Facebook and a Pandemic

We are a family restaurant in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. The restaurant has been in business since 1994. We have been the owners since 2016. We run at a slow and steady place. The food is good but we are not too cutting edge or exciting. We have 72 seats and make old fashioned home cooking.

I am going to be blogging about our journey in discovering how to talk to our customers through social media. I will discuss what was successful and what we learned.

Fast forward to March 2020 and the beginning of the Canadian response to Covid19. Nova Scotia had no cases until mid March. It happened so fast. Sunday March 15 at 3pm atlantic there was a press conference with the Premier and the Chief Medical Officer. Everything changed after that press conference. Social distancing in restaurants was to implemented immediately. Traffic patterns of dining guests changed drastically and the new reality was setting in fast. Four days later all restaurants were ordered to close for dine in and could only offer take out and curbside pick up. In less than a week our business had declined by more than 70%.

The complicating factor to this restaurant and its ownership is that we live in Ottawa, Ontario. We now had to figure out how to stay open under the new guidelines and run the business from afar. We have family in Bridgewater that runs the day to day operations however this new reality was completely overwhelming for them.

There were some tough conversations about whether we should stay open or just close the doors until the climate improved. I was very against closing as I felt that if we closed we would become irrelevant in the eyes of the customer. We had to start talking to our customers in a real way through social media. We could do this! We had no formal social media strategy and there was definitely no social media plan. We did however have a very active facebook page, when the pandemic started and it was time to use that page. https://www.facebook.com/WavesSeafoodandGrill/

So the posts began. We tried to be authentic and honest. We tried to educate our followers about what services we were offering and that we were open for business. We watched our competition and we watched the news everyday. Things really started to heat up when we started selling high needs groceries. There was no flour or yeast in the community and we could get those items from our supplier. The engagement from our followers was like nothing we had experienced previously. We were in uncharted territory.

Although these actions had no formal strategy or plan that was written or even discussed, it is clear now that posts with informative and authentic content received more engagement. We only engaged on facebook. We looked at other platforms but did not feel that we could start from scratch on any new platforms during this important time. We needed to use what we had already built and what we were continuing to build.

We are through the worst of the lock down now. We are open for in restaurant dining at 50%. We are still posting on facebook a couple of times per week but it is not like it was back in April and May. I miss talking the cutomers everyday. I feel like there is more work to be done to create an overall strategy now. It is time to do the SWOT analysis for our business and our clientele in order to create an overall strategy. From that analysis, I need to take the learnings to create the strategy so that I can make the plan.

Facebook may just save my restaurant


Waves Seafood and Grill is a traditional family style restaurant with a capacity of 94, located in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. On Sunday March 15, 2020, the Premier of Nova Scotia announced new social distancing measures for many businesses, including ours, due to COVID19. Immediately our business model was thrown upside down with no notice. The food was ordered for the week and we were not going to have a chance to be open, as a sit down restaurant for the week or going forward. The scramble for a plan was on. Take out sales were still an option but the sales decline was massive.

We knew that we needed to create a plan and it needed to involve social media. We have a very active and vibrant facebook page and following. We now needed to speak to our customers daily, in a way that we had never done before. A daily message from our restaurant was needed in order to begin to adjust to the new reality.

We were very aware of what other competitors were doing. So many had closed all together. Closing means you are out site and therefore out of mind. We couldn’t close. Back to facebook for more engagement and messages. The first week went by and there was take out only along with some bad weather. People were not leaving their houses. More scrambling and a pivot in the plan.

After speaking with our main food supplier, we decided to offer high needs grocery items for sale through the restaurant for contactless pick up at curbside. Items like yeast, 20kg of flour, gloves and baking powder. It was a long shot but we thought we would engage with our customers in a new way. Wow! What a response. We have a delivery twice per week and we have maximzed the potential of grocery delivery. Facebook has allowed us to get the message out, respond to customers and reach a whole new audience for the restaurant. We may be ok. We were thinking very short term. Last week taught us that we need to think about a longer term (2-3 months).

In doing all of this communication with our customers we want to make sure that we are being tasteful, respectful and sensitive to what people are going through. What else can we do? How do we create a call to action and make sure we are following the rules of only essential trips outside the house? It is so hard to provide new upbeat messages each day and also create a non tacky sales opportunity. We are open to any feedback from the public, customers, politicians and other members of the restaurant community. We need everyone’s help and input but most of all support. We need to look confident that we “got this” but it is super scary. Most of all thank you facebook for being an avenue that we can use in these trying times.




Zoom will change Our Loneliness!

Last week I had heard of Zoom in passing, as a way for my son to go to school during the pandemic. One week later and I am so impressed with this “new to me” platform. After 3 weeks of social and physical distancing it was time to reconnect with friends and family.

