Guide to Keeping Restaurant Guests Safe During the Pandemic
How Have Customer Expectations Changed Since the Outbreak of COVID-19?
Due to the rampant outbreak of COVID-19, consumer expectations have drastically changed within a few short months. With a high rate of infection, COVID-19 has created a level of fear among consumers. Even the way we go about our daily activities and errands has shifted.
The question becomes: how have consumer demands changed since the start of the pandemic? And, what can you do, as a restaurant operator, to meet those expectations?
This newfound fear among consumers is likely going to alter the way they spend their money. The unemployment rate has reached 20.6%, creating more economic distress than the 2008 recession. With this level of economic hardship, it’s going to be more difficult than ever to bring customers to your doors.
Yet, many customers are itching to be social again. They are struggling to balance a sense of normalcy with safety. According to studies conducted by Datassential, Statista, and The James Beard Foundation, 70% of consumers feel that eating at restaurants will help them feel normal. But, less than a quarter of respondents said they’d eat at a restaurant right after reopening.
So, how do you keep your customers happy and healthy? From curbside pickup and meal kits to updated safety measures and transparency, there are several ways to make your customers feel at ease when dining at your restaurant or getting food to go. That’s why we created this guide to help you keep your guests safe during the pandemic, so you can keep your doors open and bring the sales in.
Guide to Keeping Your Restaurant Guests Safe
First things first, many restaurants and bars had to close their doors as a result of COVID-19. As consumers start to become more social, many businesses in the hospitality industry are ready to get things up and running again.
If your bar or restaurant shut down operations but is now ready to get back into action, check out our Reopening Checklist. This checklist breaks down three sections: sanitation, technology, and equipment. It’s easy to follow and will ensure you don’t forget anything before bringing customers in!
DOWNLOAD OUR CHECKLIST BELOW!
Build Your Online Presence
Before jumping into operational changes, let’s touch on one of the biggest ways to bring in customers when creating your post-COVID strategy.
Building your establishment’s online presence is crucial. We can’t stress this enough. Consumers want to know what safety measures you’re taking before they step inside your restaurant. If they can’t find you online and read how you plan on keeping them safe, you’ll never attract them to your doors.
PourMyBeer Tip: Google for Business now has a special COVID-19 update feature.
We also recommend you put a pop-up message on your website’s home page with your updated hours, restaurant capacity, and safety precautions. This way, customers will find all the information they’re looking for as soon as they land on your website.
According to the same study mentioned earlier, 83% of consumers would avoid crowded waiting rooms to minimize their risk when dining out. To reduce the need for guests to wait in a crowded lobby, add an online reservation software to your business’ website. Do not rely on consumers to find your online brand through third-party apps, such as GrubHub and DoorDash. Make sure they can find all the information they need on your website.
Through your online reservation system, list the available table times, your credit card policy and your cancellation policy. Also, if you have any outdoor seating, allow guests to book it as part of their reservation. You’ll be much more likely to bring guests in with this as an option. But, if you can’t add online reservations, create an online waitlist where customers can put their names in so they won’t have to wait once they arrive.
If your establishment has a database of customers’ email addresses, you should contact them and ask what would make them comfortable when dining at your restaurant.
You can ask questions like: “Would you prefer disposable tableware?” or “What safety guidelines would make you feel safest when dining at our restaurant?”. Gathering information right from the source will help you make a reopening strategy tailored to your customers.
Not only will this make your guests feel safe, but it will also allow your brand to stay on top of their minds in a meaningful way. They’ll feel cared for and heard.
In March 2020, the USDA found that sales of food at home increased by 26% while sales of food away from home dropped by 20%. So, you’ll want to add safe off-premise options including takeout, curbside pickup and delivery as a way to boost sales.
And, if these offerings are already available to your customers, make sure they’re following the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines. Below, we’ll discuss how to adjust your off-premises options in more detail.
