The pandemic has disrupted numerous economic sectors but perhaps none more than the restaurant industry. More than 110,000 eating and drinking places across the country closed their doors either temporarily or permanently.
It’s almost never been this challenging to find success in the restaurant business.
But that doesn’t mean success is impossible — especially now that restaurant restrictions are easing up across the country. Restaurant owners just need to get creative about how they engage their customers to achieve their goals.
Improving your restaurant’s customer experience is one of the best ways to prepare your restaurant for success in the post-pandemic world. If you’re looking for tips on how to do that, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn:
- How restaurants are changing in response to COVID-19
- Common customer engagement mistakes that restaurants make
- How to improve your restaurant’s customer experience with digital menus, digital signs and more
How are restaurants changing after the COVID-19 pandemic?
Many restaurants struggled to adapt in the early days of the pandemic. But a full year has passed since the first quarantine orders went out. In that time, restaurateurs have discovered how to change their businesses to be successful. Let’s go through four examples of that.
Increased Digital Offerings
The world is becoming increasingly digital. For a while, it felt like restaurants might be immune to this trend. But the pandemic changed that. It brought digitalization to the restaurant industry remarkably quickly.
Digital loyalty programs exemplify this shift. Digital engagement is soaring during the pandemic and loyalty programs are one of the best ways for restaurants to take advantage of it.
Other digital offerings are becoming more commonplace too. For example, more restaurants are offering options for digital and mobile payments. Similarly, restaurants are investing in payment kiosks, digital menus and other digital tools to provide their customers with a smoother dining experience.
COVID-19 has also seriously impacted restaurant supply chains. That has forced companies in the industry to take another look at their menus. When the pandemic was at its worst, many restaurants had to significantly cut back their offerings.
In response to that, some restaurant owners are choosing to prioritize local ingredients. It’s a trend that may continue.
Similarly, restaurants began offering non-traditional items during the pandemic. This Zagat Survey found that 38% of consumers ordered non-traditional delivery from restaurants during this time, including meal kits, grocery items and alcoholic beverages.
Since restaurants were successful with these offerings, they’ll likely continue.
Takeout and Delivery Take Center Stage
People want to return to indoor dining. But many industry experts expect the demand for takeout and delivery to remain high after the pandemic is over. Restaurants are responding to this by building out these capabilities.
Lasting Layout Changes
Restaurants are also shifting their layouts in response to the increasing consumer demand for takeout and delivery. Many are reducing the sizes of their dining rooms to make more room in the kitchen for cooking and preparing orders.
For example, Kanoyama is a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City that’s set up a street-side table to sell meals to passing customers who don’t wish to enter the restaurant. It plans to keep this feature moving forward.
Customers have also become more wary of packed-in seating arrangements because of the pandemic. We may see restaurants permanently shift to spacing their tables further apart as a response to this.
Other ways restaurants fail to thrill (and keep) customers
Succeeding in the restaurant industry is tough. The restaurant failure rate in the United States is 60%. For yours to succeed, you need to keep your customers happy. That’s common knowledge. But many restaurants fail to deliver, often for the following reasons.
Lack of Vision
A Cornell University study found that many restaurants fail because their leaders don’t have a clear vision. One of the first things that you should do is come up with a mission statement for your restaurant.
Once you have this, you can make decisions based on whether they align with that statement or not. If you have a good vision and you follow it, then it’s very likely that your customers’ happiness will follow.
Ineffective Menu Planning
Restaurants that are fun and lively tend to be consumer favorites. But you could have the best atmosphere in the world and still fail if your food isn’t good. Providing your customers with the food they want starts by designing a strong menu.
Your menu should be full of food that you know your customers want. You also need to make sure that each dish your restaurant sells is profitable. You should figure all of this out before you release your menu.
Failing to Adapt
Consumer preferences are constantly changing. The restaurants that do the best adapt to those changes with agility. This could mean everything from updating your menu more often to investing in new technologies like digital signage. The point is, you must be able to identify and respond to the shifting habits of your customers.
Being Too Trendy
Trendiness is a good thing. But too much trendiness can be problematic. Especially when you try to embrace every new idea. Often, when things get popular, the market becomes oversaturated with providers for those items very quickly.
You should certainly look to take advantage of trends that are a good fit for your existing business. But make sure you do your research instead of blindly investing in the next big thing.
How to improve your customer experience
Restaurants need constant innovation to keep up with shifting consumer expectations. That can be tough. So don’t worry if your restaurant’s customer experience isn’t quite where you want it. You can use the following strategies to start improving it.
Draw in customers with digital signage
Digital signage is a fantastic way to get customers interested in your restaurant. You can display them in your front window and show off your best dishes. Or use them to show people walking by why they should spend money at your restaurant.
You can highlight the ethical sourcing practices that you use, show off your vegan dishes or let consumers know that you’re a locally-run, family-owned establishment.
Digital signage gives you the freedom to use all of these strategies at the same time with rotating display images.
Build digital restaurant menus
Digital restaurant menus improve your customer experience by engaging them the moment they walk in the door. They’re also super convenient for restaurant owners.
Digital menus are much easier to update, which allows you to respond to shifts in your customers’ ordering habits faster.
Creating a digital menu can also reduce the time your restaurant’s wait time. Digital menus make it easier for customers to figure out what they want, which can reduce the amount of time that your staff has to spend processing each order.
Keep your service friendly and personal
There’s no substitute for good service. If you’re not already prioritizing it, then now is the time to do so. Consider retraining your staff. They should be friendly, ask lots of questions to clients, and always prioritize resolving customer disputes in the best manner possible.
The time that you spend doing this will be well worth it if your customers leave your restaurants happier as a result.
Maintain a strong social media presence on Instagram and elsewhere
36% of diners follow restaurants on social media. That’s a huge pool of consumers that you can target with an active social media presence. Make sure that you’re posting regularly to keep your customers aware of special dishes and discounts.
Digital signs can help you with this. You can use UPshow’s digital signs to display your customers’ social media posts in your restaurant.
Tell guests to use your restaurant’s hashtag and post their meals so that you can share them on your screens. Social posts are a great, free source of social media advertising for you.
And of course, make sure the food’s good
You could embrace all of these tips and it won’t mean a thing if your restaurant’s food isn’t good. But “good” can mean something different for every restaurant. The key is to meet or exceed your customers’ expectations.
For example, you might market your restaurant as a place to get healthy meals. If so, you need to make sure that your food is not only tasty but also healthy. Similarly, if you sell indulgent dishes, then make sure that you provide your customers with food that’s sinfully delicious.
UPshow makes it easier to thrill your customers
The restaurant industry is going through a seismic shift because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Investing in digital signage is one of the best ways to ensure that your restaurant is prepared for these changes.
Digital signage will modernize your restaurant to ensure that it’s prepared for the pandemic-fueled shifts in consumer habits. And UPshow makes it easy to add digital signage to your facility.
You can use our signs to create digital menus, display your customers’ social media posts and keep them engaged with more than 500 content channels.