While restaurants typically see an increase in business over the summer, patio season has been the key to survival for many restaurants worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2020 saw restaurateurs globally responding to new restrictions and guidelines during unprecedented times. With outdoor dining being widely recognized as safer than sitting inside, business owners were transforming parking spaces to pedestrian walkways into seating to accommodate their customers. Expanding your outdoor space was a way to keep serving, but as we head into the second patio season during COVID-19, restaurateurs need to get their entire restaurant ready.
From updating your menus to adjusting your floor plan, we’ve got the tips you need to prepare for patio season.
- Create a cleaning schedule
- Update your menu with seasonal offerings
- Prepare for warm weather deliveries
- Adjust your floor plan
- Hire and train your seasonal staff
- Enhance your online presence
Get your restaurant ready for the future of dining
With 2020 behind us, restaurateurs need to look to the future, stay ahead of trends and adopt the digital strategies that kept retailers selling through last year’s unprecedented challenges. Find out how to help your business thrive in the new era of hospitality with our guide.
1. Create a cleaning schedule
It goes without saying that cleanliness is paramount at any restaurant, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more crucial. The standard of your establishment’s cleanliness can either bring in more customers or have them leaving immediately, so projecting a clean image to your guests is absolutely critical to your success.
Start putting together a cleaning schedule to ensure everything a customer comes into contact with is being sanitized between visits. For example, instead of wiping down your menus during the down time, expect your employees to be sanitizing these after each use. While this may be more time consuming than your pre-pandemic cleaning routine, making your customers feel safe while dining with you can increase loyalty. Account for this extra time when you are taking reservations and seating your guests.
You should deep clean your entire restaurant, from your kitchen to your service area, regularly. While some issues, like an unpolished wine glass, might be forgiven with a prompt apology and a quick replacement, some areas will have guests not giving your restaurant a second chance. Your bathroom is a reflection of how much care and consideration you give your guests and over 80% won’t return if yours is dirty. Ensure your cleaning schedule includes frequent bathroom checks and sanitization, and if you want to step it up, consider revamping your washrooms before patio season is in full swing.
If your restaurant isn’t up to standard for cleanliness, there’s a good chance your food reviews are also going to suffer. Certain online ordering platforms like Yelp now give consumers the ability to rate a restaurant’s cleanliness and low scores get flagged with a poor food safety score. In fact, a poor food safety score reduces a customer’s likelihood of visiting by 21%.
2. Update your menu with seasonal offerings
Adding a few seasonal menu items to your menu can help drive sales and increase customer loyalty in the process.
Sustainability has become more and more important to all diners, but people aged 25-40 are leading the change. 73% of millennials say they’re willing to spend more on environmentally friendly or sustainable ingredients. Since food produced out of season is typically imported or takes more energy to grow, seasonal produce and ingredients are a great way to reduce your restaurant’s carbon footprint and show today’s customers that you’re listening.
Not only are seasonal items better for your restaurant’s sustainability mission, they also add excitement around your menu. Get creative with new items that’ll help customers beat the heat. Do you want to start offering ice cream but don’t have the right tools? Consider partnering with a local dessert shop. Through a shared discount code for customers, this partnership is beneficial to both businesses since they aren’t in direct competition.
3. Prepare for warm weather deliveries
It’s important to keep in mind that some customers will prefer to dine at home. This is where a smart takeout and delivery strategy is imperative to keeping customers loyal to your business during this time.
Delivering in the winter has its own challenges, mainly keeping food warm, summer deliveries face the opposite issue. The last thing you—or your customers—want is your orders overcooking in a hot car while they’re en route to your customer’s doorstep.
When delivering items like salads, you need to make sure your packaging can accommodate ice or other cooling methods without making the contents soggy. To do that, you’ll want to invest in the right type of packaging and limit your delivery radius so your meals arrive at your customers’ homes the same way they would at a table in your restaurant. It’s important to adapt your menu so you can be confident that your customers will be satisfied outside of your restaurant.
Looking to streamline this process so your orders get to where they’re going faster? Lightspeed Delivery syncs with major apps like UberEats, Skip The Dishes and DoorDash so orders are sent directly to your POS.
4. Adjust your floor plan
When customers are visiting your restaurant patio or dining room, comfort and safety are key. While distancing guidelines and restrictions vary per region, there are some general adjustments you can make to your floor plan—inside and out.
Start with circulation. Spacing out your tables is a great start, but you’ll need to look at the paths your customers could take to the washroom, exit, entrance and how many people could potentially be at your restaurant at one time. You want to develop a flow that limits the amount of contact between guests seated at different tables. For example, if your restaurant has two doors, you could assign one for the entrance and the opposite for an exit.
You’ll also need to identify how employees move through your space. Identify what space your employees need to do their jobs and ensure a separation between them and your guests. Maximizing your space will involve some trial and error, but consulting with your employees to understand their day-to-day movements is a great place to start.
5. Hire and train your seasonal staff
Whether you’re adding a few tables on the sidewalk or opening a full patio, chances are you’ll need some extra help during this busy season.
Not only will you have to find, hire and train your new employees, but savvy restaurant owners will also take it one step further and actively connect with and motivate them as well. As Forbes points out, it can be hard for employees to give it their all when they know that they’re gone at the end of the season. Give them a shout out when they do a good job to boost their morale and assure that they’re emotionally invested in their work.
The restaurant industry is notorious for incredibly high employee turnover, with a 73% turnover rate. When the average cost of finding and hiring a new employee is $4,000, that means a lot of resources are lost due to employee turnover. You can cut costs and training hours by investing in a POS system that’s user-friendly. With an intuitive system, your employees will know how to use your restaurant POS faster and be up and running with all the answers at their fingertips.
6. Enhance your online presence
Marketing is absolutely critical any time of the year. A strong online presence can help with brand recognition and attract new customers.
eCommerce has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have for restaurants. Think about the last restaurant you visited. Did you look up their website? You’re not the only one. 77% of diners do the same and, of that group, nearly 70% can be discouraged from visiting an establishment because of its website. Capture that audience by ensuring your website is easy to navigate, sharing your menu and take it one step further by enabling reservations online.
In the food industry, looks matter. Visual representation of what your customers can expect is important. When browsing for a spot to eat online, 45% of people say they specifically look for photos of a restaurant’s food. But don’t worry if you don’t have the budget to hire a photographer—follow these simple tips and you can start filling your online feed.
While a strong online presence is important, think outside of the box and get creative with some other branding elements like eye-catching flyers and employee merchandise. These physical branded items will strengthen your brand identity and help tell your story.
Prepare your patio for a busy season
Make the most of the summer season by getting your restaurant—from the patio to the kitchen—ready for both your new and loyal customers.
If last season taught us anything, your patio and outdoor seating is going to be a major draw, but it’s important to look at all aspects of your business. Creating a cleaning schedule, perfecting your delivery and takeout offering and putting your restaurant online are all things you can check off your list now before the high-season starts.
Looking to take your restaurant to the next level? Talk to one of our experts today.