COVID-19 has changed everything, including how restaurants operate and the way customers use them. The restaurant industry has experienced catastrophic losses and profound changes resulting from the pandemic. Nevertheless, its businesses continue to evolve in order to thrive again. As restaurants start to reopen here in Florida and in other states, and prepare for dine-in service, they’re noting that while consumers are exhibiting a pent-up desire to return to restaurants, they’re also sending a message that they expect a different kind of experience — one that demonstrates commitment to safety, embraces technology, and practices social distancing and hospitality. When the pandemic hit, states issued shelter-in-place mandates and restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms, operating takeout and delivery services only.
The National Restaurant Association research found that the industry lost more than $80 billion during the first two months of the pandemic
- 92% of restaurant traffic moved to off-premises foodservice
- Drive-thru made up the largest service category
- Order-ahead for pickup followed at 23%
- Delivery made up 21% of sales
- To-go registered at 18%.
- Online ordering and delivery increased 7%.
Brands that were able to come up with innovative ways to create and keep revenue flowing will be the ones who will succeed in spite of the many challenges they face.
As the states have lifted their stay-at-home orders, more Americans say they long to return to a semblance of normal life, and dining in a restaurant is part of that picture. To keep customers and employees safe, restaurants have adopted cleaning guidelines from assorted sources including the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Reopening Guidelines, the Food & Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, creating ways to incorporate them into everyday operations. American Cleaning Services was one of the first commercial cleaning company in the country to adopt all those guidelines, train its staff and provide new products and services to hotels, restaurants, casinos and venues.
However, published reports indicate that 80% of consumers are still anxious about the safety of dining out. For example, consumers say they would rather place their orders through a mobile device or at a kiosk instead of speaking to a cashier or server. In addition, when it comes to payment, they generally agree that contactless payment is safer for personal health than using cash or swiping their cards. An American Express survey, conducted in May, found that 58% of diners who used touchless payment before COVID-19 are more likely to use it now.
To meet these consumer needs, operators have ramped up the technology available at their restaurants but have also increased their communication around cleaned facilities and protocols.
Despite the anxiety, most surveys say that consumers would continue to dine out, still wanting to celebrate the special occasions in their lives. They will still want their basic expectations met — delicious selections, hot food served hot and cold food cold. The biggest and most critical expectation, however, is personal safety. Diners will choose their dining destinations more thoughtfully, with safety determining where they go, and operators know it. Consumers expect their safety needs to be visible, and that restaurants should ask patrons who don’t practice social distancing to leave.
What do restaurateurs think? They believe that current COVID-19 safety precautions are the new normal and could continue long after the disease is gone.
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