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Reassuring Diners in Times of Uncertainty


May 6, 2020

Foodservice is a rapidly changing industry, a truth made even more evident by the onset of COVID-19. Operators are adapting to social distancing regulations by pivoting to delivery and carryout, and customers are taking advantage of these off-premise services. While 52% feel that getting food from a restaurant is very safe, it’s essential for operators to reassure patrons who feel more hesitant.

Restaurants are high-traffic locations, and while normally this is good for business, it can be a concern for patrons. Nearly 40% are worried about touching areas and objects that others have touched, including door handles, countertops, napkin dispensers and cash. Operators should look to shift to a touch-free environment as best they can, eliminating as many contact points as possible. One way to do this is through contactless payment. Encourage mobile ordering or conduct credit card transactions over the phone to avoid handling cards or cash on-premise. Paying ahead of time also expedites the carryout process and reduces the amount of time patrons spend at the venue.

With the increased emphasis on social distancing, diners are understandably concerned about being in close proximity with one another. Offering curbside service provides a convenient solution for customers who paid before picking up their meals. With staff members taking orders directly to patrons in their cars, customers can avoid entering the establishment altogether.

For consumers who do choose to enter the venue, however, operators should limit how many can come in at one time. This can be facilitated by setting up a line with markers or other signage to indicate maintaining a distance of six feet. If possible, prop the door open so the line can extend outside, making it easier for customers to spread out in an orderly fashion.

While great taste is universally what consumers care about when selecting a restaurant, not surprisingly, cleanliness has now emerged as the biggest influence on their decision on where to order, according to Datassential. When choosing a restaurant, 45% of consumers factor “clean” and “sanitary” into their considerations, compared to the 36% who still predominantly regard the culinary appeal. With that in mind, consumers need to see everything from frequent cleaning of high-touch areas and employees in safety apparel to making sure food is covered for protection. More than 70% believe it’s absolutely required for staff to regularly and visibly wipe down tables, kiosks and other things people touch, and 57% want more food covers, sneeze guards and enclosed cold cases.

In a situation where new details are constantly emerging, operators need to be extra cautious. Patrons often look to food as a source of comfort, and now more than ever they seek relief. Customers will remember how companies have adapted to this challenging time, providing an opportunity for restaurants to boost their brand perception. It’s crucial to monitor this situation closely, and the key is to be responsive. For additional information, operators should check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What steps has your operation taken to reassure diners during this time? Let us know on Facebook or LinkedIn. For more operational insights, visit our Resource Center.

SOURCES

Coronavirus Traffic Brief, Datassential, April 2020.

Coronavirus Report 2: Fear & Response , Datassential, March 2020.

Coronavirus Report 3: Into the Home, Datassential, March 19 2020.

Coronavirus Report 7: Pent-Up Demand, Datassential, April 2020.