How to Run Your Restaurant During COVID: Best Practices
The restaurant industry has been hit especially hard from the pandemic. But it looks like the situation is changing as coronavirus restrictions ease, and restaurants start making small steps to rebuild their businesses.
The whole process of eating out may be changed forever, but there are several essential insights that can help any restaurant, big or small, adapt to this new reality.
From the basic safety precautions to menu changes, all of these tips are coming from restaurants that made it through the shutdown instead of going down.
Offer digital pre-ordering
As social distancing measures are still in place, diners are turning to delivery and pickup options, with takeout already named the ‘new dine-in.’
Even though restaurants are allowed to serve takeaway meals, they have to follow precautionary measures laid out by the government to guarantee the safety of guests and staff.
With that in mind, restaurants should enable Digital Pre-Ordering for diners who are planning to visit, as well as Contactless On-Site Ordering for customers in-store. This will minimize lines, person-to-person interaction, and the amount of time spent in the restaurant.
Keep your margins healthy when working with third-parties
Ordering online has become the new norm. Today, instead of regular dining out routine, diners go to restaurant websites before visiting and use online ordering services listed there.
That’s why it’s highly recommended to do these two things on restaurant’s website:
- List commission-free digital ordering platforms as the primary options for visitors to pre-order at the restaurant
- Put costly delivery services separately from the commission-free partners, or remove expensive platforms from the website completely
Delivery apps charge high commissions on each order (25-40 percent), eating away all the profits. Directing website visitors to commission-free options will allow customers to order the food online with $0 fees for the restaurant owner.
When you run a local food spot with a delivery option, you know for sure how much commissions delivery apps take. They have brand recognition, and they use that to their advantage, but during these times when restaurants do not have their dine-in service, that high commission is certainly felt.
Re-evaluate your menu
There is one thing everyone should realize right now: industry changed and dining habits changed as well. This is the time to take a look at the menu and consider swapping a few dishes to fit the new reality. But what are those new preferences of diners?
It’s obvious that people started cooking at home more during the lockdown period. Remember that story when the world has almost ran out of yeast in a month during the quarantine. Whether it’s just because they were bored or because they always wanted to become their own home chef, doesn’t matter.
This means the restaurant's menu should now have more dishes that are not easy to cook at home. Plus, they should be ‘easy to travel’ meals that can be picked up or delivered without losing its quality, structure, and taste.
Communicate with your guests
While restaurants deal with the shutdown consequences, many diners look for ways to support their favorite local food spots. Business owners, on the other hand, have to maintain a proper communication flow and keep customers informed every day.
Hours of operation, menu changes, new delivery options and third-party services integrations — this information should be communicated to the customer base clearly. There are several crucial channels to use:
- Restaurant website
- Google My Business
- Email newsletter
- Signs and banners in store
All the up to date information regarding restaurant’s operation have to remain one tap away from the customer.
Make your restaurant feel like a safe spot
Safety measures deserve a more in-depth look—restaurants have to develop certain cleaning standards and make customers feel secure in-store.
First, pay close attention to the list of disinfectants that meet the EPA’s criteria in killing the virus. Then, supply the team gloves, masks and other essentials to keep it safe inside. On top of that, the number of professional cleanings per day must be increased.
To help diners actually feel that it’s safe inside, it’s important to make that effort more noticeable. Whether it’s a social media post about sanitation measures or just a hint of disinfectant in the air—these little things go a long way.
When it comes to contactless pickup, there must be a dedicated area that allows customers to have zero face-to-face contact. Usually, a shelf or a table near the entrance will do the job. Plus, a hand sanitizer dispenser is a must, so diners could use it before touching their food.
Consider adding curbside pickup
Offering curbside pickup is a great way to keep everyone safer during this difficult time. It’s an efficient takeout solution that allows diners not to enter the restaurant.
It’s no surprise that diners love curbside pickup—they don’t have to leave their vehicle to get the food. On the other hand, restaurants can complete more orders daily without the need for additional seating.
The bottom line
What everyone has to realize is that the restaurant industry has already been deeply impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. But instead of just waiting for the grand re-opening, restaurant owners have to act now and utilize available solutions to successfully operate and grow.
Online food pre-ordering is the new norm. Following these simple steps will allow restaurant owners to keep margins healthy, communicate with customers properly, and be ready to fully re-open in the nearest future.