How to Prepare Your Restaurant for Post-Pandemic Operations
It has been a year since the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the global economy and accelerated technology disruptions which would have otherwise taken a few more years to implement. The restaurant industry in the US witnessed major changes in terms of the adoption of contactless technology, take-outs, innovative online ordering, and consumer analytics. Contrary to expectations, some restaurants managed to keep sales at a considerable pace.
However, a good number of restaurants were forced to close down for good. Depending on where a restaurant operated, pandemic restrictions may have wholly closed a brand’s doors to the public for some time, limited it to outdoor seating, or mandated that all storefronts transition to a to-go-only model or to half-capacity limits indoors.
In addition to these issues, the most critical challenge faced by the US restaurant industry is hiring people to fill vacant positions. With increasing demand and changing consumer behavior, restaurants are finding it difficult to fulfill the demand mainly due to a lack of required employees. More U.S. workers are quitting their jobs than at any time in at least two decades. In April, the share of U.S. workers quitting was 2.7 percent, per the DOL. Or 1.6 percent above a year earlier, and the highest level since at least 2000. Probably this is why restaurants are racing to increase wages and provide various incentives.
With new guidelines to operate in post-pandemic conditions, restaurants need to be prepared with the right tools and practices. It is not only about adopting technology but also monitoring consumer behavior, regulations, and sales trends to ensure seamless operations. We have compiled a list of key focus areas that will help your restaurant get prepared for post-pandemic operations.
Know Your Customer
Do you really know your customer? How familiar are you with their current buying preferences? Have you promptly responded to their feedback or complaints? The only way you can truly know your customer is to leverage analytics and technology to identify their preferences, buying behavior, and also ask for feedback to improve services. Make sure you have an effective guest feedback management system in place for timely communication.
Ensure Prompt and Clear Communication
Whether you have a single restaurant location or operate multi-unit restaurants, it is important to ensure prompt and clear communication in your organization. The pandemic has shown that incorrect communication or delayed information can create panic and disrupt operations. As a restaurant operator, you need to implement a communication system that allows you to reach every employee in your organization and ensure message clarity.
Transition from Paper to Digital
One of the reasons why restaurants survived the pandemic was the adoption of technology. If your restaurant has not transitioned from paper to digital, you are losing out on crucial data and real-time monitoring that would certainly help you to be prepared. Gathering information from paper forms and logbooks is time-consuming and by the time you do find the information, it would probably be too late to take an action.
The post-pandemic scenario requires immediate action and informed decision-making to adapt to changes. Digital systems not only automate tasks and streamline operations, but also provide access to documented data that can be retrieved at the click of a button.
Prioritize Food Safety & Compliance
Irrespective of changes in consumer behavior or shortage of workforce, food safety will always be the number one priority for restaurants. A single lapse in food safety checks can lead to huge problems for the restaurant in terms of loss of sales, loss of brand value and reputation, and possible legal implications due to any health issues reported by the customer.
Implement a Health Monitoring Regime
Even though we are in a post-pandemic situation, one can never be too careful about health. How often do you monitor the health of your employees and guests? It doesn’t take a lot to know about the health conditions at your restaurant. Simply use an employee health check solution to quickly get answers to basic health questions and record temperature directly to the app. The digital solution can provide customized reports to show health status at your restaurant locations and provide the confidence to your team for working in a safe and healthy environment.
Build a Loyalty Program
McDonald's recently launched a loyalty program called McDonald’s Rewards which allows customers to unlock freebies by collecting 100 points for every one dollar spent on qualifying purchases. More points unlock different rewards, so there are more free McDonald’s menu options to choose from with each tier reached. This is a great example of retaining customers and engaging with them by offering rewards for their loyalty.
The dining preferences may vary but it is important to remain engaged with customers to ensure repeat sales. Consider investing in a loyalty program to reward those who used takeout or delivery during the pandemic for returning in person for a treat. Incentivize that first return to in-person dining while thanking those who supported your establishment
Train Your Employees
How often are your employees provided training? A yearly training regime will not prove to be effective for your restaurant, especially in the post-pandemic scenario. Your employees need to be trained in the current operational requirements as well as understand the mandated guidelines. Assess your team’s performance, identify skill gaps, and provide training opportunities for competency development. Not only will this help your team perform better, but also reduce turnover because high-performing employees would not consider leaving the organization soon. The hiring crisis will not get solved any time soon, so focus on empowering your employees with the right tools and training to prepare them for the challenges ahead.