Marketing (and Eating) in the Coronavirus Era

“Keep Calm and Bake On” Nielsen-Massey

“Is your grocery store running low?” Atlanta Bread

“Extra support in uncertain times.” Honibe

“Everything you need to make cooking at home easy and fun.” Crate & Barrel

“Party for One. On the Couch.” On the Border

“Can’t be there in person? Send a unique bakery gift.” Wolferman’s Gourmet

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented offers.” Temecula Olive Oil

These are just a few of the marketing headlines hitting my inbox these days, and likely yours as well. Who can blame companies for referring to the global crisis—it’s top of mind for everyone these days. Most of them stop short of actually capitalizing on the situation, recognizing those who are sick and dying, and those who are suffering mentally due to the strain of quarantine. Staying in business during this, though, is valid enough reason to send messages that resonate.

It is, indeed, an unprecedented time. Who would have ever thought Commander’s Palace in New Orleans—an iconic place to actually go in, be served, and eat fabulous food—would offer take out and curbside to go. Chains are asking customers to buy gift certificates to be used later, and place to-go orders to eat tonight. Drive-thru’s are operating and advertising and offering deals. Meanwhile, as restaurant dining rooms close, the experience of dining has shifted.

  • Virtual dining is taking off, as people look for ways to “gather.” (see The Wall Street Journal’s article that describes virtual cocktail parties and happy hours.
  • People are cooking and baking, often trying new recipes—I made manicotti for the first time in years and finally got around to making those steel cut oat muffins that looked good (and were). I found a brownie mix in the back of the pantry and popped it into a pan, and now I’m looking for recipes to experiment with the almond flour and cauliflower flour that I bought. Some even call it “stress baking.”
  • Delivery has become a viable option even in smaller cities, boosting opportunities for Uber Eats, GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates and others. We’re watching movies, eating together as a family, and still helping restaurants—all without leaving the house.

Many restaurants have managed to reinvent themselves quickly, but that doesn’t mean this is easy, or even permanent. What is sure, however, is that we’ve all delved into areas we never considered before, and what happens on the other side will likely be an evaluation of how we pay restaurant workers, how we treat restaurant workers, and how restaurants show appreciation for loyalty.

We can’t wait to be on the other side.