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More than 110,000 restaurants — an estimated 17% of the US complete — closed over the previous yr as a outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those that survived needed to get artistic, adapting quickly to lockdowns, capability restrictions, supply chain disruptions and staff shortages. Now, declining Covid-19 circumstances and increasing vaccination efforts supply a glimmer of hope for the trade’s comeback.
However, even after most individuals have been vaccinated, Covid-19 and its penalties will stay with us. According to a Nielsen survey, nearly one-quarter of individuals say they’ll spend much less at eating places in the long run, each due to lingering fears over the virus and since the pandemic dramatically modified shopper habits. For eating places, which means that the modifications required to outlive the pandemic have been only the start of a broader shift.
To appeal to diners and stay aggressive in the post-pandemic world, eating places have to give attention to the three fundamental components that prospects care most about: safety, worth and expertise. Although health measures regularly appeared pitted in opposition to profitability and buyer enjoyment over the previous yr, there are a number of modifications that eating places could make in order that security, worth and expertise reinforce each other somewhat than battle.
Customers need security, worth and expertise
As researchers on the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business, we’ve got studied how prospects select eating places and develop loyalty to particular eateries. Our research and that of others has repeatedly shown that the in-restaurant experience and buyer perceptions of worth considerably impression the place folks select to eat.
However, security has at all times been necessary to prospects. Our analysis previous to the pandemic discovered that how protected diners really feel in a restaurant is much more related than worth for figuring out buyer satisfaction and loyalty to a particular eatery. The Covid-19 pandemic solely amplified the significance of security: A current survey discovered that prospects are prepared to spend twice as much at eating places that prioritize security and cleanliness.
Over the previous yr, many eating places struggled to offer a protected setting whereas nonetheless providing good worth and expertise. Safety measures like working at lowered capability, buying PPE for workers or investing in expensive upgrades, akin to air flow techniques or out of doors seating, negatively impacted eating places’ backside strains. Some eating places have been compelled to raise prices or change their menus, whereas others instituted Covid-19 surcharges that rapidly alienated customers.
Restaurants that prioritized expertise on the expense of security haven’t fared effectively both. The CDC discovered that Covid-19 cases tend to rise after areas loosen up guidelines round in-person eating. As a outcome, institutions that lack social distancing or don’t implement masks insurance policies make shoppers anxious. In addition, eating places at the moment are being judged explicitly on their pandemic response: Yelp permits prospects to leave reviews about an institution’s Covid-19 insurance policies and shows these above regular suggestions.
Four methods to extend buyer satisfaction
The excellent news is that security, worth and customer experience don’t have to battle with each other. Here’s how restaurateurs can mix these necessary points to draw prospects and construct a restaurant expertise designed for the post-Covid-19 world.
The finest place to start out is with social distancing. It’s one of the crucial efficient methods to stop the unfold of Covid-19 and 69% of consumers wish to see it once they return to in-person eating. If finished proper, it may additionally improve the shopper expertise by offering a quieter, extra intimate eating setting. To keep away from dropping income, some eating places, like Monty’s Steakhouse in Los Angeles, have experimented with inserting dividers between tables somewhat than decreasing capability. These can vary from budget-friendly wood or plexiglass panels to fashionable glass partitions, and, in many circumstances, they are often put in with out eradicating a single desk.
Restaurants may swap from multi-use bodily menus to touch-free digital ones, which greater than 40% of Americans need in their post-pandemic restaurant expertise. Contactless ordering is easy and cheap to implement — all it takes is a free QR code generator and a sticker on the desk — and it creates a extra seamless expertise for purchasers. Additionally, digital ordering techniques assist eating places increase check sizes by cross-selling objects, unencumber waitstaff for different duties, and allow loyalty packages that incentivize repeat prospects. QR codes have lengthy been standard in Asia, and throughout the pandemic, even upscale New York eating places like Jean Georges and Daniel started utilizing them.
Moreover, eating places ought to be certain that prospects are conscious of the investments they’re making to create a safer, cleaner area. For instance, if workers has been vaccinated, a new air flow system has been put in or the variety of tables has been lowered for social distancing, eating places can let customers know with a signal on the door or placards on tables. In a Deloitte survey, 80% of individuals indicated that understanding about a restaurant’s enhanced cleanliness or security measures would encourage them to dine out extra. So the extra seen a restaurant’s security measures are to prospects, the higher.
Finally, eating places ought to proceed investing in alternate options to in-person eating like to-go meal kits, online cooking courses, curbside pickup and supply. Forty percent of individuals say they plan to proceed utilizing takeout and supply after the pandemic, and these companies supply diners who stay anxious about security a option to get pleasure from their favourite eating places. At the identical time, they offer eating places extra touchpoints with prospects, which offers a delicate nudge to go to and increases customer loyalty. For instance, Lettuce Entertain You, a Chicago-based restaurant group, has provided virtual events all through the pandemic that mixed meal kits and cooking courses to maintain prospects engaged.
To reengage prospects with in-person eating, eating places want to mix security, worth and expertise in a manner that displays prospects’ considerations in the post-pandemic world. These priorities have regularly appeared in competitors with each other over the previous yr. However, there are a variety of cheap modifications that restaurateurs could make that can concurrently assist prospects really feel protected, enhance eating places’ worth proposition and supply a higher expertise for diners. Restaurants that efficiently give attention to the fundamentals will see increased buyer satisfaction and higher buyer loyalty.