If the past year’s taught us anything, it’s the importance of community. Customers and employees alike are seeking connection, but the question is: “How do restaurants do this, especially when trends like takeout and delivery are more popular than ever?” With fewer in-person opportunities to connect, you need to make the most of them — and find other creative ways to build a community-focused brand.
Treat employees like family
When establishing a sense of community, it’s important to work from the inside out. Start with your staff by letting them know you appreciate them. Whether you host fun outings, offer professional development opportunities, or hand out bonuses, find ways to show employees you value them. In turn, you’ll have a happier, more engaged, and loyal team. Not only will this lend itself to a more successful business, but customers will take note. They’ll be drawn to the strong sense of community at your establishment (and likely to spread the word).
Encourage communal dining
Especially now, customers are craving more than food when they’re dining out — they’re eager for a social dining experience. If you create a communal atmosphere that makes it easy for customers to connect with their community, they’ll be more likely to come back and enjoy dining experiences with you. Encourage conversation by adding communal tables or lounge-style seating, but ensure customers feel safe in that setup with sufficient space to dine and converse comfortably.
Establish local partnerships
While you want to create a sense of community at your home base, don’t overlook the chance to expand your reach. Explore options to establish local partnerships, and engage customers offsite. Take advantage of cross-promotional opportunities to find new customers in your area. If you’re looking for partners to pursue, consider local farms, bakeries, or food cooperatives. As another fun option, you can hop aboard the craft beer trend and partner with local breweries to boost your visibility.
Participate in networking events
By getting involved in local events, you can effectively establish your restaurant as a “community brand.” Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce and tell them you’re willing to offer meeting space to host events for members of local business associations. Not only does this allow customers to enjoy food and a fun experience at your restaurant, it gives them a reason to come back. Or if you’d rather not host, inquire about city-run events you can participate in. Your presence will garner free publicity — and (again) help to establish your business as an integral part of the community.
Invest in community outreach
Last but certainly not least, find ways to give back to the community. Look into sponsoring local charities, or hosting demonstrations at schools or local events. Encourage your employees to get involved on an individual level too. Stay on top of volunteer opportunities within your community and share them with your staff. To motivate your team, you could even create an employee volunteer program and organize quarterly volunteer events. All of these efforts will help to build your brand within the larger community, and as a result, the community will reciprocate (and your business will benefit!).
Connect with your community, from anywhere.
If you take advantage of technology and sprinkle in a little creativity, you can stay connected with your customers, both near and far. Draw customers in no matter where you are with these suggestions — and keep them coming back for more.
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