With customers wary of dining at bars and restaurants, takeout services will be a great stream of revenue for your establishment. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your takeout offerings! Meal kits and groceries are becoming the most profitable services for restaurant operators.
To keep your customers as safe as possible when picking up takeout orders, add a separate pickup station. This station will only be for guests getting takeout. Include signage so customers know where to go. A separate station for takeout orders will increase efficiency and safety as there won’t be a large crowd of dine-in customers around.
This has become the latest craze since the start of the pandemic. Captify conducted a study based on customer searches and found that mentions of curbside pickup rose by 458% since March 11th, 2020. That said, your establishment should offer this service to customers as it’s both rising in popularity and a very safe option.
Allow customers to place their curbside pickup orders through your online ordering system. Place signs in the parking spots closest to your restaurant for curbside pickup orders only (if applicable). These signs should have spot numbers as well as a phone number that the customers can call once they arrive. Customers will call the number and provide their spot number. Then, one of your staff members will bring out their food while wearing a mask and gloves.
If you have enough staff, you can create an in-house delivery system that can link to your website. Make all deliveries contactless. Meaning, staff members will leave the food outside the customer’s door, take a picture, and send it to the customer’s cell number. Contactless deliveries reduce the number of interactions between the customers and staff to zero – making this a safe option for those who don’t feel comfortable dining-in at restaurants quite yet.
As the world continues to adjust and learn more about COVID-19, customers are voicing their opinions about what would make them feel the safest when dining out.
A recent study conducted by Datassential gathered those opinions and is providing some insight into the mind of the consumer:
- 61% of customers said they support having their temperature taken before dining out.
- 41% said they’d show proof of wellness.
- 85% said they want 6 or more feet of distance between one another.
- 81% said they want customers sanitizing their hands upon entry.
- 73% said customers should stand outside if waiting for a table.
- 69% said seating should be by reservation only.
- 65% said no physical menus.
Let’s take a look at some ways to update your on-site dining to keep guests safe.
From the time guests enter the restaurant to the time they leave, there are several interactions, touchpoints, and items that could potentially spread germs. With COVID-19, it’s important to try and reduce the spread as much as possible.
So, let’s breakdown ways to cut down on spreading germs from the start to the end of the guest’s journey.
- Guests will check-in with the hostess outside of the restaurant at the new outdoor check-in area.
- The guests will stand outside on the designated stickers/checkmarks, waiting for their name to be called.
- Once at the table, have guests scan a QR code to access the menu and even potentially order online.
- Place hand sanitizer at each table for guests to use before eating and after eating.
- You can even hand your guests disposable menus or papers that have your COVID guidelines on them. For example, if your table does not have any condiments or spices, let guests know to ask for these and they will be brought to the table.
PourMyBeer Tip: Consider using disposable, one-time-use items like cups and condiments.
6. Once guests order and their food is ready, have servers bring their food to the table and ask if the food can be cleared after the guests leave (this will limit the number of interactions between servers and guests).
7. When it comes time for payment, make sure you’re giving guests clean, sanitized pens.
8. After guests leave the table, sanitize the chairs and tabletops with restaurant-grade cleaning products certified by the EPA to kill COVID-19.
If your setup allows, add an outdoor seating section. Although it’s usually nice for restaurants to have this option during the warmer months, right now it’s more necessary than ever before. Many customers won’t dine at restaurants that don’t have an outdoor section because they feel safer with open-air seating during COVID-19, as they aren’t in an enclosed space.
If you do have a large enough area for outdoor seating, make sure all of your tables and chairs are placed at least 6-feet apart.
PourMyBeer Tip: If you don’t have any space for outside seating, get creative! Many states are allowing street dining so be sure to check your state’s specific regulations to see if this could be an option for you. You can also expand your seating area into the parking lot of your business as well. Guests will see that you’re making an effort to meet these new demands and will love to come support you.
Finally, remember to post about your outdoor seating on your social channels and website to make the customers aware!
