If you’re that long-standing customer who loves sitting once or twice a week at your favorite table in your favorite restaurant – you’re suffering right now. If you’re on the other end, a restaurant owner who loves seeing those customers enjoy a delicious meal made by your own hands – you’re suffering even more. In normal times, according to Forbes, 17% of restaurants get closed in their opening year. Today, in some cases, restaurant sales are down 100%. Covid-19 is hitting all of us, hard, but it will pass, and restaurants will open their doors again.
However, when the economy does start to open up – things will be different for restaurants and food venues. Social distancing is here to stay at least until there’s a vaccine, which might take a year or two, or longer (until everyone gets vaccinated). Restaurant owners have no choice but to prepare and adjust their operations to this new era of Covid-19. Here are a few tips to consider.
1. Boost Your Online Food Ordering
This probably goes without say. Online food ordering is booming right now, all over the world, and it’s here to stay and grow. This is the new reality for all food venues. As a restaurant owner, you need to choose between using a third-party delivery app or to do your food delivery in-House.
This means you can list your restaurant on a third-party delivery app like Uber Eats, Doordash, Chowly, Grubhub, Postmates, or others. These apps have millions of users every day, who could become your new and future clients. However, you’ll need to pay them a commission of 35% on each order you send out. It may seem high at first glance, but these apps spend tons of money on advertising and marketing, which you cannot do.
If you prefer to eliminate the 35% commission on every order, you’ll need to opt for an In-house delivery system. This means that you’ll need to create your own online food ordering platform (website and app), build your own delivery team with your own fleet of mopeds or cars. This isn’t easy and means a substantial investment, but it might be worth it.
You need to do your own calculations and decide which option is better for your business. One thing is 100% certain – you cannot avoid being part of the online food ordering community.
2. Become the Cleanest Restaurant in Town
Hygiene and cleanliness will be a major issue from now on, everywhere, but in food venues in particular. Customers will be looking for cleaner and safer restaurants. According to surveys conducted by QSR, 76% of customers claimed that a restaurant’s cleanliness and food safety will matter more to them after COVID-19. Almost 70% will avoid crowded places, even if the government says it’s safe.
This means a few things for what restaurant owners can do to boost sales despite the public’s COVID-19 fears:
- Clean, clean, and clean, and market to your customers how to clean your place is. Emphasize and show them how much effort you’re putting into hygiene, especially in the kitchen.
- You’ll need to enforce the two-meter distance between customers, which means fewer tables, and more open space. You could compensate for this by extending the operating hours of your restaurant.
- Be creative in your design, add restaurant divider walls to provide extra safety measures for your clients, or add more tables outside if possible. Put hand sanitizing bottles on each table, or even prepare a Hygiene Kit for every dining customer, that’ll include disposable utensils, a mask, gloves, and a small sanitizer. Let your customer know that you’re following pandemic hygiene practices faithfully, including using medical-grade nitrile gloves, face masks, other personal protective equipment, and CDC-listed disinfectants. They’ll love it, and tell their friends.
3. Implement a Dress Code of Waiters & Staff Members
The visual appearance of restaurant staff members always had a direct impact on customers’ opinions of the place. Today, with COVID-19 in mind, the visual appearance will become far more important. Good and clean dress code with powerful design can draw far more attention and communicate ‘cleanliness’ and ‘safety’ to your customers. This alone could make them visit your restaurant again and again.
You should consider proper and separate dress designs for waiters and other staff members. Your customers should know the designation and responsibility of each staff member without asking. This should of course be accompanied by good teamwork among your staff, to ensure synergy and timely delivery.
In this regard, consider adopting lanyards in your restaurant. These can be used for holding cards of staff members with their names and designation imprints on them. Different colors of lanyards can be used to differentiate between staff members. Customized lanyards can easily be obtained from companies like 4inlanyards for example. 4inlanyards is a specialized supplier of lanyards that do not compromise on quality and deliver fast.
4. Provide Unique Catering for Small Groups
We may not see large parties for a long time, but it doesn’t mean that catering services will disappear. You can start offering unique catering services for small groups. Come up with new catering menus and packages for these smaller groups. Include information about what each dish includes, where it’s ingredients are sourced from, how they are sanitized, and more.
You can also include a ‘Hygiene Kit’ for every catering guest.
5. Strengthen Your Social Media Presence
Although it’s not as easy to do wonders with it anymore, social media is still a mandatory tool for every food business (set aside pasta factories, and such). Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap, and others are powerful platforms on which you can reach your customers, and influence their buying habits, if you’re good. This crisis gives you the time to strengthen your social media presence, so it helps you now and later in boosting your restaurant sales. Here are some tips you can follow:
- Share honest insights: Being shut down is a terrible thing for a restaurant owner and his staff. Share your inner thoughts, fears, with pictures of what you’re doing, your plans, and more. Don’t be afraid to open up. We (your customers) love to read and see these real human stories.
- Share your home dishes, recipes, and cooking tutorials: As you’re sitting at home, use the time to share your cooking talent with your customers. Take (good!) pictures of the dishes you prepare at home and share them on Instagram. Don’t forget to come up with creative and detailed captions. You can also join the ZOOM hype and offer live cooking classes online, or just go live on Facebook.
- Be consistent: Your social media presence will not grow (or be effective) if you’re not consistent. You’ll need to share new posts on a regular basis, at least 2-3 times a week. Not each post needs to be a long tutorial, a great photo of a dish also counts as a post. Ask your friends to share and like your posts, so the word spreads far and wide.
These are just a few simple tips to keep you focused on standing up again to boost your restaurant sales, because this nightmare will be over, soon. Remember, when the ashes fall, the legends rise.