Your community includes your staff and the customers who support you.

As we enter another phase of COVID-19 life, restaurants can use this time to create a positive, lasting impression that fosters loyalty if they take the proper steps to safeguard their processes and their employees. I want to offer a quick list of big picture ideas every restaurant can implement through safety precautions for your employees and customers.

Comply with evolving local government guidelines.

Following all the necessary COVID guidelines helps you protect your workers’ and patrons’ health, as well as the restaurant environment. For example, in California the governor has begun reopening select aspects of the economy, including malls and dine-in restaurants, all with required safety protocols and modifications, including some of the following:

  • Mandatory for employees to wear face masks
  • Encourage reservations to allow for time to disinfect restaurant areas 
  • Have readily available hand sanitizers for employees and customers
  • Allow dine-in customers to order ahead of time
  • Ask customers to wait in their cars while waiting to be seated
  • Daily temperature checks for employees
  • Additional sanitation precautions (such as sanitizing surfaces)
  • Expand and/or prioritize outdoor seating and curbside pickup
  • Continue to encourage takeout, delivery, and drive-thru options
  • Consider technology that allows consumers to view on a personal electronic device
  • Seat groups at the same time
  • Mark any line area (such as a cash register) 6 feet apart

Do what you need to do to make sure your restaurant is in line with the safety precautions issued by your state. Fines and community backlash are the last things anyone can afford right now.

Create a checklist for each major function and widely share it with your staff.

Making a checklist for your restaurant’s day-to-day functions is probably nothing new, but this is the time to revitalize past procedures for everything from greeting customers, taking food and supplies deliveries, daily sanitation, and meticulous food handling. Be sure to post the checklists throughout high traffic areas. Marking off safe distancing zones for customers picking up orders and in your employees’ work areas should be addressed. Don’t forget that your restaurant staff is your team; they’re the first line of protection for your business adhering to these new protocols. Including them in the creation of these updated checklists will motivate them toward this new norm and help you in turn.

Communicate frequently with your community while engaging and incentivizing them.

Your community includes your staff and the customers who support you. Not only must you establish clear communication for safety procedures within your restaurant, but also out to your customer base. Consumers expect transparency right now as they test going out in public to the businesses they support.

Share what you’re doing on your restaurant window or door and use your online platforms and social media as a free, quick way to get the word out. Showing posts of restaurant workers safely preparing food and any other new services or product offerings is a sure way to reassure customers and boost sales.

More of us than ever are online using apps and social media. According to Kantar Media, an evidence-based consulting company, Facebook is up 53 and 32 percent on Instagram. Food and drink app usage have increased in the United States through April 2020 by 55 percent versus the weekly average in January 2020. Yelp reported a 305 times increase in takeout and delivery orders from mid-March through April 2020. Of particular note, some mobile apps are charging as much as 40 percent in fees.

Try to shop around to minimize those overhead expenses, and if you can, offer your delivery service. The overarching message here: double-down on digitizing services.”

“double-down on digitizing services”

Especially important is social media. A local sushi restaurant near my house tagged me in an Instagram post, quickly engaging my interest. Sushi was then at the top of my mind, and later that day, I ordered takeout from them. Other ways to build your social media engagement is through incentives such as:

  • Creating a game and awarding restaurant gift cards
  • Ask customers to name their favorite dish at your restaurant and why tagging 5 of their friends to expand your reach
  • Offer frontline health care workers discounts and find other ways to thank them
  • Update your customers online at least weekly to stay relevant in their feeds

“build your social media engagement through incentives”

Get creative with spacing

Need ideas? Your specific restaurant offers unique capabilities you can use to your advantage with a little creativity. Nooks and crannies may now be prime seating locations. How can you add natural dividers like plants or furniture to the seating space? Outdoor spaces are new possibilities if you have any areas within your property to maximize customer accommodations within guidelines. Consider working with local officials to carve your niche in local parks.

The exciting part is that people are ready to get back to their favorite restaurants as fast as possible. You have a captive audience looking for an escape and towards the future to inspire them. Take it as an excellent opportunity to solidify your restaurant’s brand and story with past customers and to capture new customers following your proactive services.

Brendan Kennedy is Founder and CEO of NxTSTOP, an apparel company making functional, eco-friendly travelwear. Brendan is a serial entrepreneur whose experience spans cloud computing, e-commerce, travel, and fashion. Initially a strategy leader with Accenture and then with VMware, he later brought an EdTech startup called Fathomd to market to create interactive games teaching MBA business concepts. In 2016 he founded NxTSTOP to develop a new “travleisure” apparel category. Since March 2020 NxTSTOP is manufacturing adjustable, eco-friendly, reusable face masks at large scale to help the public and businesses return to work. He holds a BA with Honors from Stanford, an MBA from MIT Sloan, and the Certificat de Patisserie de Base from Le Cordon Bleu Paris.   

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