All at once restaurant owners were forced to shut down in-store operations, adapt to all-digital ordering, and now … the mandate to deliver flawless safety, clarity, and certainty to confused and anxious guests.
Yes, we are—rather unfortunately—still in the middle of a global pandemic. It’s clear this will be a marathon, not a sprint. People all over—your potential guests—are craving predictability, comfort, and stability like never before. And your restaurant can deliver it!
But first recognize that you need to re-establish brand trust, even with your most loyal guests, during and after COVID. Guests want to re-engage with your food and brand, but only if they can TRUST the process. And the process has changed dramatically.
Brand trust must be re-earned in the COVID world. Just because a guest was loyal last year or month, does not mean they’ll be loyal today. Their loyalty can evaporate the minute they see one of your workers without a mask, gloves, or not safely distancing. Brand trust is at a premium. And guests will pay for it.
3 Ways to Re-build Brand Trust For Your Restaurant Post-COVID
1.) CERTAINTY >> Create Road Maps with Protocols for Food Pickup.
From the moment an off-prem order is placed to the minute it lands in your guest’s hands, new rules of the road need to be developed. You need to take the guesswork out of the "food handoff" process by providing clear guidelines that re-train your guests on how/where to get their food.
Guests want simple “road maps” to follow to make them feel more comfortable and safe, like this one from sweetgreen. Things to consider when creating your map:
- Clearly document the new “food handoff” processes, train your staff accordingly, then over-communicate it to the guest. Guests want to know what to do the minute they arrive at your location to collect their food.
- Place signage outside and inside your store, including in the parking lot, or at individual parking stalls. Provide instructions on best places to park.
- Add arrows and ground markings to direct guests on foot flow to follow from outside to inside where the pickup and waiting areas are located.
- Place 6-foot spaced ground markings in queues and waiting areas.
- Convert a cashier to a runner or “concierge” to assist with the food handoff process and to manage potential crowded areas.
- Clearly mark entrance and exit doors (galley doors). Consider repurposing the lobby if needed for a waiting or pick-up area.
- Designate specific areas for delivery pickups. Some brands are using the Drive-Thru for on-lot pickups; that needs to be clearly messaged or else confusion persists.
2.) CLARITY >> Deliver Clear, Concise & Frequent Communications.
The strong convergence of the physical store with the digital ordering world has created more complications for restauranteurs AND guests. Clear messaging and communications are paramount to avoid confusion, heightened anxiety, and botched orders.
- Use both SMS messaging and email to communicate receipt of order and where to go to pick-up the food.
- If using curb-side pickup, further articulate the process and be sure to collect the make, model of their car. If you’re promoting curb-side, you must provide curb-side! Many brands are marketing curb-side, only for guests to arrive and need to enter the store.
- Provide large, visible order numbers on the outside of bags/boxes for in-store pickup customers. Consider re-using table tents and larger print chits.
- Conduct a survey. Directly ask guests how their pick-up experience was and what you could do to make them feel more comfortable.
- Clearly communicate (via your website and email/SMS) which stores are open, closed, soon to re-open and the hours for all.
- Create special incentives and promotions to bring guests back. Get creative with meal naming and marketing. The more buttoned up your communications and processes; the more guests will trust you and give you their business.
3.) SAFETY >> Go Contactless & Be Extra Cautious.
Guests are now super cautious and concerned when it comes to their health safety, contact with germs, and others. Contactless and safe distancing is here for the foreseeable future. Follow all the CDC guidelines and protocols and:
- Equip your teams with face masks and gloves. All your employees should be wearing approved masks and gloves and following safe distancing guidelines. If not, guests may not return and brand reputation will be impacted.
- Place centrally located hand sanitizer stations at entry and exit points.
- Implement 6-foot distancing for guests and set up indoor/outdoor waiting areas to avoid congregating around counters. Consider repurposing lobby areas or portion of the dining room for pickup and waiting stations.
- Use contactless payment systems. Avoid touching credit cards and receipts handling (most people don’t even want a receipt). If cash is used, pass it back and forth using a tray. McDonald’s has been using long poles at their drive-thru to pass monies back and forth.
- Install plastic shields as a buffer between staff and guests at checkout. Consider sneeze guards for employees.
- Put away all in-store dispensing units. Self-service is temporarily dead! That means no freestyle napkins and paper goods, no condiment dispensers; everything goes in the bag/box. Use trays at drive thru to hand over food items.
- Happy Employees = Happy Customers. Not only must your guests feel safe, but your employees need to trust that their co-workers and teams are following the guidelines. Equip your teams to thrive in this new environment. Reward them well and make them feel valued for enduring with you through this time.
People are already confused and disoriented with what’s going on in the world. Give them some certainty, predictability, stability and confidence in one small part of their day when they make the big leap to come to your restaurant.
Guests ARE looking to re-engage and they want that one moment of comfort your food experience can provide. Now is the time to flawlessly deliver it. You got this!