Published 21 April 2021
If your restaurant, café or bar has a front desk, this is one of the first things that sets the stage for your customers’ entire dining experience with you. It’s the first physical contact they have with your establishment, and it’s usually the first moment they can connect with you and start to unwind. After all, guests don’t just go to a restaurant for food, but for the entire experience.
With social distancing in full effect, that moment may no longer happen at a traditional reception desk but at your front door, or an outdoor patio. And for many people, even if they’ve been your loyal customers for years, returning to restaurants they love can be clouded with anxiety post-pandemic.
With the reception desk now taking on a different meaning, how can you and your staff continue to create that friendly experience while following COVID-19 guidelines? We’ve put together some tips and best practices to help maintain the relaxing and thoughtful atmosphere your customers are used to.
Your reception area is a space where your customer can say hello and prepare to be immersed in the service they’re about to experience. Your regulars likely feel close to you, so this moment can be hard to give up. To prevent lingering and extended chitchat while still keeping that personal connection, message your guests before their visit.
If your appointment scheduling software offers the ability to customise the automated email reminder, consider using it to share details about what customers should expect during their visit to your restaurant. That might include information on how to download a digital menu ahead of time, cashless payment method preference, or about a one-way system in and out of the establishment.
Before your customer arrives at your reception desk or check-in area, you want to be sure someone will be there to help them settle in for their visit. This will also prevent lines from forming as customer demand increases.
Match your bookings with your employee schedule so you can ensure the right number of staff will be there to assist your clients. To make staff scheduling easier, look into appointment booking software that has employee scheduling features.
Your customers come to you for the incredible pizza, cocktail, or cake you offer. But they also visit you because of that personal connection. If you know your regulars like a certain artist, play that music when they’re dining with you. If you know they prefer a certain special on the menu, or bottle of wine, have that on offer.
Even if you have to limit the time you spend with your customers, you can still show your appreciation for those relationships by starting their experience the moment they step through the door.
Checking in might be the first interaction your customers have with you. To decrease the amount of time it takes, share check-in instructions in your customers’ reminder or confirmation emails, instead of talking about it at the front desk.
Speeding up the check-in process helps things run smoothly on the operations front, allowing you to keep bookings on time and enabling you to see more diners, which is especially important with reduced capacity. It can also help both you and your customers stick to health and safety guidelines, since they won’t have to wait.
Whether your front desk is actually a front desk, or you’re greeting and checking-in customers with your phone or mobile POS system, it’s important to declutter the initial space customers enter. Since the front desk represents your business, you want it to match your brand’s look and feel, while also showing that you’re adhering to health and safety protocols.
Part of that means that you and your team need to stick to the COVID-19 safety guidelines and sanitation requirements for your local area and industry. Beyond masks, depending on what your business requires, this could include setting up plexiglass barriers or wearing face shields and other protective equipment. Even if it feels sterile and strange at first, it shows your customers that you care about their wellbeing.
You also want to create a relaxing space for your customers, which is even more important these days. Depending on the type of service you offer, that may mean bringing in fresh flowers, lighting candles, or playing chilled music.
Another crucial aspect of your front-desk experience is your hardware setup. You want to make the right impression, and don’t want to have too many items crowding your restaurant or cafe reception desk. Invest in modern hardware that allows you to do everything you need from one place. With tools like Square Register, you can create a more unified experience when clients check in and out. The larger seller screen and dedicated customer-facing touch display help speed up your lines and cut down transaction times. The customer point-of-sale display ensures that orders are accurate (and provides an added level of transparency). And the customer-driven payments free up your cashiers’ time. Square Register also integrates with Square’s other business tools like Analytics and Inventory Management, and with third-party tools through our App Marketplace. It also allows you to see & manage your online orders.
If customers have to wait before their reservation, make that area feel relaxed and safe.
That may mean temporarily moving furniture that encourages close seating, like a loveseat, and replacing it with spaced-out chairs. Remove smaller shared items, like magazines, and rethink any refreshments you used to offer. You may also want to set up an outside area that allows for social distancing and fresh air.
You want your clients to feel pampered throughout their visit, not stressed while fishing out their credit card or seeing another customer enter. That’s why it’s crucial to make the checkout experience as quick as possible.
Look into POS hardware that offers touch-free payments and can store clients’ cards on file for automatic billing.
Remote payments can also help your clients leave your space fast, so they can spend time paying and adding a tip without having to stay inside your business.
Your dining experience isn’t the same as before. Your business likely isn’t either. But there are ways to make your restaurant or cafe feel special while still protecting your staff and clients.
BE READY FOR WHATEVER’S NEXT. Learn more about how Square can benefit your business here.