The COVID-19 Impact: What’s Happening to Restaurants?

Since its emergence, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the restaurant industry. Some have adapted well and have continued to thrive, some are in lockdown, and some are making changes in the way they cater to customers in order to remain operational. But despite the range of efforts restaurants are making, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption for the food service industry on a global scale.

We’ll be highlighting some of the different challenges restaurants are facing and what the road to recovery would look like.

Building Trust With Customers

With uncertainty hovering over everyone’s minds, most people are looking for information they can trust. This becomes clearer when it comes to the accessibility and availability of food options. When the government announced a nation-wide lockdown, take out and delivery increased by 285% at the start of March. Helping people navigate this new normal with informative and relevant information can make all the difference. Many restaurants are taking initiative by sending out newsletters and offering discounts on their takeout and delivery options.

Actively communicating any changes to your restaurant to customers is crucial for building trust.

Communicating the precautions and measures your restaurant is taking is vital to building and sustaining trust. At a time when people are trying to navigate this new way of life, providing them with information and updates is a great way to help customers decide what’s right for them.

Shifting Delivery & Dine-In Experiences

As people begin to eat out again, many question the steps a restaurant has taken to ensure the health and safety of its customers. Since the start of the global crisis, restaurants depended solely on delivery and takeout to sustain their business. Nearly half of all Americans were willing to opt for take-out as long as there was a zero contact way to pick up orders. 

Today, that means that restaurants need to transform their dine-in experience into safe, low touch zones, and maintain distance between customers by enforcing social distancing measures. We can expect to see increased spaces between tables, eliminated host stand waiting areas, limited capacity, and new layouts. Many restaurants who had previously avoided to incorporate technologies into their front of house experience will have to revisit the systems to instill virtual reservations to improve their service. 

Restaurants taking such initiatives not only show their positive social responsibility but also show a clear understanding of their customers’ concerns. 

Safety First

More than ever, customers are concerned about the safety of their food. Google search reported a 650% increase in people questioning the safety of food delivery in the US alone. Reassuring customers that you are instilling all required health and safety measures is key. Sharing updates on new safety implementations such as cleaning procedures or employee hygiene helps build the transparency many customers are seeking. 

The last thing people want to worry about is their meal options and by alleviating these concerns with relevant communication and safety measures, restaurants can provide comfort that customers will remember and appreciate.

Slow Return Period

If restaurants do manage to survive until opening, they would still face a drastically-altered customer base. Opening the doors to dining in again doesn’t mean that customers would be so willing to return. The majority of the general public continues to remain hesitant to go outside for activities other than the essentials. 

Depending on where your restaurant is located, you may also be dealing with new regulations. 

“You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves, maybe a face mask, dinner where the menu is disposable, where half of the tables in that restaurant no longer appear.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom, reported by CBSN Bay Area.

Whether your restaurant is in California, New York, or anywhere else, you need to consider every possibility.

Decreased Income & More Competition

We can already see the huge effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on the economy. We also know that it’s not going to bounce back overnight. When businesses start going back to normal, there’s going to be a significant change in disposable income for the general population with unemployment levels skyrocketing. With less money to go around, restaurants are going to face aggressive competition as they struggle to attract customers.

Brand Rebuilding

The last challenge we’re going to be talking about is the overall brand of your restaurant. To be able to survive the recovery phase, restaurants will need to rebuild their brand and reclaim their share of their previous customer base. Restaurants are going to have to tap into customer loyalty in order to succeed and survive. Whether that means specialized offers, vouchers, gift cards, or even a token of appreciation, loyalty can keep customers dining at your restaurant on a regular basis – providing you with the revenue you need to ensure your business remains open.