This is a contributed article from Eliza Fisher, a senior content marketing specialist at ChowNow.
For restaurants, trust has always been a key component of customer loyalty. It cements relationships and makes guests eager to patronize your business again and again. In fact, it is so critical that 84 percent of consumers won’t even engage with a business until they feel that trust has been established.
Fostering trust in the era of COVID-19 can be a complex project. The usual ways of building confidence through consistency—for example, by continually offering excellent food and great service—aren’t enough anymore. Right now, trust is all about safety.
Your restaurant should emphasize your desire to keep your guests and staff safe. This involves transparency about the precautions that you’re taking, as well as offering guests dining options that make them feel comfortable. Your customers will appreciate the effort and recommend your restaurant to nearby friends.
Here are three effective ways to demonstrate the transparency and care that your customers need.
1. Use social media to share your safety policies and establish professionalism.
You’re adhering to all Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-recommended procedures and running a tight ship. But do your guests know about that, or is it all behind the scenes?
Customers are eager to learn about restaurants’ safety policies and procedures. In fact, wearing personal protective equipment and practicing social distancing are the top two ways to make guests feel more comfortable at your restaurant.
It’s essential to communicate about the specific ways that you’re ensuring both their safety and that of your staff. Sharing this information will reassure longtime regulars and make your restaurant more appealing to new customers.
It’s helpful to include safety information on your website, but make sure to share your updates on social media, too. More and more people have turned to social media during the pandemic, and it’s a natural place to quickly communicate with your audience. After all, 82 percent of consumers say that social media is the primary way they get information from brands.
Post the safety precautions you’re taking on all of the online profiles your restaurant has, including your Nextdoor Business Page.
Here are some topics to consider discussing:
- Cleaning procedures, like how you’re disinfecting your space.
- Whether everyone on-staff and on-site is wearing protective gear, such as masks and gloves.
- Additional health precautions, like taking the temperatures of everyone coming into your restaurant.
- How you’re training both your front-of-house and back-of-house staff.
- How you’re maintaining social distancing, such as marking spots for patrons waiting in line or setting up a partition in front of your counter. If you’re open for dine-in, this could also include rearranging tables, limiting capacity, or using a reservation system.
- What you need your customers to do in order to keep themselves and your staff safe, such as wearing a mask, only dining with members of their own household, and so on.
Posting frequently is a great way to stay top-of-mind, but take care to not overwhelm your audience. Don’t be afraid to mix in some humor or emotion—while safety is a matter of professionalism and reliability, you’re still human! Photos and videos will help, as they provide compelling visual proof, and help to establish an emotional connection with your audience.
2. Offer local delivery and curbside pickup to safely attract more customers.
Delivery and takeout have skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic because they are safer ways for guests to enjoy their favorite restaurants. Prior to the pandemic, for example, 69 percent of consumers regularly ordered delivery. Now, that number has exploded to 88 percent.
If you’re open for dine-in, make sure to keep delivery and curbside pickup on the table, so you can have options for every type of customer. While many guests are eager to dine at your restaurant again, some just aren’t ready yet. In fact, 53 percent of adults report that takeout and delivery are essential to the way they live right now. These guests may not feel safe entering your restaurant to pick up food, especially if others are eating nearby. Delivery and curbside pickup make it simple for everyone to enjoy your food. Just as you do with your safety procedures, use social media to spread the word about your takeout and delivery programs.
Even when the pandemic ends, these takeout preferences won’t be going anywhere. More than half of customers say that they’ll continue using curbside pickup after restaurants fully reopen.
Bonus tip: If you don’t offer curbside or delivery, it’s never too late to start. Many online ordering providers, including ChowNow, make it easy to operationalize curbside. And, if you don’t have your own delivery drivers, know that there are options aside from the big-name delivery apps. Choose a commission-free takeout and delivery business that offers your restaurant control of your brand and the flexibility to split delivery rates with your guests.
3. Adopt contactless ordering and payments to create a safer environment.
With 53 percent of American consumers downloading more apps to reduce contact with on-site staff, take an extra step to foster trust among your customers by adopting technology that reduces risks. Industry leaders like the National Restaurant Association recommend digital menus and contactless dine-in technology. With a contactless dine-in model, your customers can view your menu, place an order, and pay using their own devices.
Contactless dine-in technology also maximizes efficiency. It gives your diners the option to place their orders as soon as they’ve decided what to eat and allows them to leave as soon as they’re done dining.
Since contactless ordering is a newer service, it may take a little extra work to make everything run smoothly. You’ll need to educate your staff on how the system works, and make sure that they can assist customers. When everything is in place, you should announce your new online ordering option to your customers via your website, social media, and email.
Once your guests arrive at your restaurant, make the contact-free dining process streamlined by creating posters that guide them through the steps of navigating to your online ordering and placing a dine-in order.
While you can write the link to your website on these posters, it’ll also be helpful to create a QR code to let guests instantly access your online ordering. If you’re not working with an online ordering system that provides QR codes to access your menu, you can make your own with a website like QR Code Monkey.
Bonus tip: If you have a branded ordering app, you can also make ordering easy for guests while setting yourself up for extra opportunities to build loyalty down the road. When customers have your app on their phones, it effectively acts as free advertising and helps you collect powerful data to inform your marketing efforts.
No matter how you set up contactless ordering, it’ll help your guests feel more comfortable.
If your restaurant follows these three suggestions, you’ll bolster the trust that you’ve already spent years cultivating. It takes consistent effort, but you’ll go far by demonstrating transparency and pivoting to meet new needs. However you proceed, know that your guests care about your restaurant and its people, and that they can’t wait to dine safely with you soon.
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