27 May 2020
How Can F&B Businesses Regain Customers’ Confidence After COVID-19 Circuit Breaker?
Source: Francis Amiand and Studio Marc
The world’s economy has slowed down since the outbreak of COVID-19, and many F&B businesses have seen a big drop in their takings. It is prohibited to do dining at restaurants now but when the customers are finally allowed to in Phase 2 of the Circuit Breaker easing, customers who prefer to savour their food hot out of the oven at the premises may still have the fear of being infected by other diners.
As the nation look forward to enter a “new normal,” F&B establishments can start looking into changing the way they run their businesses, by allowing customers to feel safe and relax while dining. Restaurants need to make an effort to lure the customers back, which many have adopted the habit of preparing their own meals, and there were concerns that restaurants may have lost their appeal to the customers who are getting used to ordering their food through online food delivery platforms, and will continue to do so even after the Covid-19 impact subsides.
1. Protecting The Frontline Staff
The Government has warned that there is a risk of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic if the people let their guards down. Using Plexiglass or Tempered Glass as a barrier between the frontline staff and the customers can lower the risk of contagion without both having to talk loudly at a distance, especially when the speech is muffled by wearing a mask. This can be used at the ordering counter and the cashier. The barrier can be disinfected every hour and hard surface allows disinfection to sterilise the surface more effectively than porous surfaces.
2. Store Re-Design
Here are a few suggestions about how restaurants can redesign their layouts to encourage social distancing habits and give confidence to the customers to safely dine in the restaurant. While definitive studies on the virus are ongoing, social distancing has proved to be effective in mitigating its spread.
- Designated counters for different purposes to ease traffic flow and disperse human clustering while waiting for their turn. For example, a counter allocated to handle takeaway and delivery riders to collect their orders, and another counter to attend to walk-in customers and cashiering.
- Install large menu display wall to replace smaller menu books to reduce the number of times the menu books are passed around for customers to use when placing orders. Books have porous pages and can harbor bacteria and viruses. Even for laminated pages, chances are that it will not be sanitized after every use by the earlier customer, so there might be a risk of the virus spreading through the menu books. Other benefits of having a highly visible shared menu wall is environmentally friendly, cost-saving and the menu can be easily updated.
- Re-upholster the furniture with antibacterial fabrics like polyester, treated cotton, and other composite textiles. These fabrics will be effective against fending off micro-organisms and have a long use lifespan.
- Introduce antibacterial surfaces and materials like copper and its alloys (brasses, bronzes, cupronickel, copper-nickel-zinc, and others) which have natural antimicrobial materials that have intrinsic properties to destroy a wide range of microorganisms. Copper decorative items such as tabletops, room decorations, art, chairs, frames, lamps, handles, taps, pots and kitchen design components make it an ideal material to be used in dining, kitchen and washrooms, also give the place an elegant look.
- The use of automated doors removes the need for customers to push open the doors physically and touch any handles. Installing an automatic door may be expensive initially, but when it comes to efficiency, it helps to save energy and significantly lowers the air-con bill. Automatic doors open only when necessary and close completely every time.
- Encourage and adopt contactless payments. The COVID-19 outbreak has quickened the adoption of contactless payments into the mainstream consciousness, thanks to their hygienic benefits and a lesser chance of making mistakes. Additionally, restaurants can also integrate it with a QR code ordering system. The customer will only need to scan a QR code to access the menu, place an order, and checkout for payment. This will reduce the frequency of personal interactions.
3. Highlighting The Internal Processes
Source: Archilovers.com - Princi Cafè spirito di Milano
Hygiene is everyone’s priority and there are constant messages about washing our hands often and avoid touching our faces when we are outside. Customers are now more concerned about food preparation hygiene, so it is important to make sure that the kitchen looks clean and tidy, and the kitchen staff pays attention to their working habits. Having an unobstructed view into the kitchen allows the customers to see the activity inside the kitchen through a glass wall.
Customers can be assured that their food is prepared in a safe manner and it can also offer some form of “entertainment” for takeaway customers while waiting for their orders. Kitchen staff will pay more attention to their food preparation process, since everything they do now will be visible to the people from the other side.
4. Supporting Sustainability
F&B businesses can promote sustainability by offering exclusive reusable containers for sale with their own branding. F&B companies can be part of the global initiative to help reduce landfills while taking the opportunity to upsell their own reusable containers for additional income. According to Nielsen Report, about three in four Millennials (74 percent) and Generation Z consumers (72 percent) are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services. The company’s bottom-line will also increase due to cost savings on packaging materials.
5. Partaking in Social Initiatives
Another social initiative is to give away excess food at the end of the day to people who are financially affected by the economic downturn. Instead of disposing them into the bins, the excess food can help to feed another hungry person. There are many organisations that are willing to help to collect and distribute these foods to the needy. Restaurants can also offer a walk-in discount to medical professionals as a token of appreciation for their effort in taking care of the infected patients.
6. Investing in Digital Marketing
Many companies are already turning to digital marketing to overcome the Covid-19 impact on offline businesses. In the coming months, many more will accelerate their digital transformation to get online, and those that are already online will be investing in SEO. SEO will take time before it can reach its potential because it is about gaining trust from search engines, over a period, through consistent output.
An easier way is by partnering with online food app delivery operators like Foodpanda, Grabfood & Deliveroo, by offering food deliveries and electronic payment methods for the convenience of the consumers. Restaurants also will benefit by obtaining customers outside their usual channels.
The F&B retail landscape might change after the lockdown is lifted and all the stakeholders should prepare and carry out some strategic initiatives to shift the challenges into opportunities. Brandsbridge has successfully designed and built many F&B projects and is a leader in providing innovative, experiential dining experience for restaurants and food establishments. We offer turnkey retail set up service for international brands and multi-stores roll-out throughout Asia.