It’s been months since news of a growing pandemic first hit the US broadcasting networks. At first, it caused widespread chaos. The hospitality industry was hit hard, and many restaurants had to shutter their doors to ensure safety for themselves and their customers.
Now, almost a year in, the industry has finally begun to gain its bearings. Every day, more and more information comes to light about how the virus is affecting restaurants and what restaurant owners are doing to combat the issue.
At the top of the list of priorities is customer safety.
A Newfound Concern for Safety
Even though everyone has gotten used to living under new circumstances, there is still a widespread concern and focus on safety. Restaurants are working hard to keep customers safe and reduce the risk of contamination.
COVID-19, a novel form of coronavirus, spreads easily through respiratory droplets that are exhaled or coughed. These droplets can linger in the air for quite a while, and can be breathed in. They can also be picked up on surfaces, and spread to others when hands that have come into contact with those surfaces then come into contact with a person’s mouth, nose, or eyes.
For this reason, and because it can be transmitted so easily from person to person, it’s critical that the entire industry takes a close look at what it can do to protect customers and employees alike.
The Restaurant Environment
A restaurant environment is fairly high-risk. Items like menus are shared among customers. Most restaurants have public bathrooms that are commonly used by patrons. Even the simple process of being seated or placing an order can create an environment that lends itself easily to the spread of coronavirus.
Customers come into contact with hosts, servers, and other patrons regularly in this environment, and because of this, increasing safety within this environment proves to be incredibly challenging. Restaurant owners must essentially re-structure the way they do business, removing safety risks like face-to-face contact and putting additional safety measures in place, which can mean less short-term profitability.
It’s Up to the Restaurant Owners
Because restaurants are environments that lend themselves to outbreaks, it’s critical that business understand what they can do to help combat the spread. Currently, there aren’t many nation-wide, or even state-wide regulations governing how restaurants need to conduct business during these times.
It’s up to each individual business owner to identify the risks in their environment and find ways to mitigate them. This means altering business models, embracing new technology, and staying informed on the current situation. It requires restaurants to become more agile and less set in their ways.
Embrace digital alternatives
Physical menus have been the norm for as long as restaurants have been around, but that is quickly changing. Restaurant owners have finally begun adopting digital menus. These increase safety by eliminating the practice of sharing and reusing physical menus. On top of being safety, digital menus provided an added benefit of allowing restaurant owners to update their menus in real time to reflect promotions and remove items that may have been 86’d.
Online ordering and self-service kiosks have also become more popular in the COVID age. Rather than require customers to come into close contact with a server so that they can give their orders, with these methods, customers can enter their own orders and complete transactions themselves.
Prepare your staff
It’s important to remember that even if you are taking steps to reduce face-to-face contact, the risk is still ever-present. The virus can still be picked up by surfaces, which means that you’ll need to train your employees on new safety protocols.
- Post signage reminding employees to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds at regular intervals throughout the day.
- Provide staff with PPE (personal protective equipment) like masks and gloves to keep themselves safe.
- Create a cleaning schedule and train staff on how to clean and disinfect surfaces, as well as when and how often.
- Monitor employee health by conducting temperature checks and encouraging employees to stay home when they feel sick.
Reduce your capacity
If an outbreak occurs near you, it’s important to reduce your in-house capacity. Space tables at least six feet apart and limit the number of patrons that can visit at any one time. You may need to adjust your labor scheduling to accommodate this change. If you have the space, consider adding outdoor seating.
To combat the effects of reduced capacity on your bottom line, try to promote safer dining options instead. Boost your curbside pickup and delivery operations. If you don’t currently offer delivery, utilize one of the many third-party delivery services. Promote these curbside pickup and delivery options by offering special discounts and promotions to entice customers to choose these. Leverage upselling prompts on your online ordering platform to help recuperate lost sales while increasing customer safety.
Get the word out
Last, but certainly not least, make sure you are spreading the word about the safety measures you are putting in place. This can go a long way in increasing loyalty and trust with your customers. They want to know that they will be safe in choosing your restaurant, so utilize platforms like social media to inform your loyal customers. They will appreciate your efforts and reward you with their loyalty.
During times like these, it’s more important than ever to make sure you are doing what you can to keep your staff and your customers safe. NCC can help. We offer technology solutions like online ordering and self-service kiosks that can go a long way towards making your customers feel safe. For more information on what we offer, contact the experts at NCC today.