Consider installing a self-pour beverage wall in your establishment rather than a traditional, bulky bar. While there are many benefits that come with adding a self-pour beverage wall to your establishment, there are also several reasons why it is a safer solution:
- Reduce Touchpoints – While at a traditional bar, customers may experience anywhere from 6 to 8 touchpoints. From touching the menu to the service of food and drinks at the table, guests interact with staff frequently. But with self-pour, these touchpoints can be reduced to 1 or 2. With reduced touchpoints comes less spreading of germs, keeping customers safe and healthy.
- Increase Efficiency – Many customers can approach the wall at the same time while still keeping 6-feet of distance between one another. This increases efficiency and boosts beverage sales. PourMyBeer Tip: Place stickers at the beverage wall so customers know where to stand when approaching the wall and don’t crowd one area.
- Avoid Crowds – Since customers can approach the wall whenever suits them, no crowding occurs like at a traditional bar.
- Optimize Space – Self-pour beverage walls are installed on the side of a wall, increasing the amount of space available for customers to distance and spread out. PourMyBeer Tip: Maximize your space even further by removing bulky couches or communal tables that can’t be used with distancing guidelines in place.
- Display Cleaning – Since your self-pour wall is integrated in the side of a wall, your customers have full visibility when you clean. This will make them feel more comfortable as they know you’re sanitizing often and keeping the taps clean.
- Maximize Customer Flow – As an operator, you’ll be able to maximize the number of customers in and out of your establishment as patrons no longer need to wait for drinks. This means increased sales for you and a more enjoyable experience for your customers!
Interacting With Staff Members
Limit the amount of interaction between your customers and staff. Lowering the amount of interactions will reduce the spread of germs. First, you’ll want to adjust your current staff training program. Educate your staff on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Make sure they notify you immediately if they are experiencing any symptoms. Proper education and training will ensure that both your guests and staff members stay as safe as possible.
Second, you’ll need to update your safety protocols. Your staff must wear proper protective equipment, including a mask and gloves (if desired), at all times. If you require staff members to wear gloves, they must be changed often. If no gloves are worn, staff must wash hands and sanitize consistently.
Checklist of Safety Guidelines for Staff
As a restaurant operator reopening your doors during this new normal, you’ll want to keep your staff’s interactions with guests short and safe. We’ve created this checklist of safety guidelines for employees to follow before the start of each shift. This way, your staff stays healthy and customers will feel more comfortable.
DOWNLOAD OUR EMPLOYEES GUIDELINES BELOW!
Interacting With Other Customers
Datassential, Statista and, The James Beard Foundation found that 72% of guests don’t trust that other customers will be safe when dining out. This means that as a restaurant operator, you must reduce this fear and maintain the safety of all diners.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- In busy/concentrated areas, place stickers on the ground encouraging your guests to remain 6-feet apart.
- Ask all guests to wear a mask at all times, unless seated. If they’re checking-in or going to the restroom, they must wear their mask.
- PourMyBeer Tip: Put signage around your establishment reminding diners about your mask rules.
- Space out tables to ensure that no diners will be within 6-feet of one another.
- Place a makeshift host/hostess stand outside. Have stickers or chalk indicating where customers should stand while waiting for their table. This will prevent a crowded lobby.
Here When You Need Us!
Regardless of how you choose to adjust your operations, as long as you are updating your customers on your safety measures and staying transparent with them, they’ll want to support you. Customers are rewarding establishments who are treating both their staff members and communities well. So stay positive out there, continue to listen to your customers, and try your best to meet these new expectations.
If you have any questions about your updated safety measures, post-COVID strategy, or general self-pour inquiries, contact us below.
Follow Us to Stay Tuned!
*The recommendations above have been written to the best of our knowledge after interviewing our customers and conducting research from reputable sources, such as the CDC, WHO and FDA. We advise you to visit their websites to stay up to date on the latest guidelines.*