The restaurant industry has been completely turned upside down in a matter of weeks. Doors are closed, staff has been cut, and the sound of a full dining room is a distant memory. By the end of this crisis, it is predicted that up to 7 million food industry employees could be out of a job. With those statistics, it’s not hard to imagine hundreds of thousands of restaurants closing for good.
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This is not the time for adding extra unnecessary expenses. Thankfully, gift cards can be sold to customers completely digitally at zero upfront cost. eGift cards have no printing costs and create no physical waste. Restaurants can also sell digital gift cards right from their website, avoiding extra fees.
With current no-contact requirements, eGift cards are also the safest way for restaurants to deliver gift cards to customers. Customers don’t have to worry about a gift card being swiped out of a delivery bag on their front porch. For restaurants that remain fully closed, digital gift cards keep cashflow coming in without having to put any of your employees in danger with extra person-to-person contact.
Gift cards are the ultimate, flexible revenue source. This is especially true when you are discussing digital gift cards and certificates. With online gift cards, restaurants can stay dynamic, tweaking gift card offers based on what is working and current demand.
A classic example is offering bulk discount options. Corporate gift card programs are a great way for larger companies to support local restaurants while also rewarding their employees working during the crisis. Individual supporters across the country have also been stepping up to buy bulk gift card orders. These are then in turn given to hard working essential workers on the front lines.
Another example is offering gift cards directly tied to the current social distancing requirements. Outback Steakhouse have created a Buy $50, Get $10 Off gift card deal. The tagline reads “Dine together, even when you can’t. Send your family a gift card for $50 and we’ll throw in $10 for you.” E-giftcards allow restaurants to experiment with different offers.
Communicate gift cards value to your customers
If you are a fine dining restaurant, you might set the minimum recommended gift card amount to the cost of an average dinner. For a fast casual restaurant, you could set card amounts based on what a customer might spend coming in for lunch once or twice per week. Providing customers the option to set their own custom gift card amount is also a good idea.
However, look beyond the dollar currency on each gift card, what does it mean for a customer to lend their support to your restaurant? For example, you can let customers know that a $100 gift card represents the salary of one employee for the day. Thank the customers for helping you to keep one more person employed through the crisis.
Loyal customers might be loyal now but a few weeks at home or out of work can change the consumer spending dramatically. Gift card purchases now mean those customers will be the first back through the restaurant doors when they reopen. They are the true supporters and having them back in so soon after the crisis gives restaurants the chance to win back their loyalty – no matter how long it has been since they last visited.
Gift cards can also now be tied to individual customers through loyalty programs in restaurant management software. Gift cards sold now can give you valuable insight into customer behavior once they are back. What is their favorite food? How much is their average order value? This insights can help restaurants get back up and running even quicker.
How Restaurants Can Boost Gift Card Sales
With the lack of face-to-face customer interaction, restaurant owners still can drive gift card sales through several channels.
Even if you have managed to retain your staff, most people are worried about money. Giving your staff the chance to earn a bit of extra income right now through gift card commissions can be a win-win for everyone.
Many bars and restaurants have had gift card commission-based bonuses built into their business model, even pre-corona. Gift cards are easy to sell for a motivated employee as customers are already quite used to the concept. According to a GiftCardRescue survey, consumers prefer restaurant gift cards in particular.
By directly selling gift cards through their website or social media, restaurants can also avoid extra, unnecessary fees. Instead, they can pass along the money saved on fees directly to their staff with gift card sale commissions.
Social Media and Email Outreach
Social distancing in full effect around the country doesn’t have to hinder your gift card sales.
Restaurants can join trending restaurant hashtags like #TheGreatAmericanTakeout or local campaigns to promote gift card options. They could also offer gift card giveaways through social media. Asking customers to share their takeout orders and tag the restaurant could help boost promotion.
If your restaurant already has information such as customer birthdays stored in your customer management system, you could delight your customers by emailing them a special birthday gift card discount.
When it comes to promoting gift card sales during this crisis, the options are only limited by the creativity of the restaurant.
A few ideas other restaurants have been using include:
- Taco Tuesday Gift Cards – “Buy a gift card on any Tuesday and get a free taco on top of your gift card purchase.”
- Friday Night Drinks – “Missing your usual Friday night drinks with friends? Grab a gift card now and get 2 for 1 cocktails for you and your friends once we reopen.”
- Support Essential Workers – “Buy a gift card and we will pass it along to a valuable front line worker. Give the gift of good food to our hard working doctors, nurses, and grocery store workers.”
Restaurants should brainstorm a few ideas that could work well for their restaurant in particular. With so many restaurants struggling to survive, coming up with a creative campaign is a great way to attract customer attention and boost sales.
The Community Wants to Help
Everyone understands that restaurants are struggling. People want to help and are looking for ways to do so. Gift cards are a smart option for both customers and restaurant owners.