Outdoor Dining Resumes in the UK: Tips to Prepare
It’s been a long time coming. The UK’s lockdown is coming to an end — kind of. On April 12th, restaurants and pubs will be able to open their doors and welcome diners back, and UK outdoor dining will resume. Yes, there’s an important detail worth repeating: dining will return but only for outdoor service.
UK Outdoor Dining Government Guidelines
The UK government has issued some guidelines regarding outdoor dining, all aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
- Diners must eat and drink outdoors and sit at a table.
- Face coverings must be worn while walking to and from tables or walking about the restaurant or pub (heading to the loo, for example!)
- Diners must continue to follow the Rule of Six: keeping two metres between them and anyone who does not reside in their household and only gathering with up to six people.
Eater London provides more on what can and can’t happen in restaurants come 12 of April.
So with that good news out, is your restaurant or pub ready for the tidal wave of diners who are eager to get back to some normalcy? Here are some tips for preparing for reopening for UK outdoor dining.
Tip 1: Focus on Safety and Hygiene
While people are eager to visit with friends and family, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still a bit uneasy about the virus. While surface transmission of the virus is debated, proper restaurant surface cleaning protocol is essential. You’ll need to focus on keeping your restaurant, beer gardens, and tables consistently sanitized. Be sure to proactively communicate the steps you’re taking to keep diners safe, as this can be an incentive to visit. This can be done via signage throughout the premises, via social media channels, and through your marketing efforts using guest data from your guest management system.
Tip 2: Tap into Contactless Technology
You’ll want to offer as many contactless technology options as possible to minimise physical interactions and maintain social distancing measures as much as possible. Some examples are:
- Offer a QR code to access menus from mobile devices. This means no germ-filled menus to pick up or touch.
- Offer pay-at-the-table technology, so your staff doesn’t have to handle cash or credit cards.
- Utilize QR codes for visibility into your waitlist or for bookings.
Tip 3: Utilize Drink and Food Promotional Offers
It’s been a while since many guests have regularly patronized a restaurant, so it never hurts to provide some subtle reminders of what brought them to you in the first place. You can drive business back to your restaurant by creating limited-time promo offers on your best-selling drinks or meal items. Those items with a proven track record of success, coupled with a tantalizing promotional price, can be the very impetus a hesitant diner needs to get back into the habit of dining in again.
If you need some help determining which are your best-selling items, the process of menu engineering can help. Menu engineering helps operators determine which of their items sell the best and cost the least, with every other metric in between. In doing so, you can determine which items you can offer for a discount, and still expect an increase in sales.
Tip 4: Don’t Abandon Takeaway or Click-and-Collect Now
While it’s exciting to get back to some normal with diners onsite, let’s not forget about those that are staying home and wanting to grab some takeaway meals. With takeaway has been the only source of income for many operators this past year, you might have already perfected the process. Now it’s time to streamline that process whilst having onsite diners as well. Things to think about:
- Are you staffed appropriately for both onsite dining and takeaway?
- Do you have a set pick-up station for takeaway guests and delivery drivers?
- Is your tech stack integrated to share data from the FOH and BOH?
- Is your parking lot set up for the influx of cars for both parking and pick-up?
Tip 5: Invest in Technology (if you haven’t already!)
Let’s face it; technology has been a saving grace for most operators for the past 13 months. Having a complete operational platform with robust, real-time data and integrations to your ePos and online ordering partners is key to operational efficiency. A booking system that allows for 2-way SMS communication will keep diners informed about their reservation times, as well as allowing you to monitor capacity limits. With a trusted kitchen display system, you can streamline the ordering process from start to finish and offer quality food with every meal.
Operators have had to make many compromises in their service. Pinpointing areas for improvement to the exact degree. Restaurant data points help make your quote times more accurate and remove wasted time.
UK Outdoor Dining Resumes — What’s Next?
In conclusion, these are challenging times, and this opening on the 12 of April is just the first step to getting the hospitality industry back on track in the UK. With inside trading seemingly far away, rest assured, 17 of May will come quickly. We’ve got a long way to go, but with vaccines on the rise and consumer confidence improving, that “new normal” we’re all sick of predicting just might start to take shape.
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About the Author
Amber Mullaney led all things marketing for QSR. A proud Texan native, she graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Public Relations and spent her career in the healthcare industry before making the switch to QSR and beyond, saying she loves a good challenge. Amber has a long list of things she loves, including tacos (especially tacos), sweet tea, Texas, the outdoors, and traveling with her husband and two daughters.