In the last few months, much has changed in the restaurant landscape due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Almost all industries are being hit hard, some harder than others, including the restaurant industry. When you think of restaurants, you associate it with good experience—food, drink, community, and bonding with friends and family. It used to be a part of people’s regular life, but now it’s no longer the norm.
Over the last couple of months, businesses have started to open up in many states, including restaurants following COVID-19 safety measures. Many restaurants have folded under due to the pandemic, and the ones that are still running need to go above and beyond to make customers feel safe and rekindle their customer’s love for dining out.
- Talk About What You’re Doing
Communication is the key to convincing people to hit restaurants again. It’s imperative to communicate to your customers what steps and precautions you’re taking to create a safe and comfortable dining experience. Avoid tone dead messaging and use your advertising and marketing budget to craft specific messaging aimed at reassuring patrons that you’re taking their safety seriously.
Listen to what people have to say and reply to them in social media posts and messages. This further reassures potential customers that you are ready and serious. If you have an email list, communicate them via email to offer discounts, share safety measures, and more.
- Limit Capacity the Smart Way
With the new regulations and restrictions, you won’t be able to accommodate all customers at full capacity as per government guidelines. To handle this handicap, you need to use the limited capacity smartly to entertain as many customers as possible daily. There are a multitude of ways to do this- changing the restaurant’s interior layout, adding or removing decorations, and communicating safety guidelines are a few.
An excellent way to make use of the space is by integrating sanitization and PPE facilities for both guests and staff. This will allow everyone to have an easier time following COVID-19 safety measures.
- Mobile Payment
Arrange everything in such a way that customers have to touch surfaces as less as possible. If you aren’t already offering a restaurant mobile payment option in your restaurant, now is the right time. Doing so allows the transaction to be much safer between your employees and customers as neither party has to touch and transfer hard cash. People don’t want to move things many other people have touched or handle money right now.
Cash transactions result in multiple surface contacts from the moment the customer gives the notes to the moment it’s deposited in the cash register. Some businesses have already taken one step further and done away with menus, offering customers the option to browse the menu from their smartphones.
- Reservations Only
Another excellent way to simplify and make things better is to go for a ‘reservation only‘ business model, which has only been commonplace in high-end restaurants. This option is situational and can result in some negative feedback initially, angering old regulars who prefer a walk-in visit to their favorite diner. Thus, it would help if you made the decision based on how niche your customer base is and their demographics.
Even though there might be some initial blowback, going this route will make a lot of customers happy. It’s also possible that you can simultaneously run a ‘reservation only’ business model alongside a takeout business model for maximum customer coverage.
- Create an Outdoor Experience
When the pandemic began, most health experts agreed that staying at home was the best way to remain safe. Since then, multiple studies by experts have shown that staying outside is better since transmission is less likely to occur, provided social distancing is implemented.
People are dying to go outside, and you can take advantage of this by creating an outdoor experience. If you’re lucky enough to have ample open space in front of your restaurant, you can make sitting arrangements outside. If not, try to get creative and see if you can convert the parking area for this purpose.
Many traditional Italian restaurants feature outdoor dining arrangements, and you can take a cue from their setups by checking them online. This will make people comfortable and more inclined to dine at your place.
Prioritizing Customers Has Long-term Benefits
If you’re still in the restaurant business after the recent economic downturn, you’re lucky to do so. Running a successful business can be challenging, but can become easier by winning over customers through proper communications and implementing proper safety measures. Make sure that the comfort and safety of your customers are your top priority.