Both staff and customers will have understandable fears as restaurants begin to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. How you manage restaurant fears as reopenings expand will have a huge impact on your business.
Here we set out how the sensible application of modern restaurant technology, such as your restaurant POS system, can do much to allay these concerns and ensure a safe return to business.
Clear communication of the measures you are taking will be essential in providing the necessary reassurance, so we also suggest some ways in which you might go about this.
Mobile ordering was rapidly increasing in popularity even before the onset of COVID-19 and the trend will only have been accelerated by the pandemic.
So allowing customers to order through one of the many restaurant apps now available, or your website, is an essential part of rebuilding their confidence.
These orders can of course be collected at the curbside or home delivered. But there are also advantages for orders that are to be consumed in-house, as customers will no longer need to congregate or queue in crowded reception areas, but can instead be shown directly to their table, allowing for the maximum possible social distancing.
Customers can also order from their tables using your app, and the use of digital as opposed to printed menus will facilitate this process while ensuring maximum safety.
Before the pandemic, Visa estimated that 78% of its largest merchants had the ability to offer contactless payments, and that at least 100 million contactless enabled payment cards were in use across the United States.
Contactless payments using cell phones and digital wallets were also increasing in popularity, and for obvious reasons of safety, these trends have now accelerated considerably.
For your customers’ peace of mind, as well as the speed and convenience that it provides, it’s essential that you offer contactless payments as an option. And fortunately, most of today’s POS systems make this a simple matter.
Self-service, in the sense of buffet type offerings, are not viable or popular during COVID-19. But secure self-service kiosks, which allow customers safely to collect their pre-ordered meals, may be a good option for some types of restaurant.
But as important as all these measures are, the reassurance that many customers and staff are looking for also depends on the clear communication of what you’re doing and why.
Communication is probably one of the easiest ways to manage restaurant fears.
Highly visible signage at the entrance and in reception areas explaining your social distancing measures and contactless ordering and payment systems is a good start, and should be replicated in restrooms.
You might also consider using your website and social media accounts to advise customers in detail about the need for social distancing, how to book, order and pay, and the special instructions you have given to your staff.
These might include, for example, that you are requiring employees to undergo wellness and temperature checks on arrival at work, to observe social distancing in kitchens, to use facemasks and hand sanitizers, and to clean POS terminals after every transaction.
It’s also important to make sure online listings, such as Yelp and Google My Business are up to date to avoid customer confusion.
Physical protection measures are not only essential in themselves, but also an important element of your communications. The use of floor markings, perspex screens at checkout, and the roping off of unused tables, for example, will also give clear visual signals that you are taking your responsibilities seriously.
You can reinforce these messages by providing each table with hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), disinfectant wipes and paper towels, which need also to be in ample and visible supply in restrooms.
And your staff should of course be instructed to remind customers politely, when necessary, of what they need to do.
None of these measures are complicated, nor need they necessarily be costly. But their careful implementation will go a long way towards building the confidence in your business and helping manage restaurant fears — something you will need to survive and prosper in the “new normal”.