In these unprecedented times, when rules, restrictions, and expert recommendations seem to change by the minute, It’s easy to get to the point of throwing up your hands and retreating into an empty corner of your restaurant with a good bottle of wine. Understandable, but not exactly helpful.
Initial recommendations for keeping restaurants open involved ways to help people feel safe and comfortable enjoying a meal in your dining room, but that advice is quickly becoming outdated as government crowd guidelines spiral downward from 500 to 250 to 50 to 10.
Now dining rooms are being closed altogether in a trend that will undoubtedly spread. It’s obviously a difficult set of circumstances to navigate, but as the coronavirus crisis continues to play out, there is a place for restaurants whose dining rooms are dark to continue to serve a quarantined public that’s quickly tiring of sitting at home and cooking for itself.
Here are just a few suggestions to get you started:
As dining rooms have been shuttered, takeout and delivery have become the only options for restaurants to get their product out to a hungry public.
As you make the switch to a takeout-based service model, be sure to think through your procedures to ensure a sanitary process that’s as touchless as possible. If people will be coming into your establishment, make sure all surfaces are clean and sanitized, bathrooms are well stocked with soap, and hand sanitizer is available (and conspicuously used by all employees).
Of course, there are now multiple services to aid in the delivery process, with big names like Uber Eats and Grubhub doing things like waiving or suspending commission payments and delivery fees in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Delivery can also be a good way to keep your employees working, but again, you’ll want to think through your delivery process.
The goal in food delivery should be “contactless” delivery. When food is ordered, be sure to get instructions as to where food should be left outside the home so that direct social interaction can be minimized or eliminated. Any surfaces with which delivery personnel may come into contact should be routinely cleaned and sanitized. This includes door handles, steering wheels, gear shifts, etc. Gloves should be worn and changed each time before the delivery container is handled.
Do everything you can to limit or remove the need for exchanging money or credit cards by providing for online payment.
Many services are available to make this possible, and several companies are offering free or reduced cost assistance in automating transactions and bringing menus and ordering capabilities online for those who aren’t already set up to do so.
OneDine, in particular, is providing their touchless solution to all restaurants for free to help restaurants weather reduced revenues during the gathering and entering restrictions resulting from the pandemic..
OneDine’s technology eliminates the need for hand-held menus and the passing of credit cards, receipt holders, pens, etc. by turning your parking lot into a touch free takeout zone. All setup and transaction fees will be waived and free sensors will be provided at no cost for Scan & Order and Scan & Pay activity to support restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis. All tech is free of charge, and restaurants can be onboarded, at no cost, in as little as 72 hours.
Rethink your menu offerings and think out of the box as to ways you can serve a homebound clientele. Offer pre-packaged meal kits and then offer video cooking lessons on your website. Have you offered live entertainment in the past? Those musicians are suffering too. Consider offering video performances that customers can live stream or watch on your website with virtual tip jars and links to the artist’s website or their Spotify presence.
Be creative! The more unique experiences or offerings you provide, the more likely that people will choose you when it comes time to order out.
Look around your community. We’re all in the same boat, and each of us needs to consider what we can do to be part of the solution instead of retreating into our own world.
Schools are closed, and that means that there are children from low-income (or now no-income) families who aren’t getting the daily school breakfasts and lunches that they’ve come to rely on. As a restaurant, you’re uniquely positioned to help. Consider offering simple, nutritious meals to children who need it, or donate a percentage of each order’s proceeds to local food banks or other community resources.
As this crisis continues, businesses who take the time and effort to make a difference and to help those in need will not only make the world a better place. They’ll also be remembered and patronized by a grateful public.