Consumer spending habits are constantly changing and it’s up to businesses to ensure they stay relevant. This is still evidently the case, despite the pandemic turning the industry completely on its head, with customers still preferring value and a rewarding experience. Of course, there’s a heightened focus on cleanliness and safety as well.
Now that the industry is slowly opening up—barring the current enhanced community quarantine restrictions—and getting back on track, there is an even greater need to improve guest experience whether via takeout, delivery, or, hopefully in the near future, dine-in operations.
It pays to overcommunicate
There is no such thing as saying too much, especially when it comes to sanitation. The pandemic has brought a greater emphasis on safety and cleanliness than ever before, so it’s your responsibility to show and tell customers that you’re doing the best you can in that department.
Be transparent and inform them of your sanitation protocols and strategies. Actively demonstrate that you’re following government regulations and post reminders and signs inside your space. Individual sanitation areas for guests and staff can give your guests a sense of security. You can even take it a step further by adopting tech like cutlery UV boxes, QR codes to access menus, and online payment channels.
Take advantage of your social media platforms to communicate your message, too. Regularly post sanitation initiatives and specific responses to the COVID situation in your community.
Take advantage of your social media platforms to communicate your message, too. Regularly post sanitation initiatives and specific responses to the COVID situation in your community. If there are any updates to your operations—for instance, if you can only accommodate deliveries for the time period—inform your customers beforehand, too.
It would be also fun to show your followers some behind-the-scenes photos and videos of what you’re doing to ensure that the food you’re preparing for them is not only of high quality but also made with safety in mind.
Besides integrating systems that improve air quality and cleanliness, physical eating spaces need to be reinvented today. While indoor dining is temporarily stopped due to current quarantine restrictions, you can explore renovation ideas in your establishment.
With the uncertainty of full seating capacity, you can use the extra space to further minimize congestion and improve guest flow as they go through the ordering process. Again, keep in mind the safety protocols as you update your floor plan. Allot ample distance between customers so they are comfortable while standing in line or waiting for their orders. For furniture, flexibility is key. Invest in pieces that can easily be moved when necessary.
Additionally, you can add décor that can create calming environments and reflect your style and brand personality. For instance, to reduce guests’ stress—who are probably anxious to dine in—consider plants in your space and open windows to encourage more ventilation. Letting natural daylight in also gives the perception that air is constantly circulating, a major concern for airborne viral transmission. Other practical items you can install include germicidal UV lights near vents. Al fresco dining is here to stay, so if you haven’t already, you might as well begin planning for this, too.
Foster a sense of community
At a time when physical interaction is limited and half our faces are covered with masks, it can sometimes become an impersonal dining experience. You can still keep the feeling of being part of a community via the internet.
Social media provides opportunities to cultivate relationships with your customers, letting you connect with them even if movement is limited. Take advantage of your reach and let them know that you’re still there to serve them their favorite food. Engage with those replying to your posts, say hello once in a while as if talking to an old friend. Listen to their comments and suggestions, and show that you’re taking steps to improve service.
Make your presence felt and at the same time, express your gratitude to loyal customers who have continued to show support even at the height of the pandemic.
Make your presence felt and at the same time, express your gratitude to loyal customers who have continued to show support even at the height of the pandemic. Take it a step further and when it’s okay to do so, you can band with other restaurants in your area to set up “streeteries,” similar to what’s happening on Rada Street’s al fresco neighborhood dining weekends.
Adopting these simple strategies not only helps your restaurant navigate safely today but it also helps provide a better guest experience, even with restrictions and limitations in place.