In times of crisis, competition is not suspended. Now more than ever, hoteliers and restaurateurs have the opportunity to use creative ways to make their brand fit for the “time after”. Social media is more present than ever. The media is pouncing on good stories. Who profits in the crisis?
Delivery services are booming, but restaurateurs are also making use of the delivery service. Producers of hygiene articles, but also producers of ready meals and convenience products are listing record sales. Alexandra Gorsche spoke with communications consultant and PR professional Michael Pech, who reveals how to succeed in a crisis with targeted communication.
The industry is in an unprecedented state of emergency. Many find it difficult to see opportunities here. What can you do?
Michael Pech: The first tip is to get out of shock as quickly as possible. These are the days when difficult decisions have to be made – do I give my employees notice or do I take advantage of the possibility of short-time work? The first chance is already available here. This question must not only be answered from an economic perspective. Because even after Corona, there will still be the problem of a shortage of skilled workers.
Good workers are rare and companies invest a lot of money and energy to attract and retain top employees. Those who achieve optimal and perhaps even extraordinary solutions for their employees now and communicate them correctly to the outside world stand out and gain a decisive advantage in the market for the future. And spreading these “good news” in the media is currently easier than ever before.
How is this to be understood?
Michael Pech: For understandable reasons, there is a media focus on everything about Corona and this will continue for a while. This works like a key to media coverage. The media is currently looking for exemplary stories on the one hand and for the unusual stories on the other. There are already examples of how it can work, as demonstrated by the Upper Austrian gastronome Lukas Kienbauer, who has ruled out layoffs for employees in his two restaurants for the time being.
The media report throughout Austria, and the story goes viral on social media. The advertising value for him and his company probably exceeds by far the additional costs caused by not dismissing his employees. Anyone who now thinks that competition has been exposed by the crisis is mistaken. It is only being played out at a different venue.
What is there to win in this competition?
Michael Pech: It is about the most important thing par excellence, namely values such as trust and also sympathy. In order to be able to radiate a positive image to the outside world, two things are needed: on the one hand, a good idea of how to deal with the current situation or what to do with it, and on the other hand the telling of the story, which everyone can now do themselves via the social media.
Heinz Reitbauer cooks in his two-star restaurant for emergency services (Falstaff reported) – this story has inspired and touched people in the past days. In Graz, the restaurateur Philipp Dyczek places a refrigerator with food for free in front of his restaurant “Artis”. And again: great media coverage and enormous popularity in the social media. Even small gestures have a big impact in these times. This is how you build up a relationship with potential future customers and guests. It is important to take advantage of this fact.
If the guests are not in my house in the coming days and weeks, where are they and how can I reach them?
How can restaurateurs implement an effective strategy now – especially in view of the fact that the situation is likely to remain uncertain for the coming weeks?
Michael Pech: Hotels and restaurants are places where many people come together. For this reason alone, my first piece of advice is not only to comply with the legal measures, but even to exceed them. That way you set a kind of example in the public perception.
And then every entrepreneur should ask himself this question: If the guests are not in my house in the coming days and weeks, where are they and how can I reach them? This is only secondary to media communication, but rather to the cultivation of relationships with his customers. If you have access to their data – these can be e-mail addresses or the fans’ contacts on the Facebook page – you can communicate with them in a targeted manner.
Are there any examples?
Michael Pech: Many things are possible – from recipe suggestions for the time at home to queries about favourite dishes including delivery service. Due to its sensitive handling of food, for example, the industry also has a wide range of know-how on the subject of hygiene – this knowledge is also currently in demand and can be made available. It is often the simplest measures that achieve the greatest effect.
Like that perfectly normal question: Is there anything, dear guest, that I can do for you in these times? Whoever communicates properly will gain a decisive advantage. Especially in times of crises like now, the following applies: A good relationship will also help in bad times. In order to put this into practice, the free time gained through the economic standstill is now not only there in abundance, but above all it is ripe for it.
About Michael Pech
With his communication and PR agency “Dreams Happen”, Michael Pech works for clients such as the three-star chef Juan Amador or for Austria’s largest producer, packer and marketer of organic vegetables, Christian Stadler. Pech is also active as an author, among others for the Falstaff publishing house.