What restaurant owners should know heading into reopening phases

By Philipp Sitter of VIPinsiders

(8,511 Customers Have Been Surveyed: This is what they want from restaurants reopening)

As a fifth-generation restaurateur and founder of VIP Insiders, I decided to seek a greater understanding of the future of the hospitality industry post-pandemic. In these uncertain times, I was certain that it is crucial to gain some grasp on what the average person wants and expects in this changed world.

VIP Insiders, our technology company that builds mobile loyalty and rewards platforms for restaurants across the nation, conducted a study in April to understand the effects of Covid-19 on the restaurant industry. The survey was to help gauge how customers feel about reopening dining rooms and/or ordering from restaurants during the pandemic. Questions ranged from “What type of PPE do you want restaurants to use after reopening?” to “When do you feel your normal dining routine will go back to normal?” The shown results can now serve as guidelines for how restaurants will adjust to Covid-19 and how it will affect their bottom line.

In just 24 hours, more than 8,500 diners took the poll. Participants ranged from restaurant customers and our colleagues to members of foodie groups and social media sites. We’ve seen the news and have heard what politicians, doctors and our local leaders want, but we need to know what the people who are actually paying the bills want. Restaurants survive on customers, and understanding what customers expect is pivotal in today’s economy.

Only 14.5% of surveyors said they were immediately ready to have their dining routine back to normal, while 16.7% said they wouldn’t be ready until the end of the year. In better news, 86% of customers said their habits will return to normal in 90 days or less, proving the predictions that have been circulating of consumers now returning to normal behavior until 2022 is far-fetched. However, 50% of consumers noted they are highly likely to continue to use curbside service even as dining rooms reopen. Restaurants that did not offer takeout dining before Covid-19 may need to continue to make this part of their daily operations now.

One of the most surprising results is how customers respond to marketing. They are no longer turned on to catchy emails and social media posts; instead, text messaging is the new preference. What started with celebrities giving out their “phone number” to fans has now transitioned into brands texting their customers offers directly. Luckily, text messages have a 98% open rate.

When it comes to sanitizing and the “new normal”, restaurants need to take seriously their adjusted approach. Only 14% of customers do not want anything disposable. It looks like the new normal will include plastic silverware, single use condiments and disposable plates, cups and menus. PPE is also going to be expected for the foreseeable future. A staggering 61.9% of survey-takers want restaurants to use both gloves and masks when working.

The results of this survey will hopefully serve as some good news for hospitality workers. Consumers do not want to stay cooped up forever, and long for the dining out experience again. As the world continues to adjust, we must adapt with it in order to prosper. I for one look forward to being in a crowded restaurant again, enjoying good food and good company.