Zoom was the answer to my loneliness, over the weekend. It started with an idea on Friday night with my University girlfriends. It turned into a 90 minute video call with 6 of us on Saturday morning. We all live in different parts of Ontario and would normally see each other twice per year. I can not believe how much happier I felt after that call.

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In keeping with the Zoom idea, I got in touch with my sister and parents. We attempted to organize a Zoom call with the 3 families for 6:30pm Saturday evening. My parents are in their 70’s and not overly computer savvy. The meeting time came and everybody logged in. Unbelievable. I was so impressed with my parents for figuring this out. We chatted for about 40 minutes and everybody was genuinely happy to see each other. It is very comforting that this platform is so user friendly that 70 year old Grandma could download the app and log into the meeting all by herself. The Grandchildren and Grandparents are now planning Easter dinner next weekend on Zoom.

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I am a believer. This platform is the answer to the missing connections that we are all feeling during this pandemic. I am singing my new revelation, about Zoom, to anyone that will listen. I challenge everyone reading this blog to reach out to a group of people in their lives, that they have not seen in person for quite awhile. Organize a video call/meeting. It will make you feel kind of “normal” again. You can even have a beverage and pretend you are all together.

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Zoom CEO Eric Yuan on CNN

I have been researching the Zoom platform and I understand that there are risks involved with its use. We will be using the free version and most likely stick to the 40 minute time limit. We won’t be discussing sensitive topics so I feel like our risk is low.

Back to my son that goes to school in the US, his whole second semester is now dependent on the Zoom platform. I have now paid a little more attention to the good things that the school has going on in order to allow the students to save their year and stay in touch.

facebook: Zoom will Change our Loneliness

twitter: #Zoom #COVID19 #loneliness

Politics Aside-He’s not doing too bad

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I would not be considered a political Liberal. I am not a fan of the current Canadian federal government. All that being said, I feel that the crazy situation that we are living in is being handled pretty well, all things considered. The daily briefings from Rideau Cottage are kind of comforting and almost looked forward to. The fact that the Prime Minister of Canada’s wife tested positive for COVID19 is an outcome that nobody would wish upon anyone else. It seems that because Sophie Gregoire Trudeau tested positive and that the Prime Minister had to self isolate it has lent credibility to the daily messages coming from Ottawa.

The process of the Prime Minister speaking alone each morning at 11am, eastern time and then having a full off site press conference afterwards with Dr. Therese Tam and the Deputy Prime Minister among others is also a part of the day that sets the tone of how we are doing as a country as well as the details of any updates for the business community and individuals. The Government of Canada has been very responsive each day with updates and attempts to stimulate the economy through these tough times.

I can only speak for myself and my family but we are happy that we are living in Canada during this time of crisis. We have a son that goes to school in the US. We are very worried about what the future looks like for him next school year. Will the US be open for business again? Will it be safe? Only time will tell. All of us need to do our part and listen to the what the experts are telling us. I never thought I would be waiting each day for government updates but clearly there is competence and a sense of calm being relayed from Ottawa.

I hope others are finding comfort in the way the pandemic is being handled by the leaders of our country. I beg of everyone to #stayhome and help #flattenthecurve.

facebook: Politics Aside-He’s not doing too bad

twitter: #flattenthecurve #stayhome #covid19

A Pandemic of Instant Information

It is Sunday March 15, 2020. We are in the first stages of a worldwide COVID19 pandemic. The City of Ottawa, where I live, has a dynamic public health situation, that is changing everyday on its hands. The interesting thing about the world, during this crisis, is the speed with which information is being shared. The amount of information and speed is unprecedented for a modern crisis.

This pandemic has turned the world upside down. The sharing of information is essential to keep people informed, as long as the information is factual. For example there is a doctor from the U.K., Dr. John Campbell. He does a Youtube post everyday with factual information from around the world. Dr. Campbell offers the facts and not a lot of opinion. It can be comforting but also terrifying. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIMXekRVnHo He is really worth a listen.

photo credit: Intermountainhealthcare.org

I find that I am looking to find out the facts about this pandemic at a ravenous pace. Once my initial questions were answered many weeks ago, I went to the next step and wanted to stay informed at a pace that is almost an addiction. I feel that I need to stay a step ahead of what is coming from the Ontario government. If I stay up to date on the facts then maybe I can stay ahead. The problem is the misinformation that is all over social media. https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/the-uk-government-is-partnering-with-social-media-influencers-to-combat-cov/574129/. There is so much mis information floating on different social media platforms that the government of the U.K. has taken the step of collaborating with social media influencers to help combat non-factual information on social media.

As a citizen of Ottawa and Canada, I feel that it is critical that I stay informed of the facts about COVID19 and only speak factually about this crisis. The possibility for panic is too great if rumors are spread. I challenge everyone that might read this blog to do the same. Stay informed and get the facts.

photo credit: novascotia.ca