Restaurant Toolkit

How to have a successful (not stressful) restaurant reopening

Is your restaurant reopening for dine-in? Here's how to make the process as smooth as possible.

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What to know about restaurant reopening

“We’re open for dine-in” is music to you and your customers ears. However, getting back to normal restaurant operations while running delivery can feel overwhelming.

In this article, we’ll provide you with resources and information to ensure your reopening is more celebratory than it is chaotic.

COVID-19 hit the restaurant industry harder than any other industry

Sick of hearing about COVID-19? We get it. Still, restaurants got hit harder than any other industry, and the climb back to pre-pandemic life is real. In fact, the industry ended 2020 $240 billion below the National Restaurant Associations’ yearly forecast.

In the wake of closures, we saw restaurateurs look at different ways to keep the lights on, including curbside pick-up, in-house, and 3rd party delivery.

From fine dining to fast-casual restaurants to coffee and snack sectors - some 40% of operators added delivery tech solutions to their business within the last two years. Now restaurants are still struggling with building and maintaining a labor force as solid as their pre-coronavirus employment levels.

How did the pandemic impact your restaurant’s customers?

Despite COVID-19, the pent-up demand for restaurants remains strong. While ordering takeout has become the norm, customers are indicating that they crave in-restaurant dining experiences as well:

  • Nearly 8/10 adult customers said their favorite restaurants delivered flavor/taste sensations that could not be replicated at home, and 6/10 said restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyles. 
  • Customers logged 28% more orders with an 18% larger average order size in December of last year compared with a year earlier
  • Before March of 2020, Millennials & Gen Z were using delivery apps frequently while other generations reported to prefer dining in person or picking up the phone to place a takeout order every once in a while. Now, 53% of adults say purchasing takeout or delivery food is “essential to the way they live,” and 68% of customers say they are more likely to purchase takeout or delivery food than they were before the pandemic

Restaurants around the world are reopening, recovering, and changing

The world has taken another stride back to normality as restaurants begin to reopen.

Despite the global pandemic, the recovery has been anything but uniform. In the United States, almost all cities have lifted restrictions on businesses as the vaccination campaign progresses. Last month, Europe began the process of reopening, with countries like France, Spain, and the UK finally loosening restrictions.

Other regions like Asia and Latin America are slower to follow as they emerge from a second wave of COVID-19. Nevertheless, there seems to be one single trend across the world in the face of disparity: businesses are finally coming back.

Similar to customers, restaurants are not the same after emerging from a year of lockdown.

In their need to adapt to “the new normal,” they’ve been forced to rethink their layout, service, and operations.

Even as dine-in returns, delivery doesn’t seem to be slowing down, with a majority (68%) of customers reporting that they are more likely to purchase takeout or delivery food than they were before the pandemic, and 53% of people saying that takeout and delivery is “essential to the way they live.” Customers now see food delivery as a different occasion than going out to eat. Encouraging? Absolutely. Overwhelming? Potentially.

Balancing restaurant reopening and online ordering

Let’s take it step by step. You receive an order from a non-integrated channel like a phone call.

All you have to do is go to your Otter tablet and tap the “+” icon to load the manual orders screen. From there, you’d be able to select the order channel, add the customer’s contact details, pick between delivery or pickup and create your order.

Besides being able to manage everything from the same place, you can also see data about these manual orders on the Reports tab within Otter. That way you can compare channels, identify which channels are performing best and which need some optimization.

Grow your revenue with new sales channels like phone and Whatsapp orders without compromising your operations

Restaurants rapidly evolved their business models to cater to the demand for delivery during the pandemic with 80% of restaurant executives reporting that the integration of digital platforms was their top priority during COVID-19.

In order to increase reach & revenue while dine-in restrictions were in place, around half of restaurants added new delivery options to their tech stack. And that investment paid off – over the course of 2020, 70% of restaurants saw an increase in revenue from off-premise orders.

While your customers were ordering delivery more frequently during the pandemic, they were also longing for the ability to dine-in with 67% of customers saying they missed eating in restaurants throughout 2020. As restaurants reopen, we can expect to see this pent up demand for dine-in experiences to turn into diners in your restaurant.

But we all know it only takes 30 days to form a habit, and customers were forced into the habit of ordering delivery rather than dining in for almost a year. While we know that the majority of people have been anxiously waiting to head into their favorite restaurants, 82% of them will continue ordering delivery or takeout.

This will, fortunately, likely result in a benefit to your restaurant’s bottom line. But if you were busy with majority on-premise pre-pandemic, then busy with majority delivery during the pandemic, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be really busy managing a booming dine-in and delivery business. Optimizing your restaurant operations for decreased stress and increased efficiency will be critical in a post-pandemic world. 

Let your customers know that you’re reopening

Utilizing your social media channels to inform customers about hours and restrictions will help drive foot traffic. Remember, even if a customer is your biggest fan, there’s a good chance that they haven’t been to your restaurant in over a year. Utilizing channels like Google My Business, Instagram, Facebook, and Yelp is an effective way to invite your customers back in to celebrate reopening.

Automate what you can

We’ve talked to plenty of our Otter partners who mention that they lost their employees during the pandemic, and they’re struggling to get back to their ideal number of team members. This is when restaurant technology can be of benefit. Investing in a delivery optimization solution like Otter in addition to a smart POS system, inventory management tool, order handoff solution, and marketing automation can help you do more with fewer staff members. 

Innovate if your order volume warrants it

If you reopen and find that there is just no way you can make your kitchen space work for your in-person and online order volume, consider expanding your kitchen space with a ghost kitchen

Manage customer expectations during this transition

We know that you’re just as excited to welcome back your customers as they are to slide into one of your booths.

However, neither you or your customers have seen each other face to face in a while. Continue communicating your safety standards, regulations, and expectations to customers while finding ways to remind them that you’re still working out the reopening kinks.

If you’re looking for a simple & thoughtful way to communicate that you’re trying your best to get back to pre-pandemic operations, we have something for you at the end of this article.

Restaurant reopening: What to expect next

All in all, we know restaurants like yours have been through the ringer. When you’re simply trying to stay above water, it’s difficult to look ahead and make a game plan for the future.

However, these challenges can easily turn into opportunities for restaurants that adapt to post-pandemic customer behaviors faster than their competitors.

If you’re ready to increase efficiency and optimize your business, we’re here to help. Click here to request a demo of our delivery management and optimization solution today!

The team at Otter is so excited to dine-in at your restaurant again. We’ve created some COVID-safety reopening signs you can download, print and display to celebrate reopening with your restaurant.
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