her investment in Facebook and her newsletters are paying off as she is seeing even more engagement and support from customers.
With the threat of decreased visitors and potentially future restrictions due to new outbreaks of the coronavirus, Terry will continue to develop and evolve her restaurant and will ensure that her lines of communication are wide open.