With the US Government announcing the vaccination mandate, the restaurants who had not opened their doors yet, have a strong reason to do so now. The vaccination mandate will ensure that all the safety measures are in place, as well as give assurance to the customers that it is safe to dine out. If you are thinking of reopening the doors of your restaurant to the general public, the best time to do so is the upcoming Halloween holidays. While most people don't think of Halloween as a ‘restaurant night’, the statistics tell otherwise.
Halloween-related spending in the US was around $8.8 billion in 2019, and there are over 175 million Americans that were part of the celebrations. Technically, one in every two Americans is your potential customer, and you cannot miss this opportunity of not targeting them. According to a survey, lounges and bars experienced more footfalls on Halloween than they did on typical weekdays. Their revenues shot up by 17% and they processed 25% more transactions.
If you have been waiting for the right time to reopen your restaurant, the time is NOW.
Below three steps will prepare you for reopening your restaurant on Halloween and make the most of the festive season.
You cannot survive or grow in the current scenario unless you have a digital presence. Most customers are looking for food online, and you need to have an online presence. If you are not sure why you should do it, then you should check the below stats:
Now, if the clouds of doubt have been removed, you can follow below steps:
a) Get an online ordering system in place - There are many online ordering systems for restaurants available in the market. Most of these options can be customized so that you can provide your customers unique ordering experience. You should choose an online system that easily integrates with your POS system, third-party ordering channels as well as QR ordering app. Ask yourself these 10 questions when choosing a restaurant ordering platform for your restaurant's digital needs.
b) Decide on how you are going to make deliveries - You can either tie up with some food delivery ordering companies or opt for in-house deliveries. Opting for an in-house delivery system has a lot of advantages. Third party ordering companies work with so many restaurants and hence they will fail to give a personalized experience to your customers. However, if you are keeping delivery in-house, you can be assured all your orders will reach on time to the customers. You will have to plan accordingly such as procuring and training an additional team who work as delivery persons, and arranging for a vehicle for each delivery person.
c) Focus on holiday-themed menu items - Halloween is one of the biggest holidays in the US, and it is followed by other holidays. So restaurants have to put their thinking hats on to create the holiday-themed menu. If you cannot do entire menu remodelling, you should at least come up with some innovative ideas to give your customers the feel. For example, with every burger order, you can put a caricature of a dead man’s hand holding a burger. Or you can create menus inspired by fire, color, and zombies.
If you plan to give your customers a dine-in experience, you need to take care of a few things. The traditional ways that you used to operate the dine-in restaurant won't work at all now. If the thought is crossing your mind of reopening your restaurant with minimum changes, you should park the thought straightaway. Below are the things you need to do to reopen the restaurant -
a) Get QR code menu/contactless dining app - Be it a restaurant or some other shop, customers now avoid touch while they are out. For restaurant owners, there is a perfect solution - QR code and contactless dining app. Customers who come to your restaurant would scan the QR code, access the menu, and order the food. They can also make payments online through the app.
b) Set up tables at a distance - Covid has changed the definition of comfortable. Earlier, people used to prefer to go to restaurants that were full of energy and occupied. You may have sometimes served more customers than the sitting capacity. You cannot even think of doing it. Now you have to ensure there are sufficient spaces between the tables, even if it means your total sitting capacity goes down. You will have to make customers comfortable now, and the new definition of being comfortable is being away from others.
c) Instruct your staff to follow safety norms - You have to instruct your staff to follow safety measures all the time and never let the guard down. It would be better if they have face masks and gloves while they come close to customers for serving food. If not, they should regularly sanitize their hands. Even while serving food or any other item, they should maintain the maximum possible distance and not make customers uncomfortable.
d) Tell your customers your staff is vaccinated - You can put the banners outside your restaurant to tell the potential customers that your staff is fully vaccinated and that you are taking care of all the safety protocols. Some restaurants have also declared that their staff is vaccinated on their websites and apps which indeed is a very crucial point to communicate to their potential customers.
To run a successful restaurant now, you need to be social. As more and more customers prefer to search for their food online, you have to reach them through different social media channels. Below are some social activities that you can do -
a) Create special Halloween deals and promotions - You already know the power of social media, but do you think it is enough? It is Halloween, and you must sound nothing less than "unbelievable" with your Halloween deals and promotions. Everything is crazy and fair with Halloween. You can create some deals around Halloween. You can greet all your guests with complimentary "vampire blood" drinks. If the orders are placed online, you can still send them unexpected surprises.
For instance, people who will not go out and spend Halloween at home, you can make it fun for them too. You can include a gift card in every delivery that goes out from your restaurant. Also, Halloween is not the end of the season, so be proactive to give all your customers promotional coupons that they can redeem in November and December.
b) Run Facebook ads - All the planning is fine, but your plans and preparation have to reach your customers. The best and the easiest way to reach them is through Facebook ads. You should reach them and inform them about the offers, the special precautions you are taking for dine-in customers, and everything else that makes your potential customer feel that your restaurant is a must to go place during Halloween.
c) Engage with them with special contests - The competition is tough, and you have to do a bit extra to have an edge over your competition. One way to get an edge is by keeping your customers engaged. You can organize special contests to gain the attention of customers and increase your sales. You can also collaborate with influencers and run Giveaway contests on Instagram, this would also enable you to get the message to your target audience that you are reopening.
If you want to do a basic contest, you can have the best Halloween dress contest or a prize for the best mask. To get children's attention, you can organize game contests like shooting pumpkin contests with paper balls. Start your contest a week or two in advance so that you can have a decent number of entries.
Reopening your restaurant business won't be easy, but you will not find a better time to do it. All the efforts you will make and the money you will spend on reopening your restaurant before Halloween will be worth a single penny. As a restaurant owner, you can continue to grow if you can ensure your customers come back to you. With the above steps you can be rest assured of the same. If you can pull the show off, you will have an extraordinary end to the year.