There is a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, and preparation is key to future-proofing your stability in the food and beverage industry.
Last week I visited a restaurant who uses Abacus restaurant POS software, and not because I’m writing for the Abacus blog. Put simply, Sushi Jiro in Box Hill, Melbourne happened to be the best option to satisfy my cravings and dietary preferences at the time I was present in its location.
Life after Covid – the new ‘normal’
Restaurants are preparing for a ‘life after Covid’, which was clear to me when I compared dining out this week to before the pandemic. No one knows when the current pandemic will inevitably end, but Melbourne’s lockdowns have, and life is beginning again. This is a ‘new normal’ we’re entering, a world in which we must prepare for the possibility of more pandemics in the future.
‘It’s the eye of the tiger; it’s the thrill of the fight; rising up to the challenge of our rival’ (Lyrics from song ‘Eye of the tiger’ by Survivor)
Humanity has a new rival, and for once our focus is not fighting within ourselves. We’re battling a virus, a plague, and it has changed the world as we know it faster than anything else in our lifetime.
If you want to knock your rival out and become champion of your niche within the Australian F&B industry, here are some of the ways in which your restaurant needs to change post-Covid:
1. Progress to an even more digital approach
Looking at restaurant trends around the globe, you’ll hear once seemingly science-fiction type concepts coming to fruition such as testing out home delivery via automated drones, and you yourself may have even been to a restaurant using actual robots to bring dirty dishes back to the kitchen.
You don’t necessarily need to go down these complex AI paths just yet, but you do need to implement simple smart technologies like online ordering and payments, as well as kitchen automation, and data analysis into your repertoire.
Online ordering, Self-ordering kiosks, QR code scanning, and table ordering
Sushi Jiro utilised iPad table ordering at its establishment. As a customer this meant I could take my time, look at photos of all the meal options (there are many choices at a sushi train!), and then order dishes without even speaking to staff.
Staff are more limited, and so even more valuable. Keep them safe!
Self-ordering, contactless ordering options minimise the risk of exposure to potentially infectious individuals, especially floor staff. These days, the loss of a single staff member can cause major ripples throughout your operating rhythm. Not only do self service kiosks for restaurants and online ordering systems streamline operations, but they also establish trust in your customers, as people tangibly feel your level of conscientiousness towards their best interests. Learn more about why customers and restaurants agree that self-ordering makes life easier.
Reduction of touchpoints via digital solutions
Customers and wait staff alike would rather not have to touch the same physical menu as someone else. Restaurant POS software integrations like QR code scanning enable patrons to scan a QR code displayed at their table. People view the digital or ‘virtual’ menu on their mobile phone’s browser, and then select the dishes they’d like to order. Once complete, they pay for the order at the same time. Social distancing is maintained to the point of no longer even needing to face someone to pay for a meal!
2. Change the physical layout of your establishment
This too is based on social distancing and circulation of customers and floor staff in your restaurant. You’ll need to reduce seating capacity in some areas, while optimising all possible spaces including indoor, al fresco, and rooftop zones. Then you’ll be required to analyse how people should be directed to move through your space.
Create a natural flow preventing people from coming too close to one another
It’s time to consider designing ‘one-way roads’ within your premises. I know this may sound strange, but if you have two doors on site, design a functional pattern to ensure one is being used to enter and the other to exit. People are good at following signs – and at following rules! Written directions place on signage in conjunction with markings on the floor make sure even shy people who look down as they walk will head in the right direction. Consider amplifying your brand’s story by making these messages fun or quirky too!
Remove some tables and introduce physical barriers
It looks weird when some seats or tables are marked as not to be used. Make sure social distancing is optimised by separating your tables so all of them can be used. Consider new floor plans in your adjusted fit-out, and the potential for partitions on what were previously community tables. Simple plexiglass dividers can be placed between tables or booths, and they don’t take up much space.
When all is said and done, if you can make use of outdoor or even rooftop seating, integrate these spaces into your standard floor plan. Contemplate getting rid of open plan dining and move to more private spaces emphasising intimacy and separate group interaction.
3. Expand the contactless experience to amplify safety and sanitisation
Not only should you move to ordering and paying through contactless means, but you also must think about how your staff and guests feel when it comes to every other aspect of your in-house operation.
Hand sanitiser must be present upon entering the restaurant. At Sushi Jiro, a medical-grade mask wearing staff member squirted some into each person’s hands as they entered the premises – something I hadn’t witnessed before.
Look at putting in automated doors, sink taps, auto-flush toilets, hand dryers, soap dispensers, paper towel and toilet paper dispensers, and rubbish bins. In addition to showing your customers you care about safety and wellbeing; you also build loyalty and a sense of community. The latter two ideals need to be of paramount importance moving forward if you wish to succeed.
4. Build customer loyalty, boost engagement, and focus on community
Your customer base is your lifeblood, and so a renewed focus on ensuring customers return again and again is an investment that enables ongoing returns. The digital approach discussed earlier allows you to retain data on your clientele. This means you can create personalised sales and marketing campaigns, as well as menu changes based on community preferences. Your digital presence empowers you to boost customer engagement and take part in community support-based activities.
These activities build up your brand identity and create loyal followers in your local community. Then comes your chance to diversify revenue streams. You can offer catering services, or even merchandise based on your cool brand story, i.e., branded t-shirts, tote bags, reusable coffee cups, caps, and toys.
If you’d like to learn more about how Abacus can help your restaurant in the coming post-Covid era, get in touch now!