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And here we are, back in the ring for round three of the global pandemic. The good news is we’ve been through this before, and we will persevere. The difference between now and the first wave, is our outlook on what “normal” will be. Based on what we’ve seen in the last few months, it’s safe to say we may need to accept that our “new” normal temporarily involves ebbs and flows with restrictions. 

Alongside the COVID-19 rollercoaster comes a shift in consumer behaviour. The many loyal customers that used to warm the seats in our restaurants are now enjoying their favourite restaurant foods at home. In fact, a study completed by the National Restaurant Association claims nearly 70% of American adults are now more likely to order takeout than they were pre-pandemic. A tough pill to swallow!

We can all agree, there’s nothing quite like the experience of having your customers dine-in, where they can immerse themselves in your atmosphere, service, food and drink. So, when the time’s right, how do we get these loyal customers back in-store? And how do you attract new ones? 

Whether you’re currently located in a city where dine-in is allowed or you’re currently absorbing further dine-in restrictions, there’s no better time to prepare yourself for the next wave of freedom. That’s why we’ve pulled together our key recommendations for how you can re-imagine your in-store experience, to help pull those ~70% of people back inside again and again. 

Explore a mix of technologies and human elements

It’s no surprise, since the closing and reopening hospitality, technology adoption has continued to accelerate. In fact, hospitality businesses today are using upwards of 30 technologies at once. To attract customers back in-store, we encourage you to think about how you can refresh and re-imagine your own in-store experience, looking at how digital solutions can complement and enhance your current in-store experience. 

QR code-based table ordering is a prime example of this. When implemented strategically, staff and technology can work side by side whereby the technology can take the brunt of the laborious, manual work and staff are left to work on high-value tasks and adding to the guest experience. Proper communication with staff will be needed however to ensure they don’t feel like they are being replaced by technology, and so they understand the value to the business of highlighting the technology to customers. 

With staffing shortages in the hospitality industry more prevalent than ever, and despite best efforts to recruit and retain staff, it’s also important to ensure the staff you currently have aren’t carrying the weight of more than one person. As mentioned, by complementing your in-store experience with digital technology and implementing something like kiosk ordering or Skip the Queue solutions for example, you can reduce wait times and cut down on staff requirements and their workloads, meaning both improved efficiency for you and the customer. What’s more, your staff are then freed up again to focus on value-adding tasks, not just taking orders and payment.

One thing to note also, is that with the introduction of new digital channels and different ordering options, it’s imperative you create a cohesive and connected experience between not only all your digital channels but with your in-store experience as well. Customers expect brand consistency these days however they interact with you, so while adding channels and digital solutions into the mix is imperative, it also needs clear direction and strategy surrounding it.  

Ensure your store is evidently clean and safe

We know… it seems like a no brainer. However, a recent study by Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global strategy and marketing consulting firm that works with brands like Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, showed customers are willing to pay almost double for their food if they can count on cleanliness at the restaurant. 

As much as we’re talking about having copious amounts of hand sanitiser, thorough cleaning routines by staff and social distancing, we’re also extending beyond that with implementation of contactless order and payment technologies. This allows customers to enter your restaurant and move at their own pace, within their own space. Not only that, once again, this doubles as a great way to deal with the ongoing staff shortages we’re seeing post-pandemic.

Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty (and a lot of bonus data)

Getting customers off the comfort of their own couch to come inside your restaurant will take a little TLC (and a little incentivising). Loyalty programs are two-fold, they allow you to upsell, to send incentives, and to build relationships with customers once they’ve interacted with your business. The other side is that loyalty programs generate a lot more customer data, helping you understand your customer base more so, predict their ordering and dining behaviours, and giving insight on how to expand your customer reach to recruit newcomers.

At MOBI, customers love our loyalty offerings because they help drive brand advocacy and repeat purchase. Not only that, with the data provided you can improve your sales and conversion, your customer service and your overall experience offering.

Efficiently manage your internal and external orders so your customers are all being served in good time

It’s important to ensure you’re set up for success so you can keep your staff and your customers happy. At this stage, you’re likely utilising every avenue available to you to reach customers via delivery and takeout, but now you’re going to have to manage that demand as well as in-store orders. 

Although increasing the number of ordering channels is great for increasing orders, if you haven’t optimised your set up it can run your staff into the ground, and annoy your customers with long wait times and order mishaps. One option to consider is offering delivery from your own website or app by using an integration with third party driver platforms. Not only will this streamline orders on your end and save you on aggregator fees, it also allows you to own your own space, create your own customer experience, which in turn will help you build a closer relationship with your customers. Additionally, you can reduce the clutter behind the counter and manage your aggregator orders seamlessly all from your own point of sale with technology that pulls all orders into the one place (repeat after us: “no more iPads”). 

The good news: help future-proofing your business is readily available

All in all, as you implement changes and adjust your in-store experience, make sure you share that with your customers. It’s no secret that social media provides the opportunity to connect with existing customers, and grab the attention of new ones. Think about how you can showcase your in-store experience and engage people through conversations online.

And, on that note, we leave you with this: a “new” normal looks different to what we dealt with in 2019 pre-pandemic, so it’s important to keep up on trends and consumer behaviour. The good news is, you don’t have to do everything on your own. By working with a technology partner, they can help by recommending the best digital solutions for your business, working with you to connect and reconnect with your customers. 

As the digital partner of hospitality, MOBI is able to help your business not just with your in-store experience, but through a range of digital solutions that can help accelerate your business growth. Simply get in touch with one of our team if you’d like to learn more.