When we are finally allowed to reopen our restaurants, bars, cafes, and ice cream parlors, we have to adapt more and more to the changed habits and wishes of our patrons. However, we should also be aware of our guests adjusted awareness and expectations. Thus we need to focus on what kind of expectations do guests have of hospitality nowadays and how has it changed?
The purpose of this post is to help you understand your hospitality customers better, address their fears and concerns more and adjust to the “New Normal” going forward. This is the only way to regain the trust of the patrons and to bring guests back into the restaurants.
The pandemic has played havoc with peoples perceptions. People are have developed new habits and preferences, some have developed new sense of space and personal distancing. Thus, they do not feel comfortable in an environment with many others and / or have increased hygiene requirements for themselves and everyone else. The media coverage and misinformation through social media has further hurt the industry in this context. Many times making going to a restaurant for indoor dining a nerve wrecking exercise. It is all the more important to show guests that they are SAFE with you.
Most of you have probably already adapted to the new situation and the new expectations of the guests. Offer delivery or pick-up to the guests is now a common standard. Increased hygiene and posted cleaning processes are also becoming more common. However, there still room for improvement.
1. Stay contactless using technology
The pandemic has made customers more aware and accepting of technology. This allows restaurateurs the freedom and opportunity to completely rethink how technology can be used to engage with customers. Normally, personal contact, individual advice and human interaction in the restaurant between service and guests are particularly important. For many restaurateurs it is the soul of the restaurant business. But in COVID-19 times everything is different. The less personal contact there is, the better. In particular,
- in restaurant contactless ordering (via an app or XcooBee service in the restaurant – preferably using customers’ own devices)
- paying at the table with the help of appropriate technologies
- ordering online
- making reservations
- managing wait-lists
These technical elements have become a priority for guests. This is in contrast to speed and good service prior to Covid. Thus, this has changed fundamentally!
2. Safety and hygiene are paramount
If you fail as a restaurateur in these areas, the guests will not come back (or not come at all if they can already see in advance that the restaurant cannot guarantee this sufficiently). This was true before Covid, but even more so today during Covid. The expecatations will stay after Covid as well.
However, actively managing staff health status cannot be underestimated either. One of the worst no-gos is when guests find seemingly sick staff. Even if it’s just a simple cold, people may react very negatively. Many guests will also not visit (or return) to a restaurant if the staff is sloppy about wearing a mask (when mask requirements are in effect).
Thus, cleanliness is becoming even more important post Covid. A neat atmosphere, clean bathrooms and an immaculate dining room have always been important to guests, however, this aspect moves even higher when it comes to guest expectations in the future.
Also communication about your practices is important. Do not forget to highlight this in your communication (newsletters, social media) and review your practices regularly.
3. Further strengthen your pickup and delivery options
Even if the majority of the guests are happy to finally be able to sit in a restaurant again and meet up with friends, there will be an increasing percentage of people who only feel really safe in their home environment.
It is precisely for this target group that you should be well prepared and adapt to the changed wishes. These needs can be met with a to-go sales window, delivery service or pickup options for guests. The industry expectation is that delivery business is here to stay and an important target group for many restaurants. However, the high cost extracted by 3rd party delivery services may prompt some local restaurants to create group delivery alternatives to ensure that margins are not suffering.
Even when COVID-19 gradually moves to the rearview mirror over the next year, it will take a long time for guest behavior to return to normal. There is much speculation that it may never be the same again. So it is all the more important to always stay vigilant as restauranteur and closely monitor guest expectations. This is the only wat to adapt quickly with programs that guest accept. As with many areas, the most adaptable businesses will have a higher chance of survival and success.