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The future of restaurants & hospitality looks uncertain, that’s a sentence we’re all probably sick of reading, but with rising cases of the virus spreading quickly across Canada & the United States, it unfortunately still holds true. Food & beverage businesses and restaurant owners have embraced creativity out of necessity during the first wave of Covid-19, and with the second wave of closures & impending restrictions on dining room capacities, restaurants will be once again put to the test of survival. We’re not going to label this as the bright side, because the unfortunate circumstances remain, but the reality is the situation is one we are all familiar with, and there are certain things we can take away from the past few months that can help propel us forward. This article has outlined what we’ve learned so far about running a restaurant during a pandemic, as well as some things the restaurant industry should be thinking about this fall & winter as we prepare for the second wave of COVID-19 and indoor dining closures.
As you start thinking about how you plan on tackling the winter period, you should take some time to reflect with your management team and staff on the past 6-7 months of the pandemic. From the initial spike, through the lockdown and closures, and the reopening of your restaurant patio and dining room. What worked well? What didn’t work? Take into consideration the guidelines, masks, and other PPE you equipped your staff with, the technology you implemented, the scheduling of employees, and the redesign of your space, was it effective? Did your staff and guests feel safe? It’s important to solicit this feedback from your employees, and it’s always idea to get feedback from your guests as well, as they will be the most accurate gauge on how safe the environment at your restaurant is. You can do so by creating a feedback form on your Sociavore website, and you can track that valuable data in your dashboard.
Restaurants will likely face new challenges as the colder months approach, but the industry is learning to adapt, and there is a lot that can be learned from this past spring and summer.
Optimizing Contactless Dining
The hospitality industry thrives off of human connection, and many can argue that it’s impossible to run a successful business without it, but the times have sparked many creative solutions that still allow people to safely dine at their favourite restaurants, and engage with their community at a distance.
Those who are willing to adapt will be the ones who come out the strongest. Continue to enforce strict protocols in your restaurant, and take advantage of the contactless technology that is available for you and your guests to use. Sociavore’s Contactless Dining allows your guests to order, pay, and tip directly from your website without having to engage with a POS or a pen & paper. The whole process is made even easier for your guest with the help of QR code menus. You can generate and download QR codes that link right to your menus online so your guests can order easily. You can learn more about how it can work for your business here, or you can go ahead and create your own QR codes now. This will not only create a safe and fast dining experience, but it’s also a lot more environmentally sustainable, instead of having to print thousands of disposable paper menus.
With restrictions on indoor dining seemingly inconsistent new cases climbing up and down, and the mighty third-party delivery apps returning to take 30% of your entire revenue, it might be worth taking a look at Online Ordering directly through your website. Sociavore is committed to helping independent food & beverage businesses and beyond own their restaurant online. Learn more about our commission-free online ordering platform designed and built for hospitality.
"Running all of Ignite Group of Brands‘ various property websites through Sociavore has helped us immensely in streamlining our online activity. The ability to easily build out new subpages and content blocks within our websites, and seamlessly switch from brand to brand inside of a single platform, has allowed us to be consistent, efficient, and effectively responsive to the fast pace of the hospitality industry."
Thoughtful Dining Experiences
As we learned from March to about June, online ordering is the main source of revenue during restaurant shutdowns. Now depending on where you live, restaurants may have already have been forced to close their doors, but regardless, we can anticipate that online ordering will return to being the main source of revenue during the second wave of coronavirus and closures. Of course, it’s less than ideal, we all want to be shoulder to shoulder at a bustling bar or restaurant that has put in so much time and effort to build the right atmosphere, but that is out of our control for now. Instead, there are a few things restaurants can consider when it comes to elevating their takeout and delivery experience, ensuring that their guests can still experience your hospitality at home.
- Dinner for 2 or 4 packages that include a bottle of wine, beer or any suggested alcohol that pairs well with the food you serve
- Custom Spotify / Apple Music playlists that your guests can access at home to pair with your dishes
- DIY at home meal-kits, or other house-made shelf products
- Nice and thoughtful packaging can go a long way, though it’s difficult as it can get expensive, and it needs to be sturdy, but simple additions like stickers
- Post restaurant-quality, homemade recipes created by the chef, on your website or social media that could be paired with your take out meals. Ex: pickled vegetables, sauces, dips,
Building Your Menu Around Takeout
Redesigning a menu around the change of seasons doesn’t typically factor in takeout and delivery. However, it’s something to consider with indoor dining set to be paused again for a couple of months. Talking to chefs and restaurant owners, packing takeout meals has been challenging due to the lack of quality takeout packages, speeding delivery drivers, and in general food that doesn’t necessarily present itself well in a plastic or cardboard box. We suggest tweaking your menu that’s conducive to packaging. This includes food that’s easy to share, holds its taste at a slightly cooler temperature and generally has less of a chance of falling apart.
Now is a more important time than ever to keep your customers engaged, and in the loop with what’s happening at your restaurant. Social media is, of course, the easiest and most effective way to reach a widespread number of customers. With screen time increasing with everybody spending more time at home, regularly posting as well as running ads on all of the social media apps will be crucial in terms of attracting new customers and increasing your sales, and of course, letting your existing customers know that you’re surviving and thriving.
If you have a list of email subscribers, keep them updated with weekly or bi-weekly newsletters of new menu items, combos, meal-kits, store hours, covid-19 policies, and protocols, closures, re-openings, virtual events or classes, or simple thank you email for being awesome guests. Remember to keep the emails short and sweet, include lots of pictures, and put a fun twist on it to ensure your subscribers are engaged and looking forward to the next email.
The way restaurants, breweries, and other small businesses have been operating over the course of the pandemic has been beyond our wildest imaginations. I don’t think any of us ever thought we would have to be wearing masks inside a restaurant, sitting 6 feet apart from the table beside you, strict capacity limits, walking in one at a time at your local cafe, and tons of other strange accommodations we’ve had to do, from both the business and customer perspective.
We’re not going to beat around the bush. It’s been an extremely tough go across the board. We’ve seen a lot of our favourite restaurants say goodbye, and it’s painful, but we’re so grateful for all the delicious meals and memories throughout the years. We’ve also seen new businesses and opportunities spring, taking a new approach to hospitality that serves the needs of customers in a socially-distanced world, and we look forward to more to come.
The world continues to throw everyone surprises this year, and the unpredictability of the future of restaurants and hospitality is frustrating. We don’t know if things will get better or worse in the short to medium-term future, but what we do know is that the safety of your guests and staff is the number one priority right now. The best thing business owners can do right now is to start planning ahead by taking what we’ve learned so far over the course of the past few months and to continue to adapt to the new world of hospitality.
Photo credits to Graffiti Market & Red Circle Brewing & Coffee.