Since the Coronavirus pandemic hit, all at once, restaurant owners were left with no choice but to close their doors. On July 4th, UK Prime Minister announced, after much anticipation, that restaurants in the UK were allowed to welcome customers back to dine indoors.
But still very much in the middle of a global pandemic, restaurant owners must navigate murky waters to deliver safety, clarity, and certainty to confused and anxious customers.
Here’s a few examples of how your business can ensure safety and customer satisfaction post-lockdown:
#1 Going above and beyond with health & safety protocols
The pandemic has given rise to the concerned customers, who are incredibly cautious and concerned when it comes to their health and safety. As a result, restaurants must strictly follow all the government guidelines and ensure that the premises are safe for both employees and visitors.
The unfortunate truth is, if you don’t, your brand reputation is likely going to be massively impacted, as even loyal customers will be disappointed if you put customers at risk during these challenging times.
To ensure that does not happen follow the following the following basic protocols that you should have in place:
- Ensure the whole team is equipped with face masks and gloves. Each staff member should be wearing face masks and gloves and following safe distancing guidelines.
- Place hand sanitiser stations at all entry and exit points.
- Limit seating capability to allow for social distancing at all times.
- Implement social distancing markers for customers and set up both indoor and outdoor waiting areas to avoid mass congregating around counters. Clear signage will be crucial in ensuring visitors abide by these rules.
- Install plastic screens as a buffer between staff and customers at checkout, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart.
- Remove in-store dispensing units. Avoid offering any self-serve options. This means no buffets, salad bars, drink stations, or condiment dispensers. This will minimise the risk of contamination.
- Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. This includes door handles, cash registers, workstations, sink handles, bathroom stalls. Shared items such as card readers, tables, countertops/bars, receipt trays, and condiment holders should be cleaned and disinfected between each use.
#2 Delivering clear and frequent communication
A keyway to ensuring a successful reopening of your restaurant is by communicating clearly and frequently with your customers. Doing this will help you to build trust and instil confidence in anxious customers. Examples of key messaging to communicate with customers includes:
- Sharing information on the new safety precautions you’re taking and the government rules and regulations you need to follow as mentioned above.
- Update your website with any changes to your normal operations. For example, any changes of opening and closing times, restaurant layouts, menu adjustments, and any other information customers must be aware of before coming in to dine.
- Make customers aware of other ways they can order from you aside from dining in. Despite restaurants now opening, there will still be customers who are simply too anxious to take that step yet. Make these customers feel included by sharing online ordering information or any third-party delivery apps.
- Promote any deals or special promotions you’re offering as part of your reopening.
#3 Accelerating digital processes
The sudden shut down of restaurants resulted in many businesses having to adapt to new digital processes very quickly in order to continue serving customers. Since lockdown, Uber Eats have witnessed a big increase in restaurant brands signing up to its digital delivery platform and a reported 30 percent surge in customer sign-ups.
While the digital transformation of the food industry is by no means new, the lockdown has accelerated the adoption of existing digital models, and this is something that will continue to rise as restaurants reopen their doors.
Many restaurants have introduced digital dining solutions such as enabling customers to order via an app from their table to minimise contact. In many pubs and restaurants, customers can scan a QR code to view restaurant menus and order via their phone without even having to download an app.
In addition to the preference to order via a personal device due to a more sanitary experience, customers will expect to have the option of contactless payment. As a result of the announcement that cash is likely to be a vehicle for COVID-19, we have seen the use of digital and contactless payments soar.
Ensure your restaurant is prepared for this consumer trend by investing in card machines such as those from UTP Group which include contactless technology and are pre-configured to accept contactless transactions up to the new contactless limit of £45.
Pushing social media marketing efforts
Social media has been a saviour for many food and beverage businesses during lockdown, with many coming up with innovative ideas to keep their customers engaged such as sharing recipes, tutorials and live cooking shows.
Post-lockdown, social media will continue to be a truly valuable tool for restaurants. From using it as a platform to share re-opening updates, to working with influencers to reach a wider audience; social media is a tool not to be underestimated as we endeavour the rocky road back to normality.
While there is no secret recipe to the successful re-opening of your restaurant, it’s clear the process will be a marathon, not a sprint. Today’s customers are craving predictability, comfort, and stability more than ever before. And your restaurant can deliver it!