In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, worldwide lockdown has adversely affected restaurant industry stakeholders: restaurateurs, suppliers, vendors and other relevant employees. On Dineout’s latest Facebook Live, panelists Mr. Ashwin Bhadri [CEO, Equinox labs | National Resource (FSSAI)], Mr. Prashant Khurdiya (Business Head, METRO Cash & Carry), Mr. Sharad Sachdeva [Director of Operations, L Catterton Asia (LVMH Group)], Ms. Pushpa Bector (Executive Director, Shopping Malls, DLF) and Mr. Ashish Dev Kapur (Founder & Director, Moods Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.) participated in an in-depth discussion with Mr. Vivek Kapoor, (Co-founder, Dineout) on the crucial measures that need to be taken to revive restaurant businesses.
Here are the key takeaways from the session on how to revive the restaurant industry post Covid-19.
The Government needs to urgently assess the economic repercussions on the restaurant industry. Statutory payments such GST, advance tax, duties and VAT at state levels should be deferred. Government can give moratorium on bank loan payments so cash flow can be used to pay off the suppliers and workforce. Restaurant delegations will soon receive COVID 19 online training by FSSAI. Plus, multiple license applications will go online. This will help make the system more seamless
Diner Trust Retention
Utmost hygiene will be the primary differentiating factor for diners determining the reliability of restaurants post lockdown. Ashish, Founder & Director, Moods Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, notes a seismic shift towards staff and restaurant hygiene. Contactless dining has created a lot of buzz and (e.g. contactless/digital menus and payments) must be adopted at multiple touch points. All stakeholders must ensure compliance with social distancing norms. Diners must be assured that in-house employees and staff are germ free and the daily produce is safe as they are rethinking their dine-out preferences.
Staff members should be retrained with updated sanitisation modules and bright up to speed with new norms. Government officials will be conducting regular hygiene training and motivational programs for staff on official platforms. Many restaurants have already proactively done the same. There is no doubt that customer service and hospitality will reach newer heights. Employees and staff must ensure that diners maintain hygiene regulations. Additionally, efficient restaurant management tie-ups with aggregators to serve last mile diners will be essential.
Contactless feedback via digital feedback forms or social media will gain transaction and facilitate retention of customer loyalty. There is an urgent necessity to maximize app-based communication and utilize the boom of takeaways Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are witnessing high engagement from diners. It is essential to tap into this and listen to the diners closely. Restaurants can use these platforms to directly connect with the diners and understand their sentiments and needs.
The introduction of Aarogya Setu app will help in tracking whether visiting diners are healthy. Seating arrangement and people within a certain square feet area will be limited. Individual and community responsibility, wherein diners should pre-plan and make prior reservations before visits, so that restaurants can control and prevent overcrowding. (1 person for every 70 square meters).Technology will reduce hygiene and safety problems while personalizing customer engagement.
Collaborative Effort By Multiple Stakeholders
Super sanitized service is imperative. Stakeholders like malls and restaurants must work together to comply with social distancing, safety, and hygiene-related instructions. Restaurants should regularly train their employees on hygiene modules.
Novel Business Prospects
New business models like takeaways and delivery will grow. Restaurant menus will become smaller, localized (in terms of locally available ingredients), and cost-efficient. Working with available “glocal” produce is the need of the hour. To garner diners’ attention and delight, the “playbook” must change: make social distancing more romantic and endearing. In the revival phase, having strong long-term business vision is imperative. Restaurants must resurrect with celebrations to rekindle diners’ attention. Salience of big brands will aid sustainability.
Restaurant Industry 2.0
Future mergers and acquisitions are expected, as many portfolio companies are facing closure. Mall/restaurant operation times will be limited. Newer dynamics and opportunities will be assessed. The main goal? Standing by the hospitality industry. Retaining and utilizing social capital, showing empathy, and understanding and leveraging social media is vital.
In conclusion, despite heavy losses, Diners won’t be looking for discounts. Instead, ensuring hygiene and increasing customer interest will be essential in restarting the restaurant industry.