Four ways you can future proof your restaurant post Covid-19

What will restaurants look like when they open post Covid-19? Will the tables need to be moved further apart? Will there be supermarket style perspex screens between diners? Will waiters wear masks and gloves? There are so many unknowns at the moment and we’re sure many restaurateurs are thinking about these issues as we write this blog; which we hope you’ll find useful as we look to future proof restaurants to help them thrive in this new look world.

What lockdown has given us all in the industry, is time. Time to reflect and review operations as well as the inevitable streamlining of costs. It’s also given restaurants time to build from the bottom up again and to look at ways they can future proof their businesses against a ‘second wave’ of financial and efficiency issues.

Here are 4 ways you can future proof your restaurant business and how KuulEats can help…

1. Marketing

During the financial crash of 2008, many firms cut their marketing as a first round of several phases of cost cutting. A lot of businesses lived – or didn’t – to regret this decision as marketing is the one area businesses need to ramp up during times of hardship. The same seems to be happening during the pandemic, with agencies who work with restaurants having their accounts ‘mothballed’ along with operations.

Some restaurateurs, however, are seeing this as an opportunity to stay in touch with their customer base and are introducing creative, immersive ideas to their messaging and marketing meaning the relationship between customer and establishment is only deepened further.

A bond between a restaurant and a customer is like no other. It’s a personalised and familiar experience, like visiting your favourite cousin’s amazing living room which just happens to include the best head chef around. To build on that bond now for future loyalty is essential.

Restaurant customers are so much more than ‘just data’ but by personalising the online experience and understanding your customers on an even more intimate level, the chances of them visiting and spending more in the future are high. Finding out when their birthday is, offering them incentives to refer, bringing them into masterclasses; the deepening of the bond and the longevity of your relationship will be assured – as long as the kitchen and service keeps delivering. Form is temporary, class is permanent.

Post Covid-19, keep alive the ‘restaurant at your home’ ideas and the feeling a lot of restaurants are using presently; offer recipes, video masterclasses, encourage user generated content to bridge the gap between the ‘bricks and mortar’ and ‘at home’ restaurant experience.

Get to know your customers better. Treat them like extended family. They want to be heard, appreciated, rewarded. They will be your best advocates and even more essential to you post Covid-19.

KuulEats allows restaurants to collect and use customer data intelligently. You can build customer profiles and relationships and upsell to them. Harness the power of data to learn your customer likes and dislikes to provide personalised discounts and offers. But most of all, use the data to deepen your relationship further and drive loyalty using data intelligence via CRM.

2. Multi-skilled staff

Costs will be tighter than ever for restaurants post Covid-19, however, service levels will need to be better than ever. There’s no doubt that staff will need to be multi-skilled on their return to work. Gone will be the days of a waiter ‘just waiting’. It’s going to be hard to calculate what the new restaurant normal will look like, but the opportunity to improve the efficiency and operations – as well as sales – of a restaurant through front line staff will be compelling.

Through the KuulEats Waiter App, table side ordering integrates seamlessly with kitchen ordering allowing staff to keep customers informed in real time. This means the waiter has more of an ‘eye to eye’ informed and attentive relationship with each diner leading to greater engagement and improved customer experience.

Tickets are automatically prioritised to time order taken and grouped by courses to allow all staff to monitor the status of orders in real time. By improving the efficiency and multi-tasking element of your staff, you’ll improve the bottom line, the customer experience and, ultimately, loyalty to your restaurant.

3. Continue with Take Away?

Restaurants may have diversified during the pandemic and opened up a takeaway operation that they hadn’t considered before. How did it run? Did it provide extra revenue when you really needed it? Did it increase the customer base or deepen existing relationships?

People might still be sceptical about dining out initially after lockdown, although we’re sure the desire to do so will be there, so continuing – or starting – to offer a take away solution alongside ‘dine in’ is an attractive proposition for restaurateurs. A lot of restaurants have increased revenue streams during lockdown and kept their operations alive with essential income – so why wouldn’t they continue? Especially when capacity inside restaurants might be reduced, at least in the initial phases post lockdown.

