As strange as these times have been for restaurants, they’re also strange for restaurant guests – and helping the public understand and follow your updated procedures takes some work. A recent webinar from Winsight and SevenRooms pointed out how tech can help hold the restaurant guest’s hand through the changes and make them feel not just more informed but also more cared for while COVID-19 persists. Tech management of reservations and communications around seating can be especially helpful in preparing a guest for their visit before they enter the restaurant. Instead of gathering at the host’s stand in the front of the restaurant to inquire about wait times, for example, guests can wait outside or in their car and receive an alert. When their table is ready, they can receive another text alert asking them to enter the restaurant. Operators can use tech to set guest expectations too. By specifying the location of available tables and pointing out a reservation end time, restaurants can help guests plan accordingly – and also get some assurance they will have a table available for other guests at a certain point.
In March, an Eater report about the post-quarantine reopening of restaurants in China provided a glimpse at the social distancing requirements and health checks that it predicted would become the norm for restaurants everywhere. Three months later, as a second wave of virus infections is hitting China, the region is again modeling the situation restaurants in other countries may be facing in the near future. Even as restaurants reopen in the U.S., there is a nagging question about if, and when, another lockdown may be needed. Restaurant technology companies are stepping up to provide solutions to help operators not just manage new requirements but navigate an uncertain future. Food & Wine reports that companies including Resy, SevenRooms, Tock and OpenTable are offering tools to help operators reconfigure floorplans and communicate with guests about new procedures. Resy disables its reservations feature once a restaurant has reached capacity, while SevenRooms suggests delivery or takeout once a restaurant is full. In addition to helping operators manage guest traffic, such technology may provide the added benefit of helping communities contain the spread of the virus: By tracking guests’ visits to the restaurant, they can also alert them promptly if and when a second wave of the virus occurs.
Virtual waitlists have benefits that can not only help you manage safety regulations now; they can also provide permanent benefits if consumers are open to using them post-pandemic. If you haven’t used them before, they are like reservations systems in that they let people add themselves to a list online and allow you to let them know when to arrive, so they can avoid a long line at your restaurant. This frees up your staff to wait tables or bring food outside for curbside pickup. What’s more, virtual waitlists allow you to have guests pre-order and pre-pay to limit interaction with staff and minimize their wait. That means fewer no-shows and faster table turns for you.
If you’re looking for technology help as you reopen, there are deals to be had on everything from third-party delivery to tech platforms as companies look to stand out in the market and rebuild business themselves. One case in point is OpenTable. Even if you haven’t taken reservations before, you may be considering taking them while social distancing requirements call for fewer guests in your restaurant at one time and for more vigilant management of traffic at your building’s entrance. OpenTable just announced its Open Door program, a three-tiered, subscription-based reservations program that provides services at a discount for the remainder of 2020. The program allows operators to access the OpenTable system without subscription fees through the end of the year. Further, there are no cover fees through September 20 and up to 50 percent discounts on cover fees for the fourth quarter of the year. Learn more at https://restaurant.opentable.com/opendoorprogram-2/