“How do we bring back guests to the dining room?” is the question every restaurant operator asking today. There is an array of emotions w vaccinations giving some hope and the news of covid strains resurgence and people truly wanting to resume their social life.
Guest confidence is still at a low.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has forever changed the way we experience restaurant dining. Restaurants are finally reopening across the nation after taking the hard-hitting blow from the Covid-19 pandemic. As society continues to adjust to this new reality, customers are feeling an array of emotions when it comes to bringing back indoor dining. Some, excited to finally have the opportunity to dine in restaurants after being cooped up in the house, while others are still weary and wish to proceed re-entering into the space of indoor dining with caution.
As more vaccinations are still being distributed, it’s important to follow and set restrictions to minimize contact and prevent further spread. Customers are returning, but they expect a higher standard of hygiene and safety with their dining experience.
Businesses across the nation are in the process of re-opening, but what does this mean for the restaurant industry and the overall dining experience? In response to this, adjustments and advancements are being made so that consumers can safely enjoy their meal.
Here are five actionable steps restaurants can take to boost guest confidence:
We highly suggest devising a restaurant plan and safety protocols. According to CDC, masks are recommended to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. Masks are recommended for employees and for customers as much as possible when not eating or drinking. Additionally, the CDC recommends to require frequent employee handwashing (before, during and after preparing food) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
2. Multi-channel communication on safe dining
Transparency is key when inviting customers to dine in your restaurant. Posting signs in highly visible locations that promote everyday protective measures for both employees and customers that describe how to stop the spread of germs such as properly wearing a mask and properly washing hands are recommended by the CDC. Beyond that, multi-channel communication on safe dining is key to building guest confidence. Include messages about behaviors that prevent the spread of germs when communicating with customers and staff, such as business websites, in emails, and across social media platforms.
3. Offer digital waitlist
Minimize overcrowding your restaurant by creating a digital waitlist. Instead of having guests wait inside, restaurants can use a text message system to notify customers when their table is ready. This allows for a streamlined process for safely getting customers in and out of your restaurant.
4. Digital menus
As health is the main focus for keeping customers and employees safe during this time, it is important to reduce the chances of virus transmission. Menus are amongst one of the highest points of contact in a restaurant.
Contactless menus make for a safe and sustainable option, and beyond that they are easily updatable. As per CDC guidelines issued for restaurants and bars, sharing paper menus are not advised. It is recommended to use single-use paper menus and digital menus. Many states have issued similar guidance to avoid using plastic menus and use single-use paper menus.
5. Online ordering and pre-payment
Beyond reducing contact amongst guests and staff, there are a number of reasons why you should add a simple, easy to navigate website for customers who prefer using their mobile devices beyond providing better services.
Online ordering and pre-payment is an entirely different experience compared to trying to talk to a staffer in a crowded, noisy restaurant. By going online on a mobile device, they can place the order at their convenience so that customers can think over what they want and make the selections that they will enjoy.
Arguably the best reason to implement effective online ordering for your restaurant is that this system greatly reduces the errors which can cost you refunds and customers. Because the customer selects what they want and can double-check before finishing their order, this greatly reduces misunderstandings and gets the order right the first time. While mistakes can never be fully eliminated, you have significantly reduced the chance that they will occur.
6. Patio and outdoor dining
Lastly, as we’ve seen during this pandemic, restaurants with a patio and outdoor dining space had a huge advantage when re-opening their doors to customers. Being outdoors and in spaces with good ventilation reduces the risk and exposure to COVID.
Modifying restaurant layouts and limiting restaurant capacity for social distancing is a way to boost customer confidence post-covid.
Building up consumer confidence will take time. This will not happen overnight. Your transparent communication and continual demonstration will build the confidence of customers over time. Staying consistent in disinfecting shared objects and areas, communicating both and on and offline to your guests of maintaining a clean and healthy space, as well as optimizing digital tools, and prioritizing patio and outdoor seating will give you and your customers the peace of mind you need when welcoming them back to your restaurant.