Contactless Restaurant Strategies: How to Run a Restaurant in the post-COVID World?
Date : Sep 09, 2020
Author : Isaac Addo
Categories : Business Tips
COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst in the growth of online food delivery and payment platforms. However, it has severely impacted in-house restaurant operations. With the government set to bring the UK restaurant industry back on track, one of the significant game-changers would be the contactless restaurant operations.
UK Government’s Operational Plan For Restaurant Industry Revival
New figures released by Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the economy shrunk by 2 per cent in the first quarter of 2020. By contrast, the hospitality industry has been among the worst-hit sectors – with a first-quarter decline of 21.3 per cent. (According to UK Hospitality, industry’s principal trade body)
Yahoo! Finance reports that over 33.5 million people in the hospitality industry have lost their jobs since March 2020. This accounts for an unemployment rate of 14.7%. Two out of three restaurant employees have lost their jobs, according to the National Restaurant Association.
To help the restaurant industry back on its feet, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak introduced the ‘EAT OUT to HELP OUT’ scheme. Under the EOHO scheme, the government would subsidise meals when dining in at restaurants by 50 per cent. This would be in effect every week from Monday to Wednesday, throughout August.
The EOHO is just one of the many schemes designed to provide respite to the food services sector. Other measures include:
- Furlough scheme for employees,
- Reduction in VAT to 5 per cent from 20 per cent,
- Small business grants, and
- Temporary changes to license laws and outdoor seating arrangements.
In light of this, restaurants can begin their services again by focusing on contactless operations.
What Does A ‘Contactless’ Restaurant Mean?
Earlier, guests and employees shared touched surfaces within close proximity of each other. Going contactless means elimination of physical inputs, touch, and shared surfaces. This can be achieved through technology, rearranging the seating and dining layout, or operational adjustments for streamlined services.
Contactless restaurant operations aim to incorporate as little contact throughout the restaurant – right from ordering and payment to reduce the number of shared objects and surfaces. This arrangement not only demonstrates the restaurant’s commitment to the health and wellness of its guests but also makes employees feel safer.
Contactless Restaurant Strategies
If you’re a UK restaurant thinking of restarting your business, here are some tips for resorting to the NEW normal:
Digital Menus: Ordering food with contactless restaurant operations
In the before-COVID era, guest after guest would handle shared menus. These would either be cleaned at the beginning or end of a shift. Sometimes, the cleaning regimen would ensue after a full workday. Moving forward, menus must be disinfected between every guest.
Too much work?
How about disposable menus that double up as placemats and are discarded towards the end of each use? Printed signage installed at the table can also eliminate the need to touch a menu.
Another way is to use digital menus. Guests can scan a QR code that pops the entire menu on their device. Customers anyways rely on their cell phones to research a restaurant they want to visit. Nearly 77 per cent of guests check the menu online before visiting a restaurant. This reinforces the need to have digital menus as the first step of contactless restaurant operational strategy.
Operational Plan for Restaurant: Incorporating digital ordering
Since the pandemic has started, 92 per cent of orders from restaurants were received through digital methods rather than people ordering at the facility. With the UK restaurant industry resuming operations, it’s time to take this one step further – making digital ordering the norm.
Placing an order online could be as simple as having a small widget on your website that collects orders. It could be as complicated as developing a full-fledged app for your website. You can also integrate a third-party app vendor or SMS technology into your ordering process.
Contactless ordering is better for several reasons. First, it eliminates the need for unwanted contact from customers standing in long queues at restaurant counters. Secondly, anybody can place an order from the comfort of their homes, at their pace without feeling rushed from customers standing behind them. It also allows restaurants to take in more orders, more quickly with the entire staff engaged in fulfilling these orders.
Digital ordering enables restaurants to create a seamless, consistent dining experience. Customers can expect a similar menu and treatment, whether they’re at home, on-the-go, or inside the restaurant.
Digital Payments: The most important pillar of your contactless restaurant reopening strategy
Paper money can carry more germs than a toilet. Virus and bacteria can survive on most surfaces for as long as 48 hours – which is why going touchless is critical in keeping your staff and guests safe.
Contactless payment channels like Apple Pay or tap-to-go credit cards had been on the rise even before the pandemic. The post-COVID world has seen touch-free transactions spike. Restaurants should equip themselves for the demand for digital and contactless payment options accordingly.
Allowing payments via near-field communication (NFC), digital wallets, or QR codes could be implemented to allow customers to pay without handing over their card. These payments also have the added advantage of being quicker and more secure than traditional methods. Your customers don’t have to worry about staff handling their card or cash – ensuring data and privacy security.
Restaurant Operations: Drive-through, pickups, or contactless takeaways
A recent consumer study by Datassential revealed that most customers would prefer drive-through to be a safer option, thinking of their car as a protective barrier. This includes the boomers and above, who are at the most risk of COVID-19. You can select a contactless delivery option based on these figures and your target customers.
Post-COVID Operational Plan for the Restaurant Industry: Hygiene vs. taste
The novel coronavirus pandemic has given rise to a new benchmark for restaurants – Hygiene Rating. Restaurants need to go the extra mile to convince customers of their hygiene and sanitisation standards. The 5-star ratings indicative of ambience, taste, and service will no longer be sufficient.
Integrating QR codes with your food delivery app is a unique way to scale up your hygiene rating. Not just this, customers also appreciate restaurants that are transparent about their sanitisation practices. Several businesses have introduced live temperature check on their apps – to keep customers informed about the health of the delivery executive handling their food.
Delivering Home Cooking Experience: Restaurant style
Staying at home has brought back the trend of home cooking, and it is likely to continue post-COVID too. Families are cooking together and are seeking collaborative ideas, and restaurants can bank in on this. For instance, Middlebury Pizzeria is making mini-pizza kits that include toppings and dough. Food joints that have elaborate cooking processes can also sell partially cooked ingredients.
To make the process more fun, a personalised note from the chef outlining cooking instructions could be included. Even better, if a QR code redirects to a step-by-step cooking video by the chef!
Contactless Restaurant Strategy: Positioning your restaurant as a safe place to be
Several customers are open to thorough check-ups before entering a restaurant. This gives them confidence that everybody inside has undergone the same procedure, and it’s safe to sit and eat inside. Restaurants can run thermal screenings, place sanitisers at convenient places, and record health conditions and travel history of all visitors.
When customers feel safe in your restaurant, they will discuss this with their friends and family. Some might even spill the beans on restaurant review sites, so you can see those orders flowing in.
Social Media: A quintessential element in your restaurant operations arsenal
A digital age, savvy customers, and a contagious pandemic were all it took for all businesses to get online finally. Many of them are now leveraging social media to allow customers to order food and get it delivered to their homes.
Social media is also an excellent place to start building your community of regular customers. You can create offers, combos, and announce lucky draws that bring in even more people to try out your dishes and leave great reviews.
Food for thought
Contactless restaurant strategies can allow restaurants to redefine their customer experience in the post-COVID era. These are the way ahead and will become the norm once the new normal resumes.