Covid-19 makes F&B turn to social media to showcase its hospitality

How chefs and operators are using Instagram to interact with customers

BB Social Dining in DIFC, the scene of many live videos during lockdown
BB Social Dining in DIFC, the scene of many live videos during lockdown

With face-to-face interaction impossible, Instagram has become the must-have tool when it comes to the F&B industry retaining a sense of familiarity with its customers during this coronavirus lockdown.

Customers haven’t been allowed in restaurants for weeks, and it’s likely to be a minimum of a month before that changes, so restaurants and chefs have begun to come up with new ways to reach their clientele and stay at the forefront of their minds.

BB Social Dining has been trying to retain the ‘social’ aspect of its name with regular live videos as co-founders Spero Panagakis and Alex Stumpf journal each day in the kitchens, making different dishes and drinks.

“We think it’s imperative to be at the front of peoples minds especially at times like this,” said Panagakis. “The world now has even more time to be on social channels due to the current pandemic. As we respect our offering and the principle was always to provide for the community comfort and safety, we feel compelled to be open and maintain a virtual communication.”

It’s a line being followed by even the best chefs in the world, with Massimo Bottura launching his own Kitchen Quarantine series with daily live video updates. (He’s also selling vouchers for three Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana on his website, much like the new Time Out Tab idea to support local restaurants)

Dubai-based chef Roberto Segura also launched his own show, Cooking with Roberto, on YouTube and Instagram and he told Caterer he has seen a great response from it, with people following along at home and sending him pictures of their attempts.

He said: “People at times like this need distractions to keep their mind busy with good stuff and creating healthy recipes for people to follow at home which are easy and within budget from their favourite chef is a great initiative to make them not miss eating out.”

While everyone is making the most of this enforced shutdown to pivot towards delivery and try to expand their social media presence, Panagakis admits that it’s a serious challenge to restaurants’ livelihood. “It is a sacrifice for restaurants as the commissions can really hurt your margins and overall bottom line. Yet in times like this, you truly are thankful you are able to make any income at all, knowing full well that the pandemic has literally wiped the floor from beneath our feet. Many business will struggle to re-open and many jobs will be lost,” he said.

But with challenges brings opportunity and with the likes of McGettigan’s launching live brunches with hundreds of customers joining in at home, and Reform Social & Grill hosting an online quiz night which sold out within three hours, it will be the innovative and those who embrace social media and new technology who survive.

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