As the nation begins to reopen following months of lockdown, people are itching to get back to their favorite restaurants. Welcoming customers back into your establishment might seem overwhelming with the stringent yet varying guidelines being provided for restaurant owners in each state. But there are steps you can take to help your restaurant reopen safely. 

6 Tips on Reopening Your Restaurant During COVID-19, and Essential Tools that Can Help

#1 Practice Social Distancing in Dining Areas

We’ve all been practicing social distancing in our neighborhoods to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Many of the practices we’ve adopted will need to be extended into your newly reopened dining rooms. To start, tables should be placed at least six feet apart in both indoor and outdoor spaces to minimize customer contact. When the room allows it, using physical barriers between tables can also help ensure social distancing is being upheld. Since most restaurants are reopening with limited capacity, these reorganizations of dining areas should be easier to achieve than they would have been just a few months ago. 

#2 Implement Virtual Waitlists and Virtual Waiting Rooms that Enable Contactless Check-In

Implement Virtual Waiting Rooms for COVID Restaurant Reopening - NextME

Like dining rooms, waiting areas create social distancing challenges. NextME can help alleviate this strain via our virtual waiting room and contactless check-in functionality. By simply embedding a customizable widget on your site, customers can join your waitlist directly from your site without ever setting foot on your premises. Alternatively, customers walking by can join the waitlist by scanning a customized QR code with their phones. And if you’re worried that diners will join the waitlist from too far away, you can implement geo barriers so guests can only join from within a certain area. This service can be leveraged for dine-in, curbside pickup, and carryout. Guests simply join virtually, wait wherever and however they want, and then head to your restaurant upon receiving a text that their table or order is ready for carryout.  It’s easy to tag customers in the system as either ‘dine-in’ or ‘curbside’ – and you can even switch between the two tags when needed to keep track of each customer’s reason for visit.  

What really sets NextME’s virtual waiting room apart is our guest engagement platform that allows you to display custom messaging and content to customers wherever they’re waiting – be it in their cars, in the restaurant, or on the sidewalk. This is a great way to make up for the limited customer-employee interaction that’s required by COVID-19’s enhanced safety protocols. 

#3 Utilize Outdoor Spaces As Much As Possible

There’s less chance of spreading COVID in outdoor spaces with open air. Reopening during the summer months means it’s the perfect time to lean heavily on patio space and open roofs, making them the most-used areas of your restaurant. To help with this, many cities and neighborhoods are closing down roads and sidewalks to open up additional seating for dining.

 

Utilize Outdoor Space for Restaurant Reopening COVID - NextME - Virtual Waiting Rooms and Waitlists

NextME’s SMS system is here to help you make the most of this newly apportioned outdoor space. Our text-based system is easy to use, and doesn’t require diners to download a separate app. Restaurants across the US are leveraging it for curbside pickups, carryout, and cocktails-to-go. You can even use our system to text delivery drivers when to check-in one-by-one to pick up their deliveries. The SMS system also allows customers to walk around the neighborhood or sit in their cars while they’re waiting for a table, as opposed to crowding the bar or waiting area.

Southport Grocery & Cafe in Chicago knows first-hand what a difference NextME can make in easing the customer experience. After experiencing bad reviews regarding long wait times, the popular brunch location revamped their waiting system with NextME to provide diners with accurate wait times and personal communication catered to their specific needs. 

#4 Use a Digital System that Enables Easy Contact Tracing

Use a Digital System that Enables Easy Contact Tracing - NextME Virtual Waitlist and Waiting Rooms - COVID

One of the newest ways restaurants are assisting in limiting the spread of COVID is through contact tracing. Many cities and states are asking restaurants that offer table seating to log customers’ contact information when they dine-in, which in turn will help trace people who have come in contact with the Coronavirus. NextME can help facilitate the secure and safe collection of customer contact information. Using our virtual waitlist technology, customers can easily check-in online by adding their contact information, thus helping your business collect the data needed to follow each state’s contact tracing policies.  

#5 Require Masks and Provide Hand Sanitizer

After getting customers into your restaurant and seated safely, providing hand sanitizer and requiring both employees and patrons to wear masks when they aren’t at their tables will help limit the spread of any dangerous germs. Be sure masks worn by employees abide by the CDC safety guidelines

#6 Institute Employee Health Checks

Lastly, employee health checks can help ensure your workers and customers are entering the safest environment possible. Take employees’ temperatures before they start a shift. Encourage employees to stay home if they are feeling sick. You can even provide additional sick days and shift flexibility to ensure your employees feel comfortable taking the time they need if they’re feeling ill. 

Institute Employee Health Checks COVID Restaurant Reopening - NextME Virtual Waitlist Waiting Rooms

Effective communication and creation of a safe, welcoming environment is the key to reopening safely in the midst of the COVID pandemic. 

And staying safe means eliminating overcrowding in dining rooms and waiting areas. NextME’s suite of virtual tools can help by enabling contactless check-in, SMS-based waitlists, and virtual waiting rooms that display your customized content and information to guests as they wait. No need for diners to download a separate app. No need for guests to arrive until the minute their table or orders are ready, or for delivery drivers to crowd your entrance waiting for orders. If you want to learn more about virtualizing and optimizing your dine-in, curbside, and carryout processes, reach out.