Restaurant patrons are not simply bored and hungry as they hunker down at home during this pandemic – they’re also worried about the future of their favorite restaurants. A recent survey on why people choose a restaurant, reported by the firm Datassentials in “Report 17: The Next Phase,” found that “supporting restaurants that need help” had jumped five percentage points in a little over a month during the spring of 2020.
Wanting to support your restaurant is one thing; actually coming in is another. That same survey found “clean and sanitary” to be the number one consideration for consumers choosing a restaurant now, and 76% said that it will continue to be their top concern even once the COVID-19 crisis is over. In short, hygiene must still be at the top of any to-do list for a successful restaurant reopening.
Here are five important steps you can take to create a “hyper-hygienic” image to reassure customers that it’s safe to come back.
1. Every restaurant should start reopening by revisiting hand hygiene
According to virtually every medical authority, from the Center for Disease Control to the World Health Organization, keeping hands clean – through handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer – is one of the most important factors in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Even if your restaurant had an effective handwashing program before, now is the time to take it to the next level. Consider having posters visible in the restrooms to remind guests and staff about handwashing procedures, and in the break room for hygiene tips specifically aimed at your staff. Download the free hand and personal hygiene guide, developed by the Clean Care experts at Tork, to assure that you have the facts needed to protect your guests, your staff and yourself.
2. Be obvious about hygiene product placement and efforts
Whether you have a fine dining establishment or a fast-food emporium, now is the time to put hygiene front and center, quite literally. Place cleaning wipes and sanitizers on tables, counters, shared spaces, and at the entrance and exit. Let diners see your staff cleaning table and surfaces between customers as they disinfect tabletops and chairs with disposable wipes. And don’t wait until after hours to clean other high-touch surfaces – clean them repeatedly while you’re open and serving customers. This will create both the reality and the image of an establishment that cares about its customers via cleanliness.
3. Promote safety in messaging
To build guest confidence, it’s a good idea to ensure that the safety measures you implemented are communicated clearly. Patrons will appreciate greater transparency. Reassure them by posting sign promoting safety measures such as maintaining safe distances, availability and location of hygiene products, current sanitization status of tables, and directions to pick-up areas and restrooms. Consider using custom-printed napkins that emphasize how clean and safe you’ve made dining in.
4. Go digital with menus and payment
The modern consumer – in the face of a pandemic – expects you to integrate technology to improve access and reduce risk where possible. As your guests emerge from a period of intense digital connectivity, they will be more willing to use, or even demand, modern technology when visiting your establishment.
Solutions that minimize contact, like contactless payment, mobile ordering apps touch-free hand sanitation stations and touch-free toilet faucets and flushing are bound to become a necessity. The potential to increase hygiene and safety exists at every single step in the customer journey. For example, some restaurants are replacing their menus with custom-printed placements featuring the menu or QR codes that link to web-based menus.
5. Encourage and engage on social media
After months of the whole world seeming to be in hiding, you can’t assume that even your most loyal customers will know you’ve reopened, let alone that you’re taking exceptional measures to keep them safe. You can reach them, and encourage their return, by engaging them on social platforms, and placing informative (and fun) announcements in their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds. You could also share coupons for dine-in only
Online reviews are more important than ever. Incentivize customers to share the goods news by creating a program that rewards customers for positive reviews, encouraging them to comment on the cleanliness as well as the delicious food. A free appetizer or dessert offer, for instance, would encourage participation and also incent additional dine-in visits.
As the Datassential report indicates, your loyal customers want to support you, and would like to return. Now it’s up to you to make sure they feel safe to do so. Let’s view this pandemic as an opportunity to promote safe ways of reconnecting over food. For more tips and real-life examples, download the designing a safer restaurant experience report.
CDC: Hand Hygiene Recommendations
Datassential: Report 17, The Next Phase
ServSafe National Restaurant Association: Cleaning VS. Sanitizing
Tork: Reach for the Stars
WHO: Save Lives, Clean Your Hands