Due to COVID-19, businesses across all industries were forced to either limit operations or close temporarily. For the restaurant industry, it’s been one of the greatest challenges to date. As the states lift their stay-at-home orders many Americans long to return to a semblance of normal life – however when it comes to dining out published reports indicate that 80% of consumers are still anxious about the safety of visiting their favourite eateries.

Being proactive is the best way a restaurant can defend itself against an unforgiving opponent like COVID-19. There are many practical steps you can take to adapt your operations and get through it intact. Here are a few examples:

  1. Set-Up Online & Mobile Ordering: If you do not have your POS system set up to take online orders, now is the time. The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated online ordering from a desirable convenience to an absolute must. Customers appreciate the minimal contact that online ordering offers as it allows them to safely order and purchase their desired meal. Even older generations are discovering what millennials have known for years — it is very easy and convenient to order your dinner online.

    Similarly, since reducing human interactions is likely to be a long-term side effect of COVID-19, waving down a server for another drink or side order is hardly a tradition that diners will want to continue. As a result, restaurants should consider investing in technology that allows patrons who want to dining in to place orders from their phone and have them delivered to their table.

  2. Offer a Delivery Service: Due to social distancing, consumers across the global are turning to food delivery because dine-in is either off-limits or has reduced capacity. Delivery provides customers with the option of purchasing food without the need or risk of leaving their home. So, if you own a restaurant and you don’t already have a food delivery solution established, now is a prime opportunity to get it set up. Even if your restaurant has never had a booming takeout and/or delivery business, new regulations to support social distancing have made it easier to do so. You do not need a special license; your current license is still in effect.

    You could either consider offering free delivery through your restaurant. This would allow you to utilize staff that might otherwise be furloughed. Or, you could also engage with a third-party provider such as GrubHub, UberEATS and DoorDash. Cost has always been a challenge when working with third-parties but with on the on-set of COVID-19, many third-party delivery providers are offering promotions to mitigate restaurants’ financial burden during this difficult time, which can make setting up a new service a more feasible option for you right now.

  3. Offer Takeout and Curbside Pick-Up: Takeout or curbside pickup is another great option to get food to your customers – with minimal server interaction. Customers can place their orders online or over the phone, and when they arrive you can either bring the food directly to the customer’s car. A centralized pickup zone or allocated nearby parking spots could be designated for takeout food and curbside pickup orders to further reduce social interactions. For payment, restaurateurs should offer the option to pay over the phone; or should customers want to pay in-person, consider offering mobile payments. Both payment methods will help minimize physical contact during contact and trips back and forth to the restaurant.

  4. Offer Contactless Payment Options: With customers aiming to touch as few surfaces as possible when dining, customers generally agree that contactless payment is safer for personal health than using cash or swiping their cards. An American Express survey, conducted in May, found that 58% of diners who used touchless payment before COVID-19 are more likely to use it now.

    As consumers look for ways to minimize physical contact restaurants should look to offer contactless payment options. You can either accept electronic payment using a third-party delivery service app or by accepting electronic payment on your website through a credit card gateway, PayPal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay. Whichever method, all eliminate the exchange of the card between consumer and employee as well as the need for the consumer to touch the card reader.

  5. Stay Connected, Utilise Your Database: Like the old proverb says “if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.” If you have developed some sort of database with frequent customer information such as phone numbers or email addresses, these can be used to either send details on promotions and special offers. Similarly, you can offer gift cards and discount vouchers that can be redeemed later. While people may not come out to your restaurant, they still must eat, so promoting to your databases can help maximise revenue opportunities.

The New Normal
To run a restaurant, any kind of restaurant, is a constant struggle to keep aloft. With COVID-19, safety precautions are the new normal and will continue long after the disease is gone. In order to survive the pandemic, adjusting operations and diversifying revenue streams will not only help you survive in the short term, but will help you thrive in the long term.