With the fall season now here, many in the hospitality industry are fully aware of the likelihood that a second wave of COVID-19 may impact their business. The hope is that this wave will be more manageable than the first, and that governments around the world will be able to use what they learnt from the first wave to keep businesses largely open.The reality, however, is that restaurants and bars should be fully prepared for the worst case scenario.With this in mind, we want to discuss just how important communication is during these difficult times. We’re not just talking about communicating with your customers either (which is a given), we’re talking about communication with your employees, communication with your service providers, and communication with your technology providers.
Creating a communication strategy with all of the stakeholders of your restaurant or bar can help to boost confidence in those associated with your business (both customers and employees), alleviate uncertainty and help you plan for a successful future.
Here are four restaurant and bar communication tips that will help ensure that your business is able to move forward positively into the fall and winter season:
#1 - Stay in touch with your customers, whether you are open or closed
Your customers care about your business, especially those who are regular guests at your restaurant. These patrons will have questions and concerns that you need to address, and doing so (no matter whether you are open or closed) will ensure you continue to build strong relationships with your customers.
Customer communication should be consistent and can take place through a variety of formats, such as email, your customer service line, your website, community announcements and much more. Think about the topics that are most likely to answer your customers’ questions, such as whether you are open, how you are keeping guests safe and whether you are offering delivery or takeout services.
The top things you should be communicating with your guests include:
- Your cleaning policies.
- Whether you have any services that appeal to those who want to stay at home, have you introduced takeout, delivery or curbside pickup to your offerings?
- What your restaurant’s plans for the future are.
- What your current hours of operations are, and whether they are limited.
- Community support messages.
#2 - Strengthen communication with your employees
Whether you had to furlough or temporarily lay any of your employees off at the start of the pandemic, your staff members will likely be feeling uneasy about what COVID-19 means for them - especially as numbers are now starting to increase again as we move into flu season.
It’s important to be honest and transparent with your team members, and to stay in touch with them frequently whether they are working in your restaurant or they have been temporarily laid off. Your employees want assurances about their future, what plans your company has in place to protect them and where the business currently stands.
Going beyond work-related communication, checking how your employees are doing and by being genuine, your business will be able to retain its most talented workers. Building a loyal team of highly-skilled staff members is hugely important to how successful your restaurant is moving forward.
Take this example from Restaurant Dive. The Atlas Restaurant Group had to furlough over 900 of its 1,000 employees at the height of the pandemic, but after frequent communication with its furloughed employees, and a few other techniques to improve morale, the business was able to bring the vast majority of its highly-talented employees back to work.
#3 - Continue communicating on social media
It will feel like you have a lot on your plate right now, and that’s probably going to leave you prioritizing certain operational decisions over others. We find that social media is one of the first things that restaurants and bars stop updating.
Yet when you consider that Statista estimates a staggering 3.6 billion people use social media worldwide in 2020 - you realize just how important that social media marketing is for attracting business to your restaurant.
Now is not the time to neglect your social media accounts. Social media will increase your brand awareness, generate new business, build stronger relationships with your existing customers, and create loyal guests. Cutting down your social media posts will dramatically reduce your reach to potential customers, and leave you losing out on revenue opportunities.
Don’t forget that social media is also a great way to stay connected with your local community. The businesses in your area are all experiencing difficult times, don’t be afraid to offer messages of support and build a community spirit that helps lift your town or city.
#4 - Make sure you have a specific rep to contact for the vendors and technologies that are vital to your operational processes
All these communication tips so far focus on how you communicate with your employees and customers, but it’s not just about how you are communicating. Think about how your vendors, suppliers and technology providers are communicating with you.
These external and outsourced organizations are crucial to the successful operations of your business, whether it’s a food supplier that provides you with inventory or a tech provider that ensures the seamless running of your restaurant’s finances. That’s why it’s important that you work with third-party companies who offer face-to-face communication (whether in person or over video chat) and who give you honest and transparent answers.
Here at Sculpture Hospitality, for example, we have regional directors across the world who are highly experienced in food inventory and beverage inventory management. These directors are based locally to your business, meaning they are able to offer face-to-face and in-person visits (in a safe environment) or real-time video chats when you have a question.
This human interaction from third-party organizations is essential. Your business isn’t just another number, you need to work with companies that are passionate and care about the success of your restaurant.
Are you looking for more advice on how your communication strategy can help your restaurant be successful through the pandemic and far beyond? Contact Sculpture Hospitality today. Our team of hospitality experts would love to answer your questions.