Social Media During Coronavirus: How Restaurant Brands Are Connecting

By Amaris Modesto and Tim Kane

Under normal circumstances, restaurant brands are among the most active on social media. But given how hard they’ve been hit by the coronavirus public health crisis, is that still the case?

While some brands are struggling to find their voice during this unprecedented time, there are others who are creatively using social media during coronavirus to stay connected with their customers and their communities.

1. Wendy’s: Getting Serious in Serious Times
Wendy’s has long been a favorite of the social sphere, noted for their youthfully snarky humor and mischievous send-ups of their competitors’ product launches. Faced with the sobering reality of the pandemic, however, the company immediately dropped the jokes and started using their social platforms in a more supportive way, offering coupons and freebies, alerting their communities to expanded delivery and pick-up options.

That said, they haven’t completely dropped their playful ways. The brand began posting a stream on Twitch, the live streaming platform for gamers, with “Wendy” playing Animal Crossing, the recently released Nintendo game. With each new post, the company generates millions of views, thousands of shares, and cultivates a perfect on-brand connection with their core.

2. Taco Bell: Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
Like Wendy’s, Taco Bell is another goofy social media darling, known for pushing the envelope to reach young, social-savvy customers. Unlike Wendy’s, they’re keeping up their eccentric style, such as offering free Taco Bell-themed backgrounds for video calls.

But the brand is taking it a step further with the #DriveThruHeroes campaign, a social shout out to their own employees. The campaign features GIFs and videos spotlighting Taco Bell drive-through workers handing out the comfort food and calm, friendly faces that we all so desperately need in these tough times.

3. Sweetgreen: Hitting Home With the Sweet Spot
Sweetgreen, the health-oriented fast casual chain, is facing a unique set of pandemic-related problems: The sweet spot of their business is lunch. For office workers. In big cities.

So what can do you do when more than three-quarters of your potential customer base is required to stay away from your restaurants?

For Sweetgreen, the answer is in their social channels. Their posts have always been food-focused, but now they’re playfully claiming that Sweetgreen’s new Spring menu “just tastes better at home,” suggesting people make weekend plans to “walk around your apartment, say hi to your plants, pretend you’re on Top Chef, and tell us what you think of our new menu in the comments below.”

The company is also using social media to launch the Sweetgreen Impact Outpost, an initiative to provide free lunches to hospital workers in the cities they serve. As you might expect, the posts relating to the Outpost program get 10 times the shares and re-Tweets of the company’s regular posts.

What are you doing to maintain a connection with your customers during the crisis? If you could use some fresh thinking for using social media during coronavirus, get in touch with Amaris Modesto or Tim Kane.

In the meantime, stay safe. Stay home. And order out!