Transforming Your Hospitality Business pt I: Creating Your Online Presence

In the past weeks, we have seen many hospitality businesses pivot from providing a space to enjoy meals, coffees, or beverages to offering takeaway and meal delivery services. Now that we are unable to dine out, or even chill at your local cafe, it’s a scramble to change business models just to survive. And with everyone else in the hospitality industry fighting for eyeballs (and dollars), being visible amongst the competition is difficult. Thus digital marketing is now critical to your business.

At ClickSend, through our offer to hospitality businesses, we have heard several business owners lament that they are struggling with this pivot to a new business model. We understand that this is a stressful time for those in the hospitality business, and suddenly needing to learn digital marketing can be a daunting task. So we have put together this basic guide for all hospitality business owners and management, to help shift your marketing strategy in times of distancing.

Nail Your Offering and Transform Your Strengths

So you’re no longer serving food in-house; what are you offering? Marketers often talk about the Four Ps – product, price, place, and promotion. No matter your business, decisions around these will have a huge impact on your bottom line, and the product (or menu in the case of restaurants and bars) is arguably the most important.

Here are a few key considerations.

Your strengths: what do you do well? Why do your customers come to you over any other cafe or restaurant? For example:

  • You make the best wood-fired pizza in town
  • Your signature dish is the most authentic, passed down the generations
  • You make cheerful, fuss-free family meals at reasonable prices
  • Your fine dining restaurant uses the freshest, local produce
  • Your cafe is adjacent to the major sporting stadium and dishes up tasty food and beverages quickly

Consider how this strength can be translated into takeaway and delivery services. For example, offering delivery of those wood-fired pizzas to those within a radius of your premises. We’ve seen many businesses do this well; they know who they are selling their product to (their target market) and what it is that this consumer group is looking for.

If your business relies on prestige, location, or experience, it may be a little harder to pivot to a takeaway/delivery service as home does not quite share the same vibe as a five-star restaurant. In cases like this, we have seen restaurants become more creative:

  • The award-winning Heritage Wine Bar in Perth, Western Australia provides not only gourmet food but in one of the Perth CBD’s most beautiful heritage venues. People may not be able to experience the venue at the moment so they’ve leveraged their ability to source the best produce in WA and have shifted to an online providore model. People can now get the meals they love in Meal Pack and Ready To Cook forms, including wine.
  • We’ve seen a few fine dining establishments create luxury special occasion boxes, where they prep the food, and customers can recreate the fine dining experience at home – because, despite the pandemic, special occasions are still happening. Our colleagues in Melbourne love how Attica does this.
  • Is your restaurant known for quirky cocktails? We love how these guys create an experience around a destination with matching food and cocktails.

Once you have determined what you will offer, you can start promoting it.

Moving Place: Creating an Online Presence

Whether you are offering products through contact-free pickup or delivery, you need an online presence now more than ever.

As a bare minimum, your business should have a website and social media pages. For many small businesses, a website may seem like an expensive outlay, especially if you choose to hire someone to create it for you. The good news is that a website is more affordable than you’d think with many free tools available.

Check out this guide on how to create a website for your restaurant. Or if you manage a hotel, group or hostel, here is a great guide for using a hotel booking engine to power your website.

Mobile Optimised Sites

It’s also important that the website does not lose functionality on mobile handsets; with internet usage via smartphone eclipsing desktop traffic. Have you ever tried ordering food from UberEats on a desktop? It’s not possible, and your customers are accustomed to this. Despite the huge opportunity with mobile customers, we’re concerned by how much of web design is still dominated by desktop-centric thinking.

Here are some guides to mobile optimisation based for some of the most popular website platforms for restaurants:

If you’re using a different platform, check the help guides for mobile optimisation, as this is incredibly important for maintaining good user experience.

Social Media

Love it or hate it, social media presence is a must for being found online. If someone wants to know about your business, it’s likely they will search for you through a search engine or social media. Therefore, it would be best to use a username generator to develop creative usernames that draw people’s attention and represent your brand. And with more free time on our hands and our mobile handsets always nearby, many are spending more time than ever on social media.

The two popular platforms for finding food are Facebook and Instagram. Ensure you set up a business page on Facebook (different to a personal profile page) and an Instagram page. Check out these articles which break down the process:

Be sure to periodically check your social media pages for customer questions and feedback, as often they will post or send direct messages there.

Social Media Communities

Despite being physically distant, communities are coming together to support local businesses and take pride in their community. Tap into this feeling of community by joining community groups for the suburbs surrounding your business.

For example, in our community in South Perth, some of the residents have set up a Facebook page listing all the food offerings in the area, and locals are loving being able to help small businesses. Search around for the equivalent in your area and reach out to see how you can get promoted.


The great thing about the hospitality industry is that your product is generally visually appealing. Use this to your advantage; whenever you create a beautiful meal, snap a picture of it and upload it to your social media accounts. No need to hire a professional photographer, most smartphones these days have adequate photography ability – just point and click.

Bonus: check out these 12 tips to elevate your social media photography.

Additional Tips for Your Social Media Profiles

On social media, we’ve seen some companies do incredible work. We’ve also seen some mistakes. Here are a few common ones we’ve noticed:

  • Double-check links to go to the right page on your web site – nothing worse than leading to a dead-end (and worse if you’re paying for the clicks!). Best to type it into the URL bar of your browser and let the page load, then copy and paste the correct URL to where it is required.
  • Ensure to include your website, phone number, and email address on your social media pages – not only is this helpful to your customers but also it helps for Search Engine Optimisation (more on this in part 3).
  • If using a new hashtag, search around to ensure that it hasn’t been used for something entirely unrelated.
  • Ensure that your posts reflect the tone that you want your company to use. For general information on adjusting that tone, check out our post about marketing during the time of corona.

Here at ClickSend, we love our local hospitality businesses. If you are running a restaurant, cafe or bar check out our free text messaging for hospitality businesses.

In part 2 of this series, we will be showing how to create a customer experience that will have your clients coming back for more.

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