COVID-19 (coronavirus) is ushering in unprecedented circumstances for the global hospitality industry. Right now, social distancing isn't enforced in Australia yet, but restaurants have been ordered to close across Europe and have closed voluntarily or reduced capacity by 50% in certain USA cities such as New York. Understandably, hospitality venue owners are looking at how they should communicate with their audiences during this time, while thinking about measures that might protect them should the virus increase locally. Here are our recommendations for how restaurants, bars and cafes can continue to communicate their services if foot traffic or diners are reduced over the coming weeks of impact due to the coronavirus pandemic. It goes without saying, high levels of consideration and care is paramount, and venues should monitor the advice from health and government officials daily.

This is not the time to go dark on your audience - this is a time to connect. Messaging should encourage diners to eat locally and support local, independent businesses while it's still relatively safe in their neighbourhoods. Brands should send encouraging, hopeful messaging, not adding to the panic. Delicious food can be a welcome distraction for bad news - even if it's just a beautiful photo online. This is a time to cement loyalty and brand trust, so we'll be using this time to story-tell on the hospitality social channels we manage - talking about how restaurants make things, and why they do what we do. Engage your audiences, don't panic them.

Sell menu items via UberEats or Deliveroo, or offer pick-up from your venue. This is a viable option for restaurants looking to service the community who are isolated at home, and even more so if they are forced to close for service. Stick to key dishes that travel well. Organise branded stickers to go onto bags and packaging, (we recommend eco packaging where possible). Do you have dry or shelf-stable goods you can offer to sell to your diners? Rice? Pasta? Wine? Chicken Stock? That may be a good idea to put some packages together for diners to collect. It's important to communicate this change to your audience in the right way via social and EDM.

Communicate clearly anything your brand is doing to reduce risk in your venue. This should be communicated to your audience via your EDM and social channels. Perhaps it’s spacing tables further apart? Implementing extra hygiene precautions? It’s imperative to use language that is not panicked, but measured, reassuring and clear.

Offer vouchers via your website, so diners can come back later. Offering vouchers is a great way to encourage spending up front, and to ensure your diners come back once things have settled down. Also, why not make your merch available to be sold online while you're at it? Diners are keen to support the businesses they love any way they can.

These times are unique, and it's important we all support each other, make a plan and be proactive. Be conscious of the people around you who might be more susceptible to suffering via this disease and, finally, remember we'll get through this. Your customers will be back, it's important to not lose contact with them.

Need some help with all this? Get in touch to find out how we can help with your communications strategy.

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