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.