The public health crisis that is Covid-19 has destabilised how we all used to live.
Many things are still unfolding, and as the restaurant community continues to grapple with the current pandemic, the need to communicate clearly with our customers is critical.
Much of the anxiety that came with such brutal force was a result of not knowing anything about this new silent foe. There is desperation to return things to the way it was, not just for comfort, but for survival.
Your customers need confidence that you are doing all the things to keep your employees, the food, and them safe. Whether in the dining or kitchen, your customers are watching your moves.
Consider these tips on how you can communicate effectively to your customers and reassure them to alleviate any anxieties.
1. Empower your team
It is highly likely that your dining team who deal directly with the customers will be constantly answering queries. Support them by providing them with information from trusted sites to avoid misinformation such as the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization as well as government websites.
Make it easy for them to get their hands on this information. Provide print outs, conduct regular virtual meetings, send SMS links or emails, especially for updates and latest trends. This will help your team confidently provide explanations without being limited to scripts, thus displaying trustworthiness and professionalism.
Train your employees on the proper responses to customers who don’t comply or who challenge face-covering, social distancing, and other protocols. You could ask, what is proper? In this situation, people need calm, factual and non-condescending responses. Remember, this is a sensitive time for everyone. People either are not fully aware or are just genuinely defiant of rules. Let your team know that they will not always be able to change people’s minds successfully. What’s important is that they are armed with correct information, and the other person is left to choose their actions knowing the responsibility and the consequences.
If any conflict escalates, have supervisors and managers provide support.
2. Inform customers of the changes in your operation that directly affect service
Many restaurants are slowly resuming operations as lockdowns are easing up. If you haven’t and are considering doing so, let your customers know the various changes in how you will be able to provide service.
Will you be providing exclusive curbside delivery? Pickups? People must know how to get in touch to order as well as contactless delivery options.
Will you open your dining doors? Let your customers know the hours that you’re open to serve food.
Will you be open to walk-ins or will you exclusively accept reservations only?
When people call in for a reservation, consider that as an excellent opportunity to inform them of any changes to their dining experience, such as procedures for seating, serving, ordering, paying. That way, they will not be aimlessly wandering when they come on their scheduled date. It will limit confusion, and there’s a higher chance of having your safety measures implemented.
That is also the best time to let them know whether or not you strictly require temperature checks, gathering of some personal information and face coverings before seating. Sadly, many people refuse to believe that these safety protocols are in place to protect them. This is the perfect time to express where you and your business stand.
And to put their mind at ease, make use of signages and consider telling your customers how you’re sanitising your restaurant, kitchen and other areas. Be ready for questions regarding some of your behind the door operation procedures such as whether you are taking temperature checks for employees and how you handle situations in case of employees not feeling well. Understand that some of these queries may seem trivial but consider them as opportunities to let people know of your dedication for exemplary and safe service.
3. Mobilise all your communication channels and platforms to connect to your customers
However you choose to continue operation or even if you decide to remain close, spreading the word to customers through effective communication is important. Keep it simple. Short, measured bursts of frequent information are far more effective and will reduce consumer fatigue.
- Social media – Before the actual date of your reopening, create a series of posts leading up to the event. Create excitement with complete regard to safety health protocols—post updates about the changes in your services to ensure your customers’ safety in place. Be active in addressing questions and be mindful that you will have to respond to similar queries, which is why it is best to have your information clear. Continue to do this even after your first few weeks back in business.
- Website – Update your homepage, make sure that your reopening schedule and protocols are front and centre as soon as your website loads. Create a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website where people can easily refer to.
- Newsletter Email – Send out an email to your entire subscribers with all the information they need directly to their inbox.
- Text message/SMS – If this method is part of your existing marketing strategy, use SMS to inform your customers about your reopening plans and service changes. For more information, do include a link to your social media or your website.
Communication is fundamental not only to our everyday living but also to business applications. Operating a food and hospitality business in these times with Covid-19 presents more challenges, more questions from customers and thus, more need for reassurance. With that also comes, more need for clarity, patience, consistency and understanding. At this time, it is safest to follow the guidelines laid out to us by health experts and it is wise to rework your business operations around them to keep your team and customers safe.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,