The fourth wave of COVID-19 is not if: it’s when. If you’re one of the many still in business, it’s difficult to feel safe and protected from whatever the future brings.
The ‘solutions’ are endless, complicated, and prohibitively expensive. More than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments closed in 2020, and as we reach the edge of the newest and highest COVID-19 cliff yet, re-evaluating best practices is the difference between surviving 2021 and closing doors for good. So what’s actually going wrong?
1. Social Media As Usual
The inauthenticity of social media marketing has never been more clear and jarring than during COVID-19. Users are pinpointing the exact moments where brands fell flat trying to stay current which is significant since consumers are four to six times more likely to purchase from companies they believe have a strong purpose. Boosting restaurant sales in COVID through marketing can now do more damage than ever before.
76% of global consumers have said that they would act against brands whose purposes, values, or behaviors they disagree with. Unless your restaurant or bar is located in an area where COVID is not an issue, it’s unrealistic to portray your brand as untouched by events. Even the CDC has said that unregulated indoor & outdoor seating are at high risk for spreading COVID-19.
This is the information on every customer’s mind, and if your social media is only drinks and food with no reassurance, you’ll come off not only as inauthentic but actively dangerous. Show your workers in masks doing their job, broadcasting cleaning measures, and reminding your loyal customers that you care about their safety as opposed to just their business.
2. In-Person Lines for Tables
In-person lines are a major deterrent from entering a business. Even if you’re putting down tape to indicate what 6 feet apart looks like, more often than not that waiting line is going right through your outdoor seating area. People would rather walk away than take that full risk.
Utilizing your website, social media, and even technology will help keep customers safe and reassured that you’re taking their health into consideration. Using a sign up form (free with Google) will provide a contactless way to get in line, and has the bonus upside of keeping your waitlist more organized.
OpenTable is another app available for reservations that will lend a sleeker polish to your popularity. This is an app/site that uses a point system for reservations, so customers will gain an extra sense of loyalty from their continued patronage. This solution is a great chance to show diners you care, as well as reward them for their support.
3. Unprotected Distanced Tables
Following the standard protocol set by the CDC and state guidelines is common sense, and many restaurants have no doubt established tables distanced at the 6 foot mark, created approved air flow, and are taking careful precautions with safety gear. However, many customers still feel nervous about spacing and spreading COVID.
Buying spray shields and plastic barriers is an addition to your business that would go a long way to bringing and keeping the customers at your tables. The CDC actually recommends this to begin with, and it visually is safer and more reassuring than distanced tables. This will protect your customers from unseen droplets in the air, and keep cases of COVID down while keeping morale high.
4. Band-Aid Fix Online Menus
There is nothing worse than going into a beautiful bar and having to use your phone to look at a Google Excel sheet menu. Many businesses have turned to this in the wake of physical menus being deemed unsafe;it’s a poor solution that does more harm than good. An Excel spreadsheet for your menu is a temporary fix, one that says you don’t know how long COVID will last and you don’t necessarily care. This isn’t what customers want to hear, especially since they’ll wonder what else you’re skimping out on.
Half of consumers would return to a restaurant based on how cleanly it is, and those who take this seriously not only survive, but thrive. Phones are part of the solution: QR codes at tables can lead to crafted menus, projecting care and caution to worried patrons. Many APIs and contactless ordering solutions, such as Bbot, Toast, and others, are top of the line menu and delivery options. Toast provides a point of sale system for your needs like tablets and payment, while Bbot can function solely from your customer’s phones in the same capacity.
Our Prediction For the Future
Although the date for a full return to normal continues to be pushed back, restaurants and bars don’t have the luxury of sitting around and waiting for normalcy. It is your job and responsibility as the owner of your business to provide customers with service that makes them feel safe and cared for. Failing this job means losing the faith of your patrons, and your business going under like many before it. Thankfully, fixing mistakes can be simple. Understanding the areas where you’re falling short is the first step towards rehabilitation and long-term success.