After a very long wait, England is set for the return of customers to restaurants and pubs on April 12th. Granted, things won't be quite the same as before due to the outside-only rule and limits of six people per table, but most F&B businesses are just itching for the big day.
Customers have been longing to get back to their favourite establishments, but with so much time at home, have their demands changed? We look at what to expect from excited customers and how to give them what they want.
This is probably the one big new consideration for returning customers. After a year of digesting all the health guidance issued by the authorities, customers are seeking clear evidence they'll be safe in your establishment. You have probably already invested heavily in your own safety architecture, and taken the practical steps necessary to provide what's required. However, customers want to see that you take a proactive approach to safety, so go the extra mile to show them how seriously you take the issue.
A cheery safety briefing on arrival, pointing out the one way systems and house rules will instil confidence; prominent and well maintained hand sanitising stations will show that you mean business.
Sure, it is a much used word and one which often has no real meaning. But in a hospitality sense your customers want to know that you too have used any downtime to make your business even better. It is a fine balance between giving people what they're used to and showing that you're always looking to improve. “Progress” means different things to different people, and of course you don't want to alienate any one particular segment of your customer-base by going too far in the opposite direction.
The trick is to research what the market is doing, and mentally apply those changes to your business before going the whole way. Likewise, breaking down your customer-base into two or three demographic segments will help visualise what you're planning. Think about what those groups want and why they will enjoy your hospitality. Food and drink menus, space, lighting, furnishings, service models, and technology all come into play here. Get it wrong and your eager customers may end up at a competing establishment.
In an era when peoples' social behaviours have been forced to change dramatically, technology is the new norm and even the most traditional leisure experience must now feature at least the very basics. You can be absolutely sure that even the most techno-phobic customers, having spent a year on WhatsApp and Zoom, will be fully attuned to what is an acceptable level of in-restaurant technology.
It absolutely goes without saying that a great Wi-Fi network is essential, especially when your guests are going to be outside. Poor Wi-Fi is as unacceptable these days as dirty glasses or undercooked food. Once your Wi-Fi is robust, you can add other technology comforts now expected by guests, like order and pay at table functionality or the ability to work from a comfy corner without losing connectivity. More than ever, customers expect to book a reservation (or take-away) online via your own beautiful website. Make sure you have both, if you want to capture as much trade as possible.
You do have a beautiful website, don't you?
“We're known for our customer service”. We've all heard this before, right? Every type of business will say this. But isn't that a given? Can you imagine a business which says in its marketing “we offer okay customer service” and gets away with it? Of course not. F&B businesses have to practice what they preach and that means making the customer experience memorable for the right reasons, meaning giving fantastic customer service. It is what people remember that brings them back time after time, and will make them ambassadors of your business.
The good news here is twofold: 1. you're already in hospitality and therefore very hospitable people; 2. making your service even better doesn't take much and can even be fun.
Before you re-open, grab paper and pen and map out your customer journey, from booking to leaving. Where are the opportunities to add in some nice, memorable touches? Do this exercise with your staff (it will make a great re-bonding exercise in its own right) and you'll be amazed at how many things you can implement which are at no cost to you but priceless to the customer.
Remember the 80/20 rule – 80% of what you do is the same as your competitors but the remaining 20% is where you really make your customer service, and your business, “pop”.
Think about that pent-up demand which we mentioned earlier. With much time on their hands to think about post-lock-down activities and a yearning for new experiences fuelled by glossy magazines and TV travel/food/drink shows, customers want to swim in local authenticity (especially as foreign holidays look to be off the table this year).
What do we mean by authenticity? In short, it is about living up to your brand's values and giving people 100% of what they expect. Here's a good exercise: pretend for a few moments that you are a visiting tourist and get into their shoes, from walking through the door to going through the whole order/table/eating/paying/leaving experience. Did you honestly experience what you'd like them to experience?
If yours is a family-oriented traditional establishment and that's how you portray it, did it genuinely live up to expectations? If not, you need to either remove the blaring hip-hop music and the huge satellite TV screen and replace them with a roaring log fire and a piano, or change your brand values to that of a dynamic, vibrant and fun pub/restaurant.
Okay, that was a light hearted example but you catch our drift – you can't be something you're not and authenticity is everything.
A honest appraisal now will secure your future customers
The reopening of restaurants is hugely exciting and at last we will be able to get back to plying the trade we love. However, customers will be super choosy about where they decide to spend their leisure time after April 11th and competition will be fierce. Spend a little time right now to take an honest look at he above areas, and you'll be ready for what will be a triumphant return to sustained and growing business in 2021.
favouritetable is the leading technology provider for food an drink businesses in the UK. For over a decade, favouritetable has provided world-class and easy-to-use systems to enable restaurants, pubs, bars and other businesses to maximise their revenue.
Favouritetable provides reservation software, pre-booking modules, take-away backed by a full manager portal and a host of restaurant-centric features. We're passionate about restaurants, which is why we have developed the best value full-function restaurant software on the market.
Call us today on 033 0124 4785 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be delighted to demonstrate what you will achieve with the right technology.