April 30, 2021
It’s no surprise that COVID-19 continues to disrupt brands and businesses across all sectors, but the hospitality industry has been particularly battered by the new realities brought upon by the pandemic. With cities all over the United States re-opening travel, restaurants and bars, operators are now faced with huge challenges in hiring back staff from pre-COVID times, and dealing with the pressure of meeting expectations from eager visitors with ever changing restrictions. While COVID is long from over, customers still remain wary of dining indoors and interacting unnecessarily with staff. An uncertain outlook regarding the future rob operators of sleep as they seek guidance on how to proceed, and tools to help them re-open under unique circumstances.
The landscape is ever-changing, but a few key insights have emerged that can serve as beacons to hospitality brands as they navigate the re-opening phase.
Safety & Health Protocols Should Still Be Your Top Priority
Customers’ primary concerns about returning to restaurants, hotels, and venues center on health and hygiene. According to a survey carried out by The Coca-Cola Company, over 80% of customers are either very or somewhat concerned about returning to restaurants. However, clear demonstration of respect for (and enforcement of) safety protocols allays these fears, with 50% of patrons listing that as a primary factor when deciding to return to a restaurant.
There are several ways to mitigate risk while restoring customer confidence and reinforcing your brand — a win-win all around. From the more visible steps, such as requiring the use of face masks by both staff and patrons, enforcing social distancing measures, and eliminating high-contact surfaces, to the implementation of contact tracing methods, smart staffing with creation of employee “pods,” or consistent training on relevant protocols, the impact is immediate.
Lean Into Adaptability
Now is the time to leverage tools that will help small teams stay efficient, and offer a great service. It’s imperative that hospitality operators find ways to innovate and work smarter without losing sight of their long-term vision. So far, that’s looked like new menus or offerings: Pick Up, QR menus, expanded room service for pick up, partnerships with other brands, and more. Creative strategic thinking helps business owners both connect with new customers and reinforce loyalty with their existing base.
Flexibility is key, but preparation is even more important. A contingency plan that anticipates different situations — an employee testing positive, changes in the supply chain, or updates to local legislation — is an absolute must. In addition, a comprehensive re-opening playbook that complements this plan will provide a strong framework and set a strong example for your team.
Let Digital Tech & Software Do the Heavy Lifting
We’ve discussed it before: It’s never been easier, or more important, to double down on digital. The array of technology available runs the gamut from online staffing tools, digital menus or event tickets, virtual waitlists, and contactless payment with QR codes. Nearly all of these options can be customized to meet your most pressing needs, opening up new spaces to drive revenue at all levels. What’s more, the data gleaned from these tools is truly invaluable. By outsourcing orders and payment to the guest with mobile ordering, you allow your lean team to focus on value adding activities, save time, and stay efficient.
A study carried out by MRM and Reach3 Insights found that 1 in 4 consumers indicated the introduction of technology would make them more likely to visit a venue. Another 38 percent said it would not make a difference to them, but would elevate the brand or restaurant’s reputation. Technology plays an essential role, without a doubt, but must be accompanied by other tactics such as universal mask usage and enforcement of social distancing.
Boost customer confidence by providing a seamless, enhanced experience. Kontactless is a complete, end-to-end mobile ordering and payment solution for bars, hotels, stadiums/arenas, and restaurants. With no app to download or extra hardware needed, it’s supremely simple to get up and running in a few days. In a time of uncertainty, one thing is crystal clear: contactless tech is the hospitality industry’s greatest ally.