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SEO advice for the food industry post-COVID

by Michelle Hill

23 June 2020 12:19pm

With UK restaurants and other food establishments due to reopen in the coming weeks, now is the time for businesses in the industry to start putting recovery plans in place. Nobody is pretending the months ahead will be easy and there are still unanswered questions about the practicalities of social distancing and other safety measures.

But with doors opening to the public once again, the opportunities will be there for restaurants and food businesses that adapt to the new normal and cater to changing consumer demands in the safest way possible.

Food industry brands need to adapt

Earlier this month, The NDP Group published a webinar looking at the stage of the UK’s food hospitality sector, entitled U.K. Foodservice - COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery, which you can watch for yourself here.

The webinar offers key insights into the state of the industry, including:

  • 81% decline in restaurant visits during April lockdown with purchases and frequency both decreasing by half.
  • Delivery visits grew by 40%
  • Eating out could remain 50% lower after lockdown
  • Brands need to take advantage of short-term opportunities and adapt to changing consumer behaviour.
  • Brands may need to change their strategy to survive

Those figures paint a grim picture for the reopening of food establishments and there are clearly challenges ahead for all businesses in the industry. However, The NDP Group’s data also suggests there are some reasons for cautious optimism as we emerge from lockdown.

94% of Brits miss eating out at restaurants

According to the same U.K. Foodservice study, just 6% of respondents said they don’t miss going to restaurants whatsoever while two-thirds said they have missed eating out during the lockdown.

Understandably, the urge to get out and dine in a different setting will be high after weeks of eating at home and a separate study conducted by The NDP Group finds that 63% of British consumers will return to restaurants, bars and cafes during the first month of opening - despite ongoing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

So, clearly, there is demand and an opportunity for brands in the industry to kick-start the recovery process but easing safety concerns will be a priority.

Earlier data from YouGov shows that Britain’s will for public eating was lower during earlier periods of the lockdown but also illustrates how pub gardens may benefit the most from reopening.

So restaurants, pubs and other establishments with outdoor spaces have a clear advantage as doors open to the public again. The key takeaway, though, is that businesses need to show the general public that it’s safe to share spaces with other diners once again and this will be the key theme in search marketing campaigns.

How can food businesses use SEO to drive recovery?

One of the key developments during the coronavirus lockdown has been an increased reliance on local businesses and this will be crucial as restaurants reopen. For a lot of businesses, a larger local market will help mitigate the overall drop in eating out and provide an opportunity to build customer loyalty.

Local SEO is also where food businesses can make the biggest impact on their search visibility - so this should be the focus ahead of reopening.

  • Update your opening hours: Keep your opening hours and other business details up-to-date at all times in Google My Business.
  • Add new images showing the safety measures taken to minimise potential risks.
  • Add attributes for COVID-safe services like takeaways, delivery, pickups and contactless payments. See Gourmet Burger Kitchen example below.
  • Create posts in Google My Business to keep people up-to-date and show the measures you’re taking to keep people safe.
  • Keep an eye on 'questions and answers' in Google My Business to make sure potential customers have all the relevant information they need.
  • Ask customers to leave reviews and prompt people to mention the measures you’ve taken to keep people safe, as this will be the key selling point in the months.

Local search is where most customers are won for smaller food businesses but there are other important opportunities to think about. Uncertain times like these prompt a surge in new search trends, which generate new opportunities that haven’t been swept up by bigger businesses.

Google has an entire page dedicated to coronavirus search trends highlighting some of the key opportunities and concerns brands need to address.

While many smaller food businesses might not engage in a great deal of content marketing, there are some genuine organic search opportunities emerging right now that could win customers concerned about eating out.

Google is also featuring a directory carousel at the top of many food-related searches that could drive crucial business for restaurants and other establishments. And this links to another important point: being present on all of the platforms your target customers are using - from Google Search and TripAdvisor to Deliveroo and every other relevant platform.

If you need help with your post-COVID marketing, we have a specialist team dedicated to local SEO. Contact us on 02392 830281 or drop us your details here and we'll call you.

Tags

SEO
local seo
restaurants
Food & Drink