Businesses across the globe are fighting to stay afloat during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutdowns. Owners are doing their best to adapt to government restrictions and find creative ways to reach their customers. In Australia, though we’ve fared better than many other countries, we are still impacted by local restrictions and the push to stop the spread. For those in the hospitality industry, there is a good chance you are wondering how to best manage the changing requirements and keep your business as profitable as possible while also keeping everyone as safe as possible.
Given that all places that serve food need a COVID-19 Safety Plan to operate, it’s a good framework for breaking things down. The four key segments in the Safety Plan checklist consist of the wellbeing of your staff and customers, physical (or social) distancing, hygiene and cleaning, and record keeping. While each one of these categories need to be addressed, the one that can cause the most amount of change and headache for restaurant managers is meeting the social distancing requirements.
Social distancing rules in Australia
As COVID-19 is primarily transmitted from person to person, it is important to space everyone apart as much as is practical. In Australia, the general guideline is to maintain 1.5 metres distance between individuals. To find the latest advice for your state and territory, please visit your local government website.
Social distancing guidelines for restaurants and pubs
Restaurants and pubs generally have extra social distancing requirements on top of the standard 1.5 metre rule. At the time of writing this, in a room or indoor space this also includes calculating 4 square metres of space per person and having a limit of 10 people per table.
During other periods of the pandemic, public health directives have been to only have 10 customers in a space at one time or, in some circumstances, not have any dine-in customers and only allow take-away orders.
COVID-19 is an ever-changing situation, and it is important to be flexible and adapt to restrictions so you can continue to work within the limitations and support your business.
Restaurants are doing something similar by bringing the experience to their customers with meal delivery kits. It is a gourmet and elevated experience to the trending home meal kits (such as Marley Spoon, which nearly doubled its Australian customer base in the June quarter2). By pre-packaging food in the perfect portions and providing simple directions, people can get their food freshly made – just as if they were at the restaurant. Some places, like Mr Wong, even go so far as providing their own playlist to recreate the ambiance. 3 Other restaurants are embracing the social distance guidelines by installing domes or pods around each customer. A restaurant in Thailand added cartoon dragons to block seats and another added mannequin to the empty tables.4
Another way to encourage social distancing is by incorporating touchless technology.
A recent study by Mastercard covering 19 countries found more than three quarters of people are now using contactless payments.5
82% of those questioned claimed for them contactless was the ‘cleaner way to pay’ and three quarters claimed they’ll continue to use the option once the pandemic is over.5
With a desire to now reduce queueing times and unnecessary human contact, speed is seen as an additional benefit, enabling customers to get in and out of stores faster and limit interaction.
Many restaurants are discouraging cash payments or might even reject them entirely to minimise the contact with staff. Some locations are also implementing online ordering by creating their own menu app so customers can order straight from their table.
Adopting food delivery
As customers are unable to go to restaurants or do not feel comfortable doing so, many are turning to food delivery options for meals from their favourite locations. This is a massive opportunity for restaurants and pubs to stay accessible and adapt to the changing demands as food delivery was up 351% by the end of August 2020.6 If you are looking to take your menu online, it is probably best to offer a limited one. This will make it more practical for your staff to handle and will ensure your customers are satisfied with your food. When deciding what from your menu you should offer, a couple questions to ask yourself include:
If you are looking to take your menu online, it is probably best to offer a limited one. This will make it more practical for your staff to handle and will ensure your customers are satisfied with your food. When deciding what from your menu you should offer, a couple questions to ask yourself include:
• What are your most popular dishes? Offer your most popular dishes that new and existing customers will be keen to try.
• Will the food travel well? Keep in mind the extra time to deliver from your kitchen to their table. Will the food get too cold, soggy or melt?
• What dishes have the highest margins? Food delivery can take a cut of the cost, so make sure that the food you are delivering still makes a profit.