The pandemic has affected the restaurant industry massively forcing many restauranteurs who previously focused on dine in alone to adapt and diversify through offering services such as takeaways, meal kits and delivery. While the end of restrictions is in sight and restaurants begin to open their doors again, more changes lie ahead for the industry. The restaurant environment we once knew will look and feel different to what it was before – and some of the changes may not be so temporary either.
Although demand is set to increase once restrictions are relaxed, restaurateurs will still have a challenge on their hands to thrive and recover post-covid. Overall year on year restaurant sales between 2019 and 2020 dropped by a staggering 54% in the UK and while recent research suggests some recovery in 2021 as the industry grows by 32% in 2021, this will only reach 58% of the value it was in 2019.
While data from CGA says that 59% of consumers can’t wait to go out again, there will still a large proportion that are cautious and, consumers will only want to go out again if they are confident that the places they visit are safe and hygienic. Therefore, not only will restaurants need to strike a balance between implementing the right hygiene measures, but we may also see further changes through the increased use of technology and changes to restaurant layouts.
So, in order to thrive, what will the restaurant of the future look like in the immediate future and the distant future too? What changes will restauranteurs need to make in order to reassure customers and in order to survive?
Table of Contents
Looking Forward – What will Restaurants Look Like?
Continue to See Safety Measures in Place for Some Time
In another survey by workforce management specialist Bizimply, 90% of restauranteurs and operators said that measures such as social distancing, wearing face coverings while not seated and provision of hand gel at entrance points will continue to be a trading requirement for the long term. Hand sanitiser should be supplied at other points too including at exit points, on tables, and in back of house areas. In essence, hygiene measures won’t just need to be prioritised now but in the long-term future too.
This is where restaurateurs may want to think about long-term hygiene solutions that can withstand the test of time. While hand sanitiser bottles may be okay on tables, hand sanitiser dispenser stands that are robust at entrance points will be seen more frequently – helping to show consumers and staff that hygiene is taken seriously. In addition to this, if we expect to see face coverings worn long term by staff and customers too, it’s likely we will start seeing more permanent solutions for the safe disposal of PPE to ensure 100% safety at all times.
Another solution that you may want to consider is air purification. Air fresheners have long been used in the industry, but air purification systems can help to clean the air and remove bacteria and viruses to ensure the air people are breathing is safe.
Hygiene will be important from a consumer point of view but it’s high up there in ensuring staff feel confident in returning to the workplace too. With many employees in the industry out of work for some time, making sure business owners actively invest in increased hygiene and PPE will be vital to success. Some of your best employees will be the ones who will lack confidence and ensuring you not only implement the measures and communicate the steps you are taking to create a safe workplace will be important too.
Gone Are the Days of Shared Condiments and Condiment Trolleys
It was common to share condiment bottles and have cutlery trolleys that all customers shared and used but with the pandemic; we have seen a shift in restaurants giving out individual packets of ketchup and mayo while cutlery has even been wrapped in some cases. It’s likely that we will see this for a while especially as customers may not want to dip hands in and out of baskets holding sugar sticks and milk for example.
Maintaining the Social Element of Dining Out
One of the main reasons cited for people wanting to return to dining out again is the social aspect. People miss being around friends and family and catching up over a meal and a drink. With that being said, the new normal and restrictions around social distancing may stop people from being able to socialise in the same way. When bigger groups are allowed to gather, some may exercise more caution at first and therefore, restauranteurs will have to think about how this can be achieved in a way. Think reserved areas or private dining areas and even the continuation of meal kits delivered to people’s doors. While people may not want to dine out in big groups instantly, they may feel more confident about doing this in their own home.
New Restaurant Layouts?
Even without social distancing, we will a change in restaurant design and layouts. Delivery and takeaway services are likely to stay even as demand for dining in increases. This may cause restaurant owners to examine the current design of their restaurant. In future, we are likely to see increased separate defined areas for different purposes from takeaway pick up areas to defined exit and entrance points too. McKinsey say the flow of traffic will need to be considered though so investing in technology to give accurate order updates to stop customers gathering round the collection points may be worthwhile.
