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How to Adapt Your Restaurant During COVID-19

How to Adapt Your Restaurant During COVID-19

These are trying times. The pandemic has disrupted restaurants financially and operationally. Restaurant owners are now forced to rethink their operations past the short term and in the long term. 

Although many restaurants have reopened, most have had to limit their capacity for on-premises dining, which has proven to be a major challenge. Beyond that, restaurants are now faced with the additional challenge of making the most out of limited resources so they can achieve the greatest profitability

In order to keep your restaurant business open long-term, it’s critical that you adjust your operational strategy and redefine your restaurant footprint. You need to update your processes to better align with how the restaurant of the future will be run. Here’s what that looks like:

A New On-Premises Dining Experience

Although takeout and delivery options are growing in popularity, many guests continue to love the experience they receive when they dine in at their favorite restaurants. However, new government regulations and consumer expectations have caused shifts in how on-premises operations are carried out. 

Redefining the Dining Space 

The main reason in-house dining has become so limited is because restaurants must now provide additional space between tables in order to follow social distancing guidelines to keep their customers and employees safe. Not only that, many restaurants are still required to operate at only 25-50% capacity. While this presents new challenges, there are a few things restaurants can do to to optimize guest seating: 

  • Eliminating buffets, bulky host stands, and large waiting areas to allow for more dining space
  • Expanding outdoor patio seating to increase capacity 
  • Adding plexiglass screens in between booths  and in front of host stands to increase safety 

Reducing Cross-Contamination

As most are already aware, safe on-premises dining requires special safety measures to be taken. Options such as no-contact ordering and payment are ideal to promote safety and security among guests and staff. Restaurants can utilize QR codes to allow guests to download menus on their smartphones and order via mobile. You can also provide technology such as mobile POS for guests to order and pay right at the table with limited contact with waitstaff. These can easily be sanitized in between every use for maximum safety. 

Revamping Off-Premises Processes

Many restaurants that did not originally offer takeout and delivery have finally begun doing so, as it’s a valuable stream of income, especially with all of the shifts occurring within the industry. No-contact options continue to be the norm, but restaurants are finding new ways to take their off-premises operations to the next level for their customers. 

Packaging

Packaging is becoming a major focus for restaurants looking to optimize their off-premises experiences. More durable packaging with better seals is a must, and restaurants are reconfiguring their back-of-house to include larger, more efficient to-go packaging stations. 

Transportation

Restaurants are getting more creative with their delivery methods, whether it’s by bike, car, or foot. Many are even investing in food trucks to expand their footprint and serve customers in new areas, which provides another valuable source of revenue. 

Curbside Pickup

Curbside pickup has become a significant revenue driver during the pandemic. Its popularity is only expected to increase as customers continue to choose more convenient, safer dining options. Because of this, restaurants have had to revisit their layouts to incorporate this new service. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, many created makeshift pickup stations and figured out the logistics on the fly. Now that curbside pickup is becoming a more permanent part of the restaurant industry as a whole, restaurant owners are making more permanent changes to the layout of their parking lots to accommodate for this. 

Parking lots and outdoor waiting areas are now being transformed into curbside pickup stations, complete with: 

  • Tables for pickup and payment
  • Designated parking spaces for no-contact drop off
  • Traffic cones and signage to direct curbside customers where to go 

Some restaurants are getting even more creative with their available spaces and have begun offering outdoor bar stations for cocktails to-go, while others are incorporating a retail/restaurant hybrid model and offering essential items. This helps upsell curbside pickup guests with customer favorites such as homemade jarred sauces, bread, or meal kits to-go. 

The ultimate goal of redefining off-premises operations is to meet every comfort zone with dine-in, takeout, delivery, drive-thrus, and curbside pickup, all while maximizing the use of your space to drive more sales.

Rethinking Your Restaurant Footprint in the Long-Term

Restaurants have done a fantastic job of thinking on their feet and making the changes necessary to meet new expectations. Here’s a few creative ways restaurants are taking it to the next level:

Drive-Thrus

For quick service restaurants, drive-thrus have always been a popular revenue stream for customers on the go. As we look ahead into the future, the pandemic may encourage other restaurant types to open up drive-thrus for their customers as well. 

This creates a safe, contact-free option for customers looking for a quick bite without having to interact with restaurant staff or other diners. As we move into 2021, drive-thru pizza by the slice or margaritas to-go may transform from novelty to norm. 

Ghost Kitchens

Since in-house dining is reduced industry-wide, many restaurants are reconsidering offering in-house dining at all. In order to reduce space, many have found success operating as a ghost kitchen, which means offering off-premises dining exclusively. 

The benefits of ghost kitchens include: 

  • Small square footage without reducing the menu
  • Less labor required for a larger profit margin
  • The ability to go fully digital for transactions
  • Surge consistent sales with takeout and delivery on the rise 

Let HungerRush Help Your Business Evolve with the New Normal for Restaurants

While the restaurant industry was already expected to evolve in this direction even prior to 2020, nobody expected these changes to be brought on so suddenly. It’s normal to experience growing pains while trying to adjust to all the curve balls that have been thrown your way. Make sure you have help. 

A solid Restaurant Management System is a great way to understand shifts within customer behaviors and evolve to meet those needs for both on- and off-premises operations. It can provide a better ROI by helping you strategize for a more profitable future while nurturing your customer base. 

HungerRush offers integrated Restaurant Management Systems that help you stay in control of your business. For more information, request a demo with HungerRush today.

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