- By David “Rev” Ciancio, a hospitality marketing consultant, customer evangelist, food / tech influencer and keynote speaker.
Now that it’s officially, official as Governor Murphy Announces Statewide Stay at Home Order, mandating that restaurants (who already haven’t) “ operate by delivery and takeout only,” questions come up on what restaurants can and should be doing to stay operational and serve their community.
First and foremost, restaurant operators and employees should be following very strict safety guidelines for cleanliness, sanitation, food handling and social distancing. The National Restaurant Association has an exhaustive information center as well as as a very specific fact sheet in both English and Spanish with information specific to the restaurant industry. It doesn’t mention food handling gloves, but now is the time to double down on their use. Of the very few complaints and fears I’ve seen surfaced since this all began about restaurants, almost everyone of them mentions a lack of gloves being used by employees.
Now that you have instituted the routines and mechanisms around this temporary “new normal” of pick–up and delivery, it’s time to think about how to make it better, safer and especially how it will affect your community and your business. Here are some tips, best practices and suggestions on how you can be more effective, keep safety in mind and serve your neighbors.
- INCLUDE REHEATING INSTRUCTIONS WITH DELIVERIES
To decrease human contact and delivery costs, your customers may be ordering more than what feeds them for one meal. Leftovers are the name of the game and with that, it helps your customers to help them to know how to serve that food a 2nd time or later.
- DON’T SKIMP ON BOXES AND BAGS
Make sure that all deliveries and pickup orders are sealed as tightly as possible with as much layers as it makes sense to pack them in. Not only do you want the food to travel well, but safely. “There is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food,” according to the CDC.” (LA TIMES)
It’s been recommended that consumers immediately discard all delivery packaging before entering their home, then washing their hands before transferring food to their own dishware. This should be followed by another hand washing and then using their own utensils. Keeping this in mind, restaurants need to make sure there are ample bags and boxes for delivery.
- INCLUDE THANK YOU NOTES
Hungry consumers ordering from your restaurant right now are keeping your business alive. Let them know how much you appreciate it by sending your gratitude. A quick note from the owner, GM, Chef or other staff will go a long way to make people feel good and know you care.
- INCLUDE BUSINESS OWNER’S CARD
Add your business card to the order with a direct line of contact to the person calling the shots or an individual who has the responsibility of customer safety at this time. If something goes wrong, and hopefully you are taking the precautions so it won’t, you will want to know right away so you can act quickly if needed. This will also add a feel of safety and concern that represents the nature of your general hospitality as a business.
- INCLUDE THE NAME OF THE PERSON HANDLING THE ORDER
Not only does this give a nice personal touch but it also adds traceability and responsibility. Your employees will keep in mind that they are serving a person and your customers will feel a connection knowing who the person was that helped to feed them.
- HOLD DELIVERY PERSONNEL ACCOUNTABLE
Make sure you are tracking all orders by who delivered it and when. If a contamination happens it will be important to know who, how, where and when. That way it will be easier for you to know who needs to be immediately contacted.
- SELL GIFT CARDS
Gift cards are great because they mean operational cash in your pocket now with delayed redemption later. Consumers can buy them for themselves, loved ones, friends, co-workers, employees, eldery people who should remain out of contact with others, young people being supported by parents…literally everyone. We all eat and will soon return to dining at restaurants.
As an example, check out ItsOnMe – a gift card solution that works for restaurants of all sizes, can be set up typically in less than 48 hours and allows peer-to-peer gifting. If you want to see it in action, check out the gift card tab on the website for The Farm & The Fisherman Tavern in Cherry Hill or Montclair Farms in Montclair.
Right now they are waving their annual licensing fee and deferring second year annual fee until you reach $3000 in gift card sales. Learn more in a webinar I recently hosted.
- ADD YOUR RESTAURANT TO THE “PROJECT QUARANTINE” LIST
Bikky, a CRM + customer engagement platform for restaurants and FoodToEat, a woman-owned corporate catering concierge service have teamed up to create “Project Quarantine.” If your restaurant is offering first-party delivery through your website or a white label solution that brings orders right to you, add your restaurant to Project Quarantine. It’s a first-party restaurant delivery aggregator where consumers can search for restaurants near them and order without the need of paying third-party delivery services like Seamless, DoorDash and Uber Eats. All the money goes to you.
- ADD YOUR RESTAURANT TO HELP MAIN STREET!
If you are offering gift cards, submit your restaurant to Help Main Street! Powered by all-in-one Restaurant ordering suite Lunchbox and Eniac Ventures, a seed-stage investment firm, its an aggregator for restaurants selling gift cards. Consumers can search by name or location for a restaurant offering gift cards for sale.
- START PLANNING AHEAD
This will soon end but things will not go back to the way they were. Society is going through a seismic transformation and expectations will be different. Standards of cleanliness, expectations of customer service practices and personalization are all going to be expected by consumers. Getting by on “good food” and “word-of-mouth” will be 2nd fiddle on customer experience. Start thinking of ways now that you want to operate in the new normal and what you can do now to be ready when the doors fly open.
As you implement each of these, take pictures and share on your various social media channels. All the moves you’re making to ensure safety and increase your customer care makes for great content that gives customers confidence in your business practices.
I’ll be adding a companion blog piece shortly with specific ideas on how you can upgrade your restaurant’s customer experience practices.
Until then, stay safe and make it a great, tasty day.