If it were any other holiday season, we’d be putting up our front entrance enclosures and cooking up some comforting specials for the menu. But as with all of 2020, this year is different. With COVID cases on the rise again, dining rooms closed, and the cold weather fast approaching, now is the time to assess what your restaurants need to do to brave the storm. In many big cities like New York, Chicago, and the Bay Area, dining room capacities are either severely reduced or shut down outright due to coronavirus spikes. Patio and sidewalk seating has been a great solution, but the cold threatens how much longer we can rely on them. To prepare for the winter, there are a number of strategies and tools to keep in mind so your restaurant can make it through what will probably be the strangest winter in a long time.
If the only delivery you have is third-party, you’re missing out on a lot of potential revenue and some great customer data. Now is the time to get some form of direct delivery set up for your restaurant. By using a platform like Lunchbox for your online ordering, you’ll retain much greater control over the process and save on the exorbitant commissions that services like GrubHub, Caviar, and DoorDash charge. This means more profit in your pocket to make it through the winter. It also means you retain customer data, which with a little marketing, will help convert first time customers into winter season regulars.
For those cities where dine-in and patio seating is a possibility come winter, it’s essential that you have a contactless order and pay system set up. With coronavirus cases rising, you can’t be too careful for your diners or your staff. Mobile ordering means no menus to pass out and back around, no germ-ridden credit cards to swipe, and no cash to handle. All of this adds up to significantly less touches between your staff and guests and a much safer environment. To top it all off, less time on payment processing and menus leads to faster turns—a necessity with caps on capacity. With these basics out of the way, your staff can take extra care to do what they do best—make your guests happy.
If you have the outdoor space to spare, it may be worth investing in some gas and electric heaters. Many cities like New York and Chicago have released fire department guidelines for heaters, so read up on your local laws to ensure you’re compliant. With the right enclosure and setup , you can create a warm oasis for your guests, so much so that they won’t even miss indoor dining. If you can, lean into the theme with some cozy winter dishes, hot cocktails, and encourage guests to bring blankets (the new BYOB?). If you’re in a city where you can still dine indoors, look into some indoor electric space heaters. The reduced number of people in your restaurant will make it colder, so experiment with the heat levels and placement of additional electric heaters. It’s going to be a long winter, so ensuring you’re well stocked up on warmth will ensure guests keep coming back until the thaw.
Even with the announcement of a successful COVID-19 vaccine is exciting, we’re not out of the weeds yet. It will likely be a few months or even a year before we see the effects. Putting in some work now to prepare your restaurant for the long haul will ensure that you’ll be open and thriving when we finally get through to the other side.
Interested in learning more about Lunchbox?
See how Lunchbox can transform your restaurant’s digital ordering
into a powerful omnichannel system.