One of the truths of doing business is that it’s more cost-effective to retain existing customers than to attract new ones. That’s why ensuring restaurant customer satisfaction is vital for success and growth. In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, as restaurants struggle to regain the footing lost to forced closures and lockdowns, retaining and regaining customers is even more important than ever. But how has the COVID-19 crisis impacted customer satisfaction, and what adjustments will restaurant owners need to make in order to meet these new expectations?
Safety Will Remain a Priority
Of course, high food quality, order accuracy, and fast service will continue to be important elements of customer satisfaction. And of course, people have also always cared about the cleanliness of the places they eat. But the coronavirus has put safety top-of-mind, and it’s likely to stay there. An April 2020 survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers by food industry research provider Datassential revealed that 76% of respondents agreed with the statement, “A restaurant’s cleanliness and food safety will matter more to me after COVID-19.” And 69% affirmed, “I’ll avoid crowded places: Even if the government says it’s safe, I won’t believe it.” Changes that restaurant owners can make — such as spacing out tables to increase distancing, or getting rid of frequently-touched items like laminated menus — will be necessary to reassure and keep those customers.
Safety will be a driving factor of post-pandemic customer satisfaction. The availability of options that enhance the safety of customers and staff could influence people’s decisions about where to eat. These practices include:
- Curbside pickup: This option was the only way many restaurants could stay operational while indoor dining facilities were shuttered, and customers have come to appreciate the convenience as well as the ability to maintain safe distancing.
- Outdoor dining and table- or car-side payments with tablet point of sale (POS): Mobile POS is helpful not only with curbside pickup but also for tableside ordering and payment, which reduces necessary contact with staff. The tableside option is great for outdoor dining areas, which are likely to become more popular when people resume going to restaurants, because open air is a safer environment than enclosed interiors.
- Self-service kiosks: Like tableside ordering, kiosks are another contactless solution limiting human-to-human interaction, and they can increase order accuracy and ticket size while reducing wait times to boot. Be sure to add proper sanitization protocols such as having hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes available next to the touchscreens.
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Use Social Media to Spread the Word
People generally want to feel a sense of connection to others and to their favorite brands, and this tendency is likely to be even stronger coming out of extended lockdowns and self-isolation. Even before the pandemic, people were increasingly using their mobile devices to connect with brands online: browsing menus, reading reviews, looking for coupons, or joining loyalty programs. That trend will almost certainly continue to grow post-pandemic. Take advantage of this trend and leverage your social media platforms to let your customers know you’re still open, what your latest operating policies and procedures are (new hours, menu changes, curbside only, etc.), and — perhaps most importantly — what measures you are taking to continue protecting them (and your staff). Build your brand as one committed to safety, and the more hesitant customers will feel better about returning.
Have Effective Tools in Place to Enhance Customer Satisfaction
Adaptability and flexibility have been keys to business survival during the pandemic. If your POS solution doesn’t have the features you need to accommodate shifting customer expectations coming out of the pandemic, such as tablet POS or kiosk options, it might be time to invest in an upgrade.
You also want a provider with a deep understanding of the industry and the ability to tailor a solution that fits your needs. Since 1986, NCC and our global network of partners have been providing a wide range of solutions for hospitality and retail. To learn more about how our tech can help your business thrive, contact us today.