The past few months have been challenging for all of us and, as most might agree, returning to some sense of normalcy is something we can look forward to. One thing is for sure, the new normal will present many changes to the restaurant industry… some of which may be permanent. While phased reopenings are underway in many states, some restaurant owners may be wondering how to prepare for when it’s time to welcome their customers back.
Here are 5 things to consider when reopening your restaurant to ensure your customers’ safety and comfort.
Get the Message Out That You’re Back in Business
Make the most of every and all channels. Leverage your website, social media, and your Yelp profile. Of course, don’t forget about your actual storefront. During these past few months, out-of-home advertising has proven to be incredibly effective. Restaurants generally come with restaurant windows – don’t let that space go unused. With the right and aesthetically pleasing reopening signage, this is a great way to communicate the message to passersby in your community that you are open and what safety precautions you are taking.
Using Technology to Help the Reopening Process
Expect to see a lot of contactless changes to the dining experience, a couple of them being menu viewing and ordering. Restaurant owners can turn to technology to make this a seamless process. Patrons can now view menus on their phones and order digitally as well, creating fewer opportunities for person-to-person contact and encouraging social distancing.
You can also turn to a waitlist product. With Yelp Waitlist, consumers are able to “join the line” of their favorite restaurants remotely and those restaurants are able to manage the wait time to provide an accurate estimate to customers. Products like Waitlist are very helpful in a period of social distancing since it is contactless, removing the need for a physical clipboard, eliminating crowds of people in a waiting area or line (allowing them to observe physical distance while they wait), and helping restaurants manage their dining room at a reduced capacity. These kinds of effective operational changes will be essential when reopening.
Technology will continue to transform the dining experience moving forward, and it proves to be very interesting to see how new innovations help with this new normal.
Focus on the Important Issues
The importance of communication and the safety of your employees and customers has been paramount during these past few months and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
As long as things are still uncertain, it remains essential for business owners to communicate as much as possible. With change comes a certain discomfort, and the one way to ease that is through constant connection. Tools like Yelp Connect allow restaurants to directly reach customers with customized content and messages. Businesses can use Connect to outline the safety measures they are taking (contactless ordering, disposable menus, mask wearing, etc.) and what customers can expect from the dine-in experience, such as new layouts, for example. Connect also helps you reach the local, relevant diners that matter most in these times — those who have previously shown interest in your business or are just simply around your neighborhood.
Make Your Customers Feel comfortable
Be honest and prioritize their safety. This, of course, is not that easy and simple. But if everything you do goes back to those two things, you will likely find yourself in a good place.
Continue to Think Outside the Box
Restaurant owners have shown some true innovation over these past couple of months, and this is not the time to stop. Keep selling those “create your own cocktail” kits, the “decorate your own donut” boxes, and the “make your own pizza” trays. Keep offering the virtual cooking classes. It’s going to take a while for things to go back to normal, so continue to diversify your revenue streams while ramping up the dining-in experience. This might be a great time to leverage the roadblocks to your advantage — take some small risks, don’t panic, and believe in the fundamentals of your business.
And finally, be patient with yourself, your staff, and your customers. Remember, this is new for everyone. It’s a learning curve and mistakes will happen. What is important is that we’re all in this together and that at the end of the day, you’re doing all you can to keep everyone safe.
This is not an exhaustive list, but a good starting point as our economy starts to open and you begin to map out your reopening strategy.