What is the “New Normal” for hospitality businesses?

Written by Kadence Edmonds

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The hospitality industry was flipped upside down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The impact was felt far and wide, and its legacy will endure for some time. In some areas, businesses were forced to trade under strict regulations and restrictions that greatly impacted trade; whereas others were forced to shut down completely for months.

However, as the world continues to navigate this unprecedented event, many hospitality businesses have been able to reopen their doors, and in turn, have discovered a “new normal” to which they’ve been forced to adapt.

What is the new normal?

The term “new normal” has been widely used to describe the landscape of the world in the midst of the global pandemic.

As time goes on, businesses, as well as individuals, are continuing to adjust their day to day processes to be compliant with the evolving rules and regulations, put in place to flatten the curve. In most cases, the new normal involves some combination of social distancing, heightened hygiene practices, contactless transactions, and table service - anything that reduces the amount of physical contact that takes place within an establishment.

We’ve broken down some ideas that can help your business adapt to the new normal.

Seating times

Depending on your location, there could be capacity limits that can hinder your business’ ability to trade profitably. For instance, the “1 metre plus rule” in the UK, places substantial limitations on how many guests a particular venue can accommodate. One way to maximise turn over with a limited capacity is by having set seated booking times.

If you are open for lunch, offering seated sessions at set times, like 11:30 am, 1:00 pm and 2:30 pm, will allow you to operate your venue at capacity consistently. While this tactic limits the ability to offer spots for walk-in diners, it can help to maximise your trade, since you’ll be able to forecast expected numbers, minimise wastage and staff accordingly.

Top Tip: Try integrating your Epos Now system with an online booking system. This will allow you to manage your bookings so you never exceed capacity and risk turning customers away.

Adapt your Menu

Creating a smaller, lighter version of your normal menu can make a significant contribution toward minimising costs.

Some menu items might be more labour intensive than others, so it may be worthwhile removing them if you’ve been forced to reduce your staffing levels. Similarly, consider removing slower-selling or lower-margin items to free-up cash flow and maintain a healthy bottom line.

Another factor to consider is whether speciality food items are available from wholesalers. The pandemic has caused disruption in many supply chains, so ensure that the ingredients you need can be easily sourced, and are still cost-effective.

Takeaway sales have also seen an increase due to limitations around seating capacity. So having menu items that can be easily and quickly prepared for takeaway customers is also another factor to consider.

Top Tip: Use your Point of Sale System to export reports and highlight the most popular dishes, food options, and drinks in your venue, so you can create the most efficient, compact menu.

For seated diners, you could look to narrow the offering down further by implementing a set course menu. A set menu can further reduce food wastage and help in forecasting sales and staff rosters.

Take deposits for bookings

Another option to consider is accepting a pre-payment for any bookings made. With limited capacity, “no shows” can be crippling for smaller restaurants. Charging a small booking fee, like £10 per head (which can be deducted off the final bill) can help to eliminate no shows.

TIP: Use your Epos Now Point of Sale system to take deposits on bookings. Read our how-to guide here.

Offer retail items

An additional way to create revenue streams is by offering customers a retail offering. This can extend into many different avenues, like take home ingredient packages, sauces or relishes, picnic hampers, catering packs etc.

Is your cafe well known for the amazing homemade relishes that are served on the side of your poached eggs? Why not make larger batches, bottle it up, and offer these for sale within your venue. With customers not frequenting your venue as often as they used to, they may be more inclined to purchase a take-home option so they can enjoy their favourite flavours more often with less risk.

Stay Connected and engage your customer base

Staying connected with your customers, and keeping them engaged, is crucial during this time. Updating social media with relevant information about your business - like opening hours, booking times, capacity limits, and offers - is a great way to manage your customers’ expectations, and field any questions about your services.

Be COVID Compliant

When planning to reopen, it’s always best to get to know the latest guidelines and restrictions. Make sure you are fully aware of what is and isn’t allowed; the capacity at which you can function; and what risk assessments you need to carry out before reopening.

Take Contactless payments

Cash is already in decline throughout the developed world, and this trend will only be reinforced by COVID-19.

Maximise the speed, effectiveness, cleanliness of your service by offering contactless payments. This can drastically reduce the number of touchpoints, and interactions between your staff and customers, which is essential in the current climate.

To find out more about operating your hospitality business under COVID-secure regulations, download our complete guide here.

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