Across the world, governments are beginning to reopen different types of businesses in their communities. Obviously this stage looks different depending on where you are located - some regions in the states are already allowing restaurants to open where others are still shut down, for example.
As we are planning and getting ready to become operational again, there is a key factor we should all be focusing on - people. I don’t just mean customers, but staff as well. How are you prepared to make them feel comfortable to return to work?
The best strategy is to create a communication plan to ensure you are touching on every point that will help staff and customers feel comfortable.
A communication plan isn’t something that is one-size-fits-all - it is important to customize your plan to your geographic area, size and type of clientele.
During this time your audience isn’t looking for fluffy content around procedures. When communicating new health and safety measures be sure that you are being honest, upfront and direct. Here are some recommendations to help you in preparing a communication plan for reopening your restaurant or bar.
Communicate to Gain Employee Trust
Your employees are what keeps the engine running, they encourage your customers to want to return, they bring a personality to your business - so you want to focus on making them comfortable.
First off, communicating their importance is key. Be sure that you are communicating what health and safety measures you are putting in place for them to work in a safe environment. List off PPE that will be provided, rules for sanitization of POS systems, computers, menus, tables, chairs etc. as well as any new break or shift rules that will be put in place.
Providing the appropriate training is also key when staff begin to return back to work. Training front-of-house staff on the new safety procedures and how to effectively and politely execute them, is important not only to make the staff feel comfortable, but will translate to an improved customer experience. With this in mind, it would be helpful to create a phone script that your employees can use when customers call to ask about the health and safety efforts your establishment has in place.
Lastly, be sure that you open the floor to your employees, make them feel comfortable about approaching you with any questions, concerns or suggestions they have.
Clearly State What Guests can Expect
Our version of normal has completely changed. Interest in spontaneously venturing out for dinner and drinks will be lessened - for a little while, anyway. It is crucial to gain the trust of the community. This will take time, but keeping communications open, honest, and authentic will help.
Within your establishment provide clear signage reflecting the safety measures that you have in place, including those that are required by your local government. Make sure the signage is at all entrances and is clearly visible. Next step - take action! Actually do what your signs say, even if it interrupts the flow.
Now that you have documentation and signage, get the message out, whether that be on your website, social media channels or even the local newspaper. Broadcasting your health and safety procedures is a way to inform customers that you are doing all that you can with their safety in mind.
This transition is not linear and can change at the drop of a hat, so rethink and re-communicate when you need to change things.
Dive Deeper into Details
You’ve created documentation outlining the initiatives that your establishment has in place for health and safety protocols, but is it enough? Your customers will want to know all of the details of how intricate your procedures go when it comes to cleanliness and disinfecting. As noted in a recent article from PR News Online, “customers will want to know what is being cleaned in your establishment, when will it be cleaned and how often, the product you are using to clean, as well as what they can expect in regards to safety when it comes to staff.” Specifically, you will need to address how your staff will be interacting with guests, if they will be required to wear a mask or any other PPE, if they will be keeping a distance and if so will be adhering to the 6-feet distance precautions.
Don’t forget delivery and takeout! If you will be continuing or starting takeout and delivery, be sure to include this information in your communications. There will be a number of people who won’t feel comfortable to venture out to a restaurant for a while, so be sure that they are aware that they can still enjoy your delicious food in the comfort of their own home.
Clearly State Your Expectations of Guests
Not only should you include details about what customers can expect from you and your staff, but you should also include the expectations you have for your guests when they visit your restaurant or bar. Most regions haven’t stated specific requirements, but as a business owner, you are entitled to create your own requirements, such as sanitizing before entering and leaving your establishment, implementing directional arrows in aisle ways for staff and customers to follow, or perhaps each guest must wear a mask unless they are eating or drinking. If this is the case, then let them know what PPE will be available to them (sanitization stations, disposable masks, etc.).
And finally, don’t be afraid to show empathy and compassion in your communications as this pandemic has affected everyone in one way or another. Share your message on social media and within your local community to let your clientele and neighbours know that you’re committed to keeping the community healthy and safe.
Need any further advice for bar or restaurant success? Please don’t hesitate to reach out - we are always here to help.