At a time when nearly everything seems abnormal thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers are eagerly searching for activities and places that make them feel some semblance of normalcy. Your restaurant is one of them.
However, increased concerns for health and safety have caused customers to be more cautious about when and where they venture out of the safety of their homes. As consumers make choices about where they want to spend their money and show their loyalty, restaurants that they trust have a better chance of winning their business. You’ll want to ensure your business is one of them. That’s why building trust and making customers feel at ease post-COVID-19 is critical.
Understand What’s Most Important to Your Restaurant Customers
In order to properly meet the needs of your customers, you’ll need to understand what they’re looking for.
To do this, consider sending out your own survey via email to learn what your customers are comfortable with and what safety measures would make them feel best. To do so, pull your database stored in your restaurant management system to reach out to your customers and get their opinions. Ask questions such as “how soon are you comfortable with resuming dine-in activities?” or “what new procedures can we have in place to make you feel most at ease?”
To give you an idea for what consumers want in the short term, a May 2020 study found that in regard to resuming dine-in activities:
- 61.9% of consumers want restaurant employees using both masks and gloves
- 58.7% say that disposable, single-use menus are important to them
- 85% in support of 6+ feet of distance between customers as well as staff
- 81% in support of every customer sanitizing before entering
Create and Execute an Action Plan
Because your restaurant is unique, you’ll need a plan customized to you and your customers. Think through your reopening plan carefully—you’ll need to execute accordingly to create the safest environment possible for both customers and employees.
Cleaning and Sanitization
Cleaning and sanitizing your restaurant are of the utmost importance in order to make your customers feel safe about returning. All surfaces and commonly-touched items should be sanitized after each use and regularly throughout the day. Amp up the frequency, too. For example, you may have only sanitized after each use, and regularly throughout the day in the past. While you reopen, sanitize surfaces at least once every hour. Place contactless hand sanitizing stations at your entrance and throughout your restaurant.
Distance and Prevention
When waiting for a table, customers should wait outside or in their vehicles. Employees should wear masks and gloves at all times, and tables should be spaced out at least six feet apart to reduce the risk of virus spread. Many restaurants are only allowed to operate at 25% or 50% capacity when they first open. Skipping every other table when seating guests is an easy way to execute this while ensuring proper distance.
For more peace of mind, switch to single-use items, such as paper menus, to prevent the spread of viruses. You can also consider adding a QR code that can be displayed throughout your restaurant. Customers can scan it and view your menu right from their phones. In addition, discontinue the use of soda fountains and water stations, and switch to providing upon request.
This option is a popular choice for customers post-COVID-19 restrictions. It provides fresh air and more room to spread out for customers looking to grab a bite while they enjoy the weather. If you already have an outside patio or dining space, make sure you are optimizing your layout and spreading the word about it. If you don’t, consider adding one—even just temporarily—to offer to customers.
Deploy a Multichannel Restaurant Marketing Strategy
Once you have your plan in place, you’ll need to focus on developing and deploying a marketing strategy that effectively encourages customers to stop in. Make sure to let them know their health and safety is #1, and that you’ve made changes to emphasize this.
Spread the word on updates like:
- New cleaning routines
- Updated policies
- New training and expectations for your staff
- New health screenings for employees
- Safety procedures in place
It’s also a good idea to create new promotions specific to dine-in traffic, like a free appetizer with the purchase of two entrees, or $5 off your next dine-in meal.
Don’t be afraid to get creative, and reach your customers in new ways. Over 77% of consumers are making their restaurant decisions less than 30 minutes before they order, so it’s important to connect with your customers wherever they are to grab their attention.
A few ideas:
- Email marketing: Send emails right before common mealtimes, like at 11:00 AM or 4:00 PM.
- Social media marketing: Promote dine-in specials and provide photos of your new layout, mask and glove policy, etc. to show customers that you’re prepared for them to return safely.
- Website marketing: Make sure your menu is online and that you provide updates on your new hours and policies, and link your website through communications through your loyalty database.
- Mobile app marketing: Send push notifications around mealtimes, and when customers are near your restaurant.
- Outdoor signage: Let your community know that you’re open and excited for their return.
Stay Connected and Top of Mind with a Restaurant Management System
Though we may have no clear end in sight, continuing customer relationships throughout the duration of COVID-19 is key. Leverage industry-leading solutions like a restaurant management system (RMS) to integrate all of the restaurant tools you need in order to stay efficient and connected to your customers. HungerRush combines the power of cutting-edge technology and the knowledge of industry experts to offer a total RMS solution that brings real results.
Along with point of sale, online ordering, and delivery software, a solid loyalty program is especially imperative in order to collect customer data throughout the year so that you can manage and execute personalized promotions during times like these. Reputable software systems like HungerRush are ideal for their efficiency and robust functionality.
Want to learn more? See how HungerRush can help transform your guest experience.