Even though the COVID-19 pandemic persists across the globe, governments have started easing lockdown restrictions and allowing restaurants to reopen finally.
The news may raise concerns for both customers and operators alike because it’s no secret just how contagious COVID-19 can be in public places.
However, as long as you keep the spotlight on food safety – sanitization, employee health monitoring and personal hygiene, and social distancing – your restaurant won’t be a hub of contagion.
Though expecting business as usual to be ‘usual’ is a little far fetched, many restaurants are opting for innovative ways to counter the virus – some even becoming part of the solution.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you make safe choices while ensuring business continuity:
Redesign Your Offerings
High-end restaurants that tend to have a pricier menu should look to add more affordable items.
Moreover, chances are that the lockdown will have affected your suppliers, and many crucial ingredients for your dishes may not even be available at the moment. With less inventory and even fewer customers coming in, we recommend that you widen your margins and revamp your offerings.
Evaluate your profit and loss statements and identify where your restaurant is making the most money. Rid yourself of the non-essentials, get back to the basics, and work smart.
Be part of the solution; keep your local communities fed. Take the Flights restaurant, for example:
Partnering up with the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce, Flights started ‘Feed the Need Bay Area’ to leverage accounting support and marketing talent so that they could support the Bay Area community.
That does not mean you have to alienate your current customer base. If your customers expect you to offer a fine dining experience, they won’t be pleased to know that you’ve upturned your entire restaurant.
Instead, you can reach a compromise in your menu. Identify your most well-received dishes and continue to serve them. You can save up on ingredients by discontinuing the more niche dishes that rarely get ordered.
Offer Safe and Contact-Free Services
Before opening up, it’s crucial that you’re aware of local laws and regulations regarding re-opening. If you’re in the US, have a look at the reopening rules your state has put forward.
Start by enforcing a no-contact protocol, so you can reduce interpersonal contact and make your customer experience safe and secure. Here are a few pointers to help you do that:
Use Cashless Methods
For their safety and convenience, enable delivery and payment services that allow customers to pay without cash, as well as choose when and how their order should be delivered.
Offer Disposable Menus
Disposable menus are a great sanitary alternative to traditional ones. They are cost-effective and reduce the likelihood of contamination – buy disposable menus in bulk and recycle them.
Use Disposable Bottles for Condiments
Take additional precautions by removing reusable items such as ketchup bottles and salt and pepper shakers. Replace these with condiments in packets that customers can dispose of after touching them.
Install Barriers at Reception
Minimize the risk of contact between the customer and the cashier by installing a protective screen at cash registers. This way, there’s always a barrier between your staff and your clientele.
Allow Limited Entry
Abide by local guidelines that might include opening your restaurant to limited capacity to test out the waters and keep customers as far away from each other as possible.
Also, depending on your local regulations, expand restaurant seating to ensure as much space as possible. Keep customers from congregating in waiting areas by adopting a reservations-only business model.
Protect Your Employees
Be open and transparent with your employees – tell them about the changes in your operations and use additional measures to keep your employees safe:
Provide Safety Gear
Encourage all employees to wear face masks at work – especially those around customers. The kitchen staff should have hairnets and gloves at all times.
Ensure On-Premise Sanitization
By sanitizing appropriately, your staff can reduce the spread of pathogens from restaurant equipment to the food you serve diners.
Maintain a Cleaning Schedule
Adjust your standard operations procedures to implement a cleaning schedule to sanitize all contact surfaces like tables and chairs, as well as food-contact surfaces. Moreover, you can maintain a routine for frequent hand washing and make it part of your renewed work culture when you reopen.
Take every initiative you can to disinfect and sanitize your restaurant. However, if you feel like you require additional help or your premises are too big for your team to handle, you can hire specialists to help.
Have a Marketing Plan for Reopening
Given the unpredictable nature of circumstances today, you need to promote and market the event.
Your audience needs to know that you are back in business. A solid marketing plan can renew consumer confidence in your brand and inform customers about the services you are providing.
Here’s what your marketing plan should do:
Inform That Your Restaurant Is Now Open For Business
The chances are that your patrons are tired sitting around at their homes.
So send out emails, revamp your social media pages, put up the new menu and deals on your website, and do all else you can to announce the reopening of your restaurant.
Highlight your takeout options, revised opening hours as well as curbside pick-up and contactless delivery options.
More than that, assure customers that you’re taking every measure within your means to provide them with safe, clean food. One way to build their trust is to market your cooking processes, packaging, and delivery options and that you’re taking risks seriously.
Enlighten Guests on How You Provide a Safe Dining Experience
In these uncertain times, some people will have a difficult time trusting any dining establishments.
Openly communicate the actions you are taking to make your venue safe. Reassure customers that you regularly engage in all safety precautions.
Make caution part of your branding and incorporate the language on your website. Broadcast your efforts on social media.
Pick the Right Marketing Channels
At this point, you don’t have the facility to rely on cash reserves to splurge on marketing. Social media platforms are an excellent tool for budget-friendly marketing, and you can do it on your own.
Experiment with design programs to create event announcement posters to use for your digital marketing initiatives. Social media post templates for reopening are easily customizable and you can use them to promote your reopening in quick and creative ways.
Publicize Your Reopening
Use Food Directories. The best way to bring in more customers, especially for your relaunch, is for your customers to find them online. For this to happen, you should list your restaurant on food directories.
Customers can explore your offerings and easily keep track of their favorites. Moreover, you can notify them with updates on your services and manage your social media more efficiently.
Get Foodies to Talk About Your Reopening
Entice food enthusiasts and bloggers who may have an interest in your offerings to visit your venue and try out your food. Positive reviews have a significant impact on an individual’s opinion on your service.
Spread the Word on Popular Foodies Facebook Groups
Facebook has many groups that bring together food enthusiasts from across the globe, giving you opportunities to market your brand and target the right customers.
A simple way you can do this is to type topics or keywords into the group page’s search box. You can view the kinds of questions your target audiences have regarding the food and beverage Industry.
Respond to those that allow you to demonstrate your industry expertise, and build authority within these community spaces. Share an insightful blog post or redirect members to your services. Facebook food groups are powerful because they enable you to target customers and prospects with laser-like precision.
Ad campaigns on Facebook, Waze, Instagram, and other social media networks are a great way to promote the reopening at nominal costs and amplify your reach.
Moreover, now is a great time to experiment with paid advertising on digital platforms such as Yelp and Google.These platforms enable you to promote your business based on your audience’s demographics, such as gender and region, as well as hobbies and interests.
Flyers and Banners Announcing Your Relaunch
Flyers and Banners are one of the most cost-effective ways to market your restaurant. That said, it depends on you promoting a strong message that resonates with your customers. Combined with creative design, you can quickly gain your audience’s attention. Of course, it is critical that you distribute them in places where your audience is most likely to notice them so that you can yield a good response.
Promoting Gift Cards
Sixty-five percent of gift card recipients spend 38 percent more than the value of the gift card.
The revenue from gift cards will help you keep your business afloat, allowing you to make use of cash now rather than waiting for customers to come in. Look back at some of the past promotions you handled with gift cards and offer the same or similar deals to your customers.
Taking measures to protect your employees and customers, marketing to highlight this fact, making use of online ads and directories to broaden your reach are some of the many strategies you can use to keep your eatery running in a post-pandemic restaurant industry. The crisis has hit restaurants hard, and the consequences are substantial, but smart business strategies can weather this storm.