As many regions around the world move into new phases of their COVID-19 response plan, restaurants are beginning – or at least planning – to open their doors to on-site dining once again. The continuing need for social distancing and sanitization means running a restaurant (just like running a hotel) in this new era is going to look a little different.
Here are seven things you should be thinking about when reopening your on-site restaurant:
Follow the regulations
COVID-19 is affecting every place differently, and the response from lawmakers is extremely varied from region to region. You’ll need to find out what regulations have been put in place for your municipality and formulate a plan for adhering to them. Most places are requiring restaurants to reduce their capacity to a stated percent, ensure tables are a specific distance apart, and offer guidelines about staff wearing PPE.
One of the most important steps in inhibiting the spread of the virus and keeping your patrons safe is to reduce the number of touchpoints in the customer experience. Customers in the pre-COVID world interacted with a lot of different surfaces, so this task takes some creative solutions. In addition to virtual waitlists and reservation systems, many restaurants are eliminating physical menus with the introduction of QR codes on each table. The customers can then scan the code on their phone to view the menu. For guests of your hotel, a POS interface will allow charges to be added to reservation folios for a completely contactless dining experience. The server will simply pop by to take orders and deliver food, and a guest will only come into contact with their table and dishes (making sanitization a much simpler task).
Make changes to service
Many restaurants offered take-out options to help get through the COVID shutdowns. Continuing to offer these alternatives in addition to on-site dining is worth your consideration. With reduced capacity, and a large proportion of people that are still reticent to dine-in, take-out options will help maintain revenue.
That being said, a reliance on third-party delivery services – which can take up to 30% of your revenue – should be avoided. Do what you can to encourage curb-side pickup. You could try special offers (like family packs or meal kits), or even post a call-to-action on social media. Consumers are extremely empathetic to the plight of local businesses right now; if you make an honest post encouraging them to pick-up instead of order off an app, many will oblige.
Maintain the dining experience
With a reduced capacity and little to no human contact, the dining experience is likely to feel a little weird for everyone. Do what you can to make the on-site experience still feel exciting and vibrant. Adding interesting decor elements, choosing the right music, and having a friendly and engaging staff can do a lot to recapture some lost ambiance.
Take advantage of outdoor spaces
Al fresco dining is going to be a big part of post-COVID life. According to what is currently understood about the virus, transmission is much less likely outdoors. People will (understandably) feel safer staying on the patio, so you should be taking advantage of every inch of outdoor space that you have. What’s great is that many municipalities are offering patio extensions into streets, parks, and other public spaces to help support local businesses. This will help mitigate the losses associated with cutting your indoor capacity.
At the end of the day, reducing capacity and introducing new safety measures will likely affect sales. This is the time to be thinking of creative solutions to find new revenue streams. With so many people staying at home, you might want to consider offering virtual services like an online cooking class.
Communicate with customers
Everything that you do to reopen your restaurant at this time is to ensure the safety and comfort of your patrons, so let them know! Social media posts and updates to your website that highlight the measures you’re taking will ease their minds about visiting your restaurant. It’s also important that customers are aware of any new rules or procedures (like waiting outside until the host calls their reservation) so they know what to expect and can help you keep everyone safe.
We are all trying to find ways of moving forward in this new normal. It can certainly be overwhelming, but adaptability and creativity will help restaurants re-open their doors (and keep them open) in a post-COVID world. Good luck!