Whilst many are looking in the rearview mirror at pandemic with relief there’re some who are, instead, looking keenly to the future, trying to discern what a post-pandemic world of restaurant service looks like.
The wants and needs of customers evolve over time, and restaurants evolve to meet them and keep their customers satisfied and loyal. The unique situation of the pandemic, and the preventative measures which came with it, have thrust a wide variety of changes upon restaurants. Many of these changes will fade into the past along with the memories of 2020, however there are four, pandemic based changes which customers are going to continue to appreciate, and even demand, in the post-pandemic era.
Quality Outdoor Seating
Once the first lockdown had ended the availability of outdoor seating was enough to bring patrons streaming back to a location. But, as the seasons changed and more and more locations reconfigured their spaces, finding the best outdoor restaurant space became a fixation of many customers.
Now customers no longer want to just be outside, they want to be comfortable outside. Whilst furniture is a major part of comfort, the quality of an outdoor space isn’t solely judged by the comfort of the furniture. In the summer customers want the option of shade and, vice versa, during the colder months heaters are their main desire.
Providing heat in the winter and shade in the summer not only makes an outdoor space more appealing by anticipating the customer’s needs, but it is also a smart business move. Guests who are more comfortable are likely to spend more money, and they’re also likely to stay longer into the afternoon or evening with the protection from the elements provided to them.
Taking the attention to craft a comfortable outdoor space could mean that a certain location becomes someone’s new favorite “spot”. Allowing a restaurant to create new regulars by being the one who best accommodates their needs and wants.
Spacious Dining Rooms
Restaurant margins are thin, and the preventative measures of capacity limits and distanced tables put in place during the pandemic put a heavy dent in those margins. Thankfully, some saw their revenue sustained by new and innovative outdoor spaces, others by a rise of takeout and delivery orders, and others by the more innovative means of ghost kitchens. As many states return to allowing restaurants to operate at 100% capacity there’re some who are wondering if packing their restaurant full of tables again is best for business.
There are a few questions for restaurant owners and managers to consider when discussing a return to 100% capacity: will the kitchen be able to handle the increase in orders alongside the new takeout business? Does the return of these seats, along with the extra ones now located in an outdoor space, strain either the service staff or the kitchen? Here we’re talking about not being able to keep up with orders, and the result of this is a lower standard and speed of service.
The final argument for not returning every table to a location is: do customers want to be packed in together again? Over the past year guests have become accustomed to having much more space around them when dining in a restaurant, resulting in the feeling of a more personalized experience; much like that which fine dining creates by spacing out their tables.
Some are happy, and even want, to return to packed spaces, i.e. “the old norm”. The “new norm”, however, will have many guests preferring restaurants which provide them with the spacious dining rooms they’ve become accustomed too and those guests many vote with the wallets, preferring to frequent the locations which provide them with a more spacious area in which to dine.
Digital menus are one of a number of new methods of ordering which customers have become accustomed to at most restaurants and we discuss all of these options here. Digital menus are one of those options and they do have great benefits for the customer, but most of their benefits actually run in favor of the house.
Customers who choose digital menus may do so for several reasons, the two most popular being that they are conscious of sanitation or that they see a benefit for the environment by using a digital menu over its physical counterpart. Providing customers with digital menus also gives them access to the menu throughout their meal, allowing them to peruse it at their leisure when, say, they’re thirty or thinking of dessert.
The benefits of digital menus for restaurants run alongside the benefits which customers get from them. The first benefit is that it is an in-your-face, visual aid for their customers that displays the restaurant’s commitment to reducing their environmental impact. The second benefit is that they are often cheaper in the long run and editable at a moment’s notice. Finally, supplying guests with access to a digitized version of your menu means that they always have access to your menu, increasing the possibility of spontaneous wants being followed through quickly with orders, thus increasing sales and saving crucial time for service staff.
Heightened Sanitation Standards
The pandemic brought about more rigorous cleaning standards for restaurants, and many chose to highlight these during the pandemic as a way to display to their customers that they’re taking their safety seriously. These measures that were put in place for the safety of customers and staff in restaurants are now being relaxed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that cleaning standards should return to their old level.
Regressing on things such as standards of cleanliness can send the wrong message to patrons for whom high standards of sanitation have now become a must. The pandemic has made many guests more conscious of the cleaning which goes on around them in a restaurant, and if it isn’t as visible a practice as has become the norm during the pandemic there’re many that will question if it’s happening at all.
Continuing with heightened standards of cleanliness is not just good hygienic practice, it can now help you keep customers who feel safer and more cared for in your location, and may also lead to positive reviews as a restaurant is compared with others who have let standards slip to old levels.
In its wake the pandemic has left some new and, under any other circumstances, unexpected needs and wants from customers. Even though the pandemic might soon be behind us the effect that it has on customer’s needs and wants will be long lasting, and restaurants can expect to have to accommodate what would before have been strange requests through the months and maybe even years to come.
Restaurants are a customer service orientated industry and a successful restaurant will do more than accommodate their customers wants and needs. Successful restaurants will, instead, anticipate and react to those needs and wants before the customer even knows what they need or want.