As Coronavirus restrictions begin to ease and many restaurants around the country move closer to reopening their doors, the term “contactless dining” is suddenly everywhere. No matter how you feel about that term, there’s no doubt that COVID-19 has ushered in a new era of low-contact dining, and restaurants are working hard to adapt.
Diners are looking forward to returning to their favorites or trying something new, but it’s undeniable that their own safety will be a significant factor when selecting where to eat out. Early feedback from diners indicates that restaurants can help guests feel more comfortable by taking a few key actions to accommodate new expectations for social distancing and limited contact. In addition, restaurants should learn and strictly follow all local and state regulations and laws that apply to their reopening and operations, as well as guidance from trusted organizations such as the National Restaurant Association (COVID-19 Reopening Guidance from the NRA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (information for restaurants and bars from the CDC).
Your new, spacious dining room floor plan
Many local and state regulations are mandating extra spacing between tables and reduced guest capacity in order to reopen. Some restaurants are considering limiting party sizes and using physical barriers between tables or at registers and host stands, which is also recommended by the NRA. Incorporating fresh air into your dining room if possible by keeping doors and windows open is also suggested. Outdoor dining is ideal if your restaurant space allows it.
Social distancing between staff and guests
For everyone’s safety and comfort, the NRA suggests that wait staff should limit their interactions with guests, and when they do speak with diners, they should respect social distance guidance as much as possible. The NRA also recommends asking your front-of-house staff to wear face coverings even if it’s not mandated in your area (as recommended by the CDC).
Contactless payment and ordering
To avoid passing menus, credit cards, and cash between guests and staff, consider contactless methods when possible. Touch-free payment is gaining popularity, and there are a lot of options for restaurants to consider. When it comes to ordering, laminated menus are out, but you can direct guests online to view your menu on your website or Yelp Page, eliminating the need for disposable paper menus.
The days of diners crowding around your entrance and host stand waiting for a table are gone. Digital reservations and waitlist apps are crucial to following social distancing guidelines—plus it makes the process a more pleasant experience for both your staff and your guests.
Yelp tip: table management apps
Yelp Waitlist You can offer contactless seating options through Yelp’s Waitlist platform by having customers scan a QR code with their smartphone—or by joining the waitlist before they even arrive at your door.
Yelp Reservations With Yelp Reservations, you can efficiently manage your dining room and better forecast your staffing and inventory needs—all with no cover fees so you know exactly what you’re spending every month.
You can also use Yelp Waitlist or Reservations to collect diner contact information if your local regulations require you to do for contact tracing.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Following all local and state regulations and laws—and industry best practices—is critical, but if people don’t know about the steps you’re taking, they’re not likely to flock back to your dining room. Train your staff to proactively communicate your protocols and to answer questions about them. Put up signs or information in prominent spots throughout your restaurant (here’s an example from Seattle’s King County).
It’s also important to post what you’re doing in all the digital places people may refer to when deciding where to eat or to get more information about your restaurant. Update your website and Yelp Page—and post on your social channels—so guests understand the steps you’re taking to follow regulations and keep staff and guests safe.
Yelp tip: features and updates
COVID-19 banner There’s a new COVID-19 banner at the top of all Yelp Business Pages. You can edit this alert (along with other relevant details about your operations and safety protocols) to share a custom message with specific updates for your diners.
Yelp Connect Connect provides an effective way to communicate with your customers and provide information on the steps your business is taking to protect their safety.
Takeout and delivery are here to stay
Early indications point to the continued popularity of takeout and delivery, even as people return to in-restaurant dining. Think through your offerings for off-premise dining, and plan menus featuring dishes that travel well; think about staffing or partnerships if needed, and examine the technologies and platforms that are available. Communication is again important—making sure that all your digital touchpoints are up to date with your takeout and/or delivery options, so customers can quickly understand what you offer and how to place an order.
Call to Action button Add a Call to Action to your page to direct people to your takeout or delivery ordering options or to call you to order.
This new reduced-contact dining environment is a challenge for everyone. We hope these tips help you as you navigate the “new normal” and strive to create an environment where your employees and guests are safe and your business is in compliance.