As states begin to put reopening plans into place, the hospitality industry faces unique challenges. At Sestra, we’ve been keeping our eye on the future and what trends will be on the rise, including touchless technology, contactless experiences, and more.
“The new normal”
While many people are excited to get back out, there will likely be lingering anxiety about exposure. Forecasts say people will travel shorter distances and have more “staycations” than vacations. Successful reopening of bars, restaurants, and other gathering spaces will mean adapting. Guests will have new expectations, there will be new health regulations, and staff will need safe workflows.
Balancing short-term and long-term goals
At the same time, venues need to consider what solutions address the “new normal” while making their business more efficient in the long run. A complete refocusing may not be the best choice for some venues when you consider what the world will look post-COVID. We’ll highlight some key ways to create frictionless and contactless experiences for guests.
Finally, as with all things, it’s important to keep guest perceptions in mind. Hygiene practices to protect guests from the spread of disease are always a top priority. In times like these, how you communicate those practices is almost as important. Guests will be vigilant of your response to the virus and how you create a safe space for them to come out of their homes.
If there is one thing we can all agree on, the next couple months will not turn back the clock. The food and beverage industry has suffered and we are still waiting to see how the global situation develops. The big question is: how does anyone balance those conflicting priorities? There are a lot of people asking the same question and looking toward the future to predict what changes will take hold in the industry.
TRENDS IN HOSPITALITY
As you look forward to reopening here are recommendations we’ve found to protect your business, your staff, and your guests.
Reduce person-to-person contact
Experts are watching how Asia reopens and say that distancing will be a critical component to safe reopening. What we’ve already seen in places of essential business will translate to other gathering spaces. Spacing out guests, putting up protective panels, designating one-way paths and requiring mouth coverings are a few suggestions.
Creating distance between tables for sit-down diners is an obvious solution. Another of the biggest challenges that venues will face is how to separate guests who are waiting, especially with walk-up service. This is where technology can play a leading role. Industry experts expect an uptick in “kiosk” experiences that allow contactless points of service while saving space and labor. These are worth exploring because they have staying power. A system that creates a touchless interaction for guests will create safety and benefit business. At Sestra, we are expanding our self-serve options with more integrations for identification and payment to create a contactless dispensing experience.
Reassure guests that you have their safety in mind with other low-tech solutions. Tape squares telling people where to stand or measurements on the floor provide structure for guests to get excited about.
The other side to guest safety is how to keep your staff healthy. We are seeing recommendations for physical barriers and masks and gloves to reduce cross-contamination. As we mentioned above, we also expect an even faster move toward self-service to allow guests and staff to remain more distant. Keeping your team members distant from your guests will allow you to reopen your doors without worrying that you’re putting either in danger.
Stopping transmission on surfaces
Working with food and beverage, cleanliness is always high on your priority list. Now is a good time to revisit your practices and look for creative ways to reduce the number of surfaces that need cleaning.
Think through your service flow and look for places where you can help guests feel at ease. Introduce increased sterilization and reduce interaction with surfaces. Try to place touchless hand sanitizer stations next to every entrance so guests are able to “sterilize” before entering a clean space. You can also have someone at the door sterilizing the handle that guests touch.
Moving to the table, there are a few different ways to reduce surface interactions and ensure cleanliness. Some places are foregoing the pre-set table. Instead, servers bring sanitized plates and cutlery to each guest or use sealed silverware packets. We also expect changes in the way guests interact with menus. Disposable menus, digital signage, or contactless ways for guests to view a menu on their phone are all great options to reduce this touchpoint. Hospitality Technology is anticipating a boom in creative solutions such as scannable QR codes.
Reduce the number of things staff members need to check, such as beverage volumes, temperatures, or inventory. Cut back on their interactions with surfaces and potential points of transmission. Solutions that provide real-time alerts will allow staff to focus on cleanliness and service.
Touchless technology was already on the rise before the pandemic hit as a way to offer frictionless service to guests. Now that everyone is looking to reduce exposure, those developments have kicked into high gear. New options are popping up every day, from touchless age verification to contactless vending. Sestra is also offering a touchless alternative to our Push to Pour technology. This removes the need to use a button, handle, or lever, enabling contactless dispensing and reducing risk.
Prioritizing safety and transparency
As we mentioned above, perception is key in reopening so don’t be afraid to advertise what measures you’re taking to keep guests safe. Restaurant Business reported that a 56% of diners would be reassured to see team members “visibly cleaning.” If you and your team are sterilizing the surfaces in your kitchen every 15 minutes, make sure to tell your guests. Hospitality Technology thinks that whether employees clean credit card machines or change gloves enough will start to factor into Google and Yelp reviews. That means you have some room to work cleanliness procedures into your efficiency flows. People may be a little more willing to wait if they can see that it’s for safety reasons.
As with anything, there is a balance to achieve. According to Food & Wine, some chefs are predicting that maximized efficiency will have to make up for loss in headcount. That isn’t a contradiction to what we’ve already covered. While your guests still want efficiency, the current mindset is that they are willing to trade some of it for safety. As we’ve said, technology is developing that will help you surpass everyone’s expectations. Automations will enable distancing without sacrificing service. Digital menu boards, full-service touchless kiosks, and contactless payments are great ways to show your guests that you are improving their experience and keeping them safe.
Reaching guests where they are
As we all long for a night out at our favorite restaurant, we also have to pay close attention to the developing recommendations. As of now, they tell us that staying home is a safer alternative. Restaurants that offer pickup or delivery options provide a comforting “escape” for people who are stuck at home. Eating in is the new eating out but that doesn’t mean sacrificing all the joys of restaurant service or an event. The FDA recently published a detailed set of recommendations on how to keep outgoing orders safe for both your team members and your guests.
There has also been an increase in digital interactions. Venues can hold virtual events or use social media to connect with their guests when face-to-face engagement isn’t possible. In today’s modern age, you can create a sense of community by delivering more than food to where they are.
LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE
No matter how COVID-19 changes the face of service, people will still come out to socialize with friends over a good meal, attend an event, or head to the ballgame. As we wait for the dust to settle, now is a great time to look at your business with fresh eyes. Use the current situation as a springboard for implementing safe practices, efficient technology, and digital engagements. That will draw guests back in when doors begin to open.
Want to know how touchless smart dispensing would work at your venue? Let us help.