COVID-19 has delivered an unprecedented blow to the foodservice sector, bringing countless businesses to a standstill in most parts of the country. Many restaurants were forced to shut down at a moment's notice, and they found it challenging to reopen after the lockdown restrictions were eased.
If you own or manage a restaurant and want to know how to navigate these extraordinary times, it's essential to make sure you take all the necessary steps to make up for lost revenues and profits while also protecting your staff and patrons at the same time.
To be successful in the recovery process as a restaurant, you will need to find ways to increase your previous revenue, especially if you are only permitted to serve a decreased percentage of your total seating capacity. Below you will find everything there is to know about operating restaurants safely and profitably in the context of COVID 19 and beyond.
Put Safety First
Restaurants are places where customers come to enjoy good food and relax in a safe environment. As such, the safety of your customers and staff should be paramount. Operating a restaurant following a pandemic is not easy, but with the right communication, you can expect everyone to feel as safe as possible when dining out.
Some of the simplest things you can implement include communicating with your customers about social distancing when booking and on arrival. You should also make this visible on your website and any social media platforms you use to interact with your customers.
It would help if you also encouraged everyone to use hand sanitizer after entering the premises. You should also calculate the maximum number of customers you can seat while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
You should also make sure that everyone maintains a distance of 6 feet when queuing and taking orders, in line with social distancing guidelines.
Ask the customers to stay at their tables during their visit, including not allowing children to move through the restaurant, and make sure that the staff asks customers if they require condiments and only provide them on request.
Communicate with the Staff
Many restaurants have found it necessary to reduce the number of employees in their facility at a given time to comply with social distancing guidelines. If this is the case for your restaurant, try to establish extra shifts and alternating days to have only essential staff on-site at one time.
Make sure you have policies and procedures in place to identify and isolate sick employees and customers promptly. All the new policies should be communicated to the staff clearly, and you should make yourself available to promptly answer any questions they might have about the new measures. Good communication between management and staff is key to the safe management of a restaurant in a pandemic context.
Besides implementing top-notch communication, you should also protect your staff by installing screens at serving and till points. You may also need to consider restructuring the workflow to minimize interaction between kitchen staff and other employees.
Reinvent Your Menu
Going contactless when it comes to the menu is the future for many establishments in a post-COVID world. By providing your customers with touchless solutions for ordering their food and paying directly on their mobile devices, you can build their trust and alleviate their safety fears. In the long run, this will bring back the revenue you have lost due to the pandemic.
Modern contactless menu solutions such as Rushable allow you to implement a system that makes it easy for customers to simply scan a QR code to view the menu instantly on their smartphones. These solutions will enable you to make changes to your menu as often as you like. This is very convenient because you don't have to wait for the next batch of printed menus to see the changes, and it also saves your business money on printing costs.
Don't Forget About Deliveries
Many customers used third-party delivery apps during the lockdown, and many delivery services were enhanced quickly to help restaurant owners navigate through the storm of pandemic without losing all their revenue. However, just because the end of the lockdown is here, it doesn't mean that your restaurant will enjoy high levels of occupancy immediately.
As such, it is vital to think of customers who are not ready to venture out and dine in public yet. By updating your delivery menu, you can make it possible for customers to order food from their favorite restaurant with minimal human interaction.
If you have been one of the restaurants that have only delved into deliveries due to COVID19, it's essential to look at methods that will allow you to continue to enjoy this income stream. Look at various elements, such as your packaging options to make sure you use as many recyclable packages as possible to attract customers. Don't forget to provide information about portion sizes for every item on the menu.
Your delivery menu should be as clear as possible, describing each item in detail to avoid confusion and unnecessary phone calls that your staff will have to deal with. Moreover, you should always follow the government's guidance on allergens and make it clear for each of the items you have available for home delivery.
Rethink Your Restaurant Design
To be able to achieve post-COVID19 growth, many restaurants might need to overhaul their design. Whether you need to change your restaurant's physical layout to offer an outdoor setting or you're thinking about adding pickup lanes or a drive-through, it is essential to consider traffic flow carefully before spending money on a redesign.
Some restaurants are testing various technologies that limit human interactions and make it safer for customers to dine out. These may include smartscreen-controlled shelves for storing pickup orders, pulley systems at registers, and robots that hand out takeout orders.
Redesigning your restaurant might be expensive, which means that you should plan carefully and explore ways to shift to contactless services and solutions in a way that will be beneficial for the years to come.
Start by identifying the nature of in-person interactions in your restaurant, for example, between employees and between employees and customers, and implement changes and solutions that will work beyond the pandemic context.
Align the Menu and Prices to Suit New Customer Preferences
During the lockdown months, customer preferences have somehow shifted towards off-premise and value dining, but this doesn't mean that customers don't want to enjoy a semblance of normalcy even though they remain concerned about safety when dining out.
The new customer behaviors might require restaurants to make pricing and menu adjustments. You can start by introducing as much fresh produce as possible while emphasizing your comfort foods and core items. When it comes to pricing, you might need to rethink your strategy in order to make sure you remain competitive under the new market conditions.
Focus on value items as much as possible to entice your customers, but don't forget about upscale items. They are most likely to appeal to customers who want to feel like they did before the pandemic when dining out or ordering food.
Reopen At Your Own Pace
Even though restaurants have been closed for months and many business owners are eager to return to normalcy and start bringing revenue again, it's important to reopen your restaurant at your own pace. This means that you may want to operate different business hours than you did before to be able to retrain your staff and make sure that all the new guidelines are followed thoroughly when it comes to safety.
If you are not ready to open, you shouldn't feel pressured to do so. Many restaurants are actually going on the path of strictly delivery and takeout until there are no more social distancing measures in place. No matter which route you decide to use, it's crucial to invest in new technology that allows you to operate with as little human conduct as possible, especially if you are running a casual restaurant. Take time to ramp up your digital marketing game and test new advertising models to bring in new clientele while retaining your loyal fan base.
The restaurant industry has been hit hard during the pandemic, and many restaurants have experienced declines in revenue as well as some permanent closures. The actions you take as a restaurant operator will preserve your business during the crisis and beyond, so think carefully about your decisions.
As a rule of thumb, it's paramount to minimize human interaction and go touchless in as many areas as possible. Contactless solutions such as those provided by Rushable can increase your revenue by making customers feel safe, while also being super easy to use and saving you money on printed menus.