Update Your Communications
Implementing new safety and hygiene measures is one thing but if you aren’t telling customers and staff about it, any measures are going to have less effect. Expect to see more signs in future restaurants that display the steps that are being taken to achieve the highest standards. From visible cleaning schedules and routines in washrooms to posters at entrance and exit points – increasing communication is going to be vital to success both long term and short term.
A Rise in Technology
2020 has forced many hospitality businesses to quickly adopt new technologies in order to survive and stay open for business. Adoption of technologies was happening in pre-covid times but the pandemic has increased the use it massively. From QR codes to online menus to app development, expect to see an increased use of technology for good – both front and back of house. In fact, not only will technology help operations, but it will also help bring customers back too. It’s been reported that nearly two thirds of consumers say they would be more confident in visiting a restaurant if contact with staff and menus is restricted through the use of apps and QR codes.
As demand will fluctuate massively in the short term, using technology that restauranteurs already have to generate insights will be key. Online booking systems to analyse demand and accurately forecast will be crucial to success.
Will we also see technology help with other areas of business? With hygiene and cleanliness being of crucial importance, we may expect to see cleaning routines being managed through apps and technology while key training on cleaning done online.
Allowing people to make accounts with apps and remembering what was ordered last time and making recommendations will improve the customer experience too while apps can provide a bigger range of digital images that you may not see on cardboard menus.
With the need for socialisation being a key priority for many of us as lockdown restrictions relax, on table entertainment such as games could be something we see more of.
Encouraging Repeat Visits
Reviewing loyalty programmes is going to be key in ensuring repeat visits. Not only will offering a great customer experience will be vital but introducing gamification techniques into your strategy can encourage customers to walk through your door time and time again. While a standard loyalty programme can help, introducing gamification into the mix can help to increase loyalty even more.
Gamification is all about turning an everyday activity into a game by rewarding customers for participating or visiting your restaurant. The higher participation the more rewards the customer gets. Examples of gamification include being rewarded for number of visits or number of points depending on how much a customer spends. Another technique is to reward points when a customer completes a certain challenge such as dining during off-peak hours or on a certain day. It’s an easy way to increase demand on days and times that you might be struggling. Rewards and points can be tracked online or through an app and you may also want to incorporate social media into the mix – rewarding people for engaging on different channels or entering competitions. The opportunities are endless.
Regular Menu Updates
To not fall behind the competition, making sure your menu is up to date is going to be vital to success. With tastes and preferences changing, restaurants who will thrive will update their menu offering more often but do it well will succeed in the long run.
In the immediate future as businesses adapt to the ‘new normal,’ expect to see restaurants focusing on firm favourite menu items before expanding the offering out. Due to the stresses of the pandemic, it’s likely that consumers will seek out comfort food that will make them feel good so make sure you are incorporating this into your menu.
Balance between Hygiene and the Environment
Throughout the pandemic, there’s been a fine balance between hygiene and the environment. Despite the pandemic, consumers are still increasingly eco-conscious and therefore, it’s likely that we will see more restaurants operating sustainably in future. From initiatives to reduce food waste to investing in green solutions that save energy to sourcing local produce, going green will be the way forward for a lot of businesses.
Shift Towards Touch-free
From touchless hand dryers to flushes to sensor-operated self-serve drinks and touch-free payment, we are going to see a rise in the touch-free economy. Reducing the need for touch can not only reduce infection transmission – something that will be important in consumers’ minds but increasing efficiencies through provision of touch-free alternatives can help businesses save costs.
A Summary of the Key Ingredients
Soon enough, consumers are going to be heading back out to their favourite restaurants and it’s likely to look different than before as business owners find new innovative ways to adapt to the new normal and thrive.
High hygiene will be the expectation now. The use of technology both front of house and back of house is only set to increase while restauranteurs will employ creative methods to encourage loyalty.
Creating a Safe and Hygienic Restaurant Environment
The importance of hygiene won’t stop when the pandemic ends. It’ll continue as we move towards the restaurant of the future. To ensure you are serving up the highest standards, why not download our free guide to restaurant hygiene success?
Alternatively, contact Citron Hygiene to book a free restaurant hygiene review and let us help you take your restaurant hygiene from good to great.