The Big Reopen: An Expert Guide to Managing Capacity vs Footfall
Managing the flow of customers in your bar safely is of utmost importance during this time. Patrick Urey, Restaurant Operations Manager at Hawksmoor, shares a step-by-step guide on how to manage footfall safely and maintain a healthy revenue.
Striking a Balance and Controlling the Crowd
Following the government announcement that restaurants and bars could reopen from 4th July, we are now operating in a new context of eating and drinking out. With the guidance for our industry on how to keep everyone safe, I can share our take on striking the right balance between customer and staff safety, high quality hospitality and converting demand effectively.
Although we do not have security in our venues in terms of a bouncer, we have moved our Maître D to the front door to greet guests and manage the queue to avoid any crowding and maintain social distancing. Equally we have reduced the flow of customer reservations available online to manage capacity and comply with new regulations.
Footfall vs Shortfall
Our strategy here is to start cautiously, gather and learn from feedback and then adapt as appropriate. The same applies for limiting guest numbers. We want to allow guests and staff some time to get used to how things have changed in the restaurant and then, when we feel that they are comfortable and confident, we will be in a position to increase covers. In order to secure enough sales for now, we are tracking our covers numbers against some metrics to determine whether it is viable to stay open for every service during the week.
Creating Content Customers
As we re-open our restaurants, there is still the question of how to increase customer confidence in returning to this type of indoor environment. With that in mind, we have closely assessed any risks so that our customers do not have to worry about anything when they arrive. We have therefore made necessary precautions to ensure we are offering both our staff and customers a safe and comfortable experience.
As a starting point, we have reduced the capacity of our restaurants by 30% and ensured there is a minimum distance of one meter between all seating. Where possible, there is a one-way system within the restaurant with one door to enter and a separate door to exit the venue. We have also minimised the flow of customers to 10 per every 15 minutes, which avoids congregation or congestion at the front door and allows our teams to fully get to grips with the new safety measures in place. These measures form part of our ‘health over wealth’ strategy.
Communicating these safety measures to our customers is paramount and we have done this in multiple ways. Firstly, we have moved to taking all bookings through our reservations systems on our website. Each booking confirmation email includes a PDF with full information on what to expect in the restaurant and also shares a link to our new policies. Customers will have a clear understanding of our queuing system at the door, reduced capacity, table service and cleaning and sanitation procedures before they arrive on site.
We are keeping our social content to talk about our product, hospitality and experience. If our customers are interested in more information about our new measures then these are available on our website or via a booking confirmation email.
We have additional signage both outside and within the restaurants to reinforce these safety measures and ensure social distancing is adhered to. We have run thorough training sessions for our reservations teams and managers to ensure they remind guests of these measures both on entry and on the way to their table, and they are on hand to answer any additional questions. Our teams have been trained to recognise the feelings of our customers and quickly address any additional needs they might have or be concerned about.
What it’s All About
As we move through this re-opening phase we must not lose sight of the fact that we are a hospitality business. The measures we impose should be no barrier to maintaining the great restaurant atmosphere we were known for pre-closure. Many of our customers are returning to the restaurants as a form of escapism from what has been a very concerning and anxious time, and we therefore want the experience to feel as ‘normal’ as possible. Our customer feedback is crucial for continued improvement as we navigate through the reopening phase. We are reacting quickly and adjusting measures where necessary if anything is fed back in terms of how we can improve our customers’ experience of eating out again. We feel positive with our feedback to date with almost all customers thanking us for the safety measures in place alongside making the experience enjoyable and relaxing.
- Build guest confidence with clear communication about new measures at different points of the experience: at reservation, at the entrance, while guests are being seated.
- Actively request feedback to understand what makes your customers happy about your new process
- Use reservation systems to proactively manage the flow of customers to avoid congestion at the entrance and throughout the venue
- Ensure your team is trained on the new procedures and ready to answer guest questions
- Remember what hospitality all is about: maintaining that brilliant atmosphere your venue is known for
*Please consult WHO, as well as country specific legislation and guidelines when considering next steps for your bar.
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