During lockdown KuulEats developed a new takeaway platform on the demand of our restaurant owner clients. This platform works as a full functioning e-commerce solution and is free to set up with no ongoing monthly fees. Restaurants upload their takeaway menu and delivery options with no set up costs and no monthly fees. The platform  is linked to a ticketing system used by the chef and delivery driver. Simple to use for both customers and staff.

Restaurants naturally need to consider how a takeaway operation works alongside ‘dine in’, whether the kitchen has capacity, how it affects stock, the effect outsourcing delivery might have on their brand, will it detract from ‘dine in’ sales? Ultimately, however, it’s an option that could potentially extend the reach of a restaurant and keep alive the ‘restaurant at home’ experience that has arisen from the pandemic and helped to keep brands alive and revenue coming in during lockdown.

4. Reduce and replace ‘no shows’

Looking at the outpouring of Community Spirit and humanity over the last few months of the current crisis would make one think that this problem could be eliminated with customers showing more empathy towards restaurant owners and communicating issues with bookings.

However, in an industry that has seen radical changes in customer behaviour over the last few years from giving maybe 10 minutes notice to a cancellation to now no notice at all it is clear the industry has to adapt and learn to manage this.

At KuulEats we have been in talks with restaurant owners for three years about this very problem. Some of the ideas we have can be delivered now but some will need more time, user experience and data metrics to execute effectively.

Here is a summary of our solutions – sorry, we’ve been a bit ‘salesy’ here as we’re so passionate about eliminating no shows and we have spent a lot of time addressing this issue in our development!

Paying a deposit or Pre-authorising a card for a Cover fee in the event of a no-show. Although this has been a common practice in many of London’s busy restaurants it has been a challenge for many other owners. The reasons being that they can not take payment over the phone, a system which isn’t integrated with payments therefore the pre-authorisation is hard to track or simply Customer push back. The KuulEats system is built with integrated payment technology meaning any deposit or pre-authorisation is logged against the booking. An email is also sent to the customer reminding them of the No-Show policy. This can also be adapted with rules to cater for Group Size, Time, Date and even specific tables such as PDR’s.

Communication. With many restaurateurs using 3rd party Booking services there is far too much reliance on an invisible broker reminding a customer of their upcoming reservation. There is also the psychological difference between a direct booking with a restaurant and a 3rd party provider, The customer simply doesn’t have the same empathy to the 3rd party app. KuulEats is addressing this by offering Bookings as part of the solution which can be linked to the restaurant owners website, social media outlets and email marketing. This gives the customer a feel that they are engaging directly, also, KuulEats through either email or App ‘Push Notifications’ will remind customers of their booking and even suggest different times or dates if someone needs to cancel. By making this an easier process it takes away barriers and excuses for customers to help in the process.

Overbooking – A model very widely used by the Airline sector many restaurateurs have resisted this mainly because of the problem created if everyone does show up! In the future KuulEats will be applying an AI solution to the platform which records all booking activity, behaviours, trends, etc. Using this real Data intelligence over a period of time will offer our restaurants using the system much more confidence in allowing the system to maximise bookings. The efficiency of the KuulEats system in house will also give real data on table turnover times and maximise covers further.

Geo Positioning. This is certainly a future enhancement and one that will be covered by strict data policies. The KuulEats customer App which allows customers to book at a restaurant and also pay their bill is hosted on a smart phone which in most cases is enabled with location technology. The enhancement we will build is designed to be an Aid for customers in that any booking they make through KuulEats will link to their calendar. As time frames shorten we will access the location service to ensure a customer is able to meet their booking time. If a customer is a 3 hour drive away for a table in hours our App will automatically communicate with the customer to remind them to leave to meet their obligation. If the time is looking that it can’t be met they will be encouraged to change the time or even postpone at the earliest opportunity. KuulEats booking system can then re-open times on the system which will be accessible by all the digital platforms.

Although this won’t fully eliminate the problem it will go a small way towards filling empty seats before it is too late to.

Let us know what you think can help future proof your restaurant?