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The pandemic has lessened, but no restaurant looks the same in its wake. Many well-known chains have closed permanently, while others have decreased their physical footprint and menu items. Any fast-casual restaurant still standing has had to update its operational base to retain market share. The “new normal” will look significantly different from pre-COVID dining. The challenge now becomes how to reopen a restaurant and be successful in the new environment.

The restaurant industry was virtually decimated by the shutdowns imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those fast-casual chains remaining will have to level up to meet the customer’s new demands for dining in a restaurant after COVID. Below are a few ways you can reimagine your restaurant operation to attract a cautious post-COVID population. Using technology like mobile POS devices, health, and hygiene audits, and mobile ordering will ensure a consistent and measurable experience to welcome customers back through your door. Consider these 3 tips on how to reopen a restaurant.

1. Demonstrate your commitment to restaurant health and safety

We have all been through a lot in the last year. “Wash your hands,” “cover your mouth,” and “sanitize everything!” have been constant battle cries as people all over the world were immobilized by the pandemic. Restaurants were hit especially hard, with pandemic-driven sales losses totaling at least $240 billion.

Though restaurants finally seem to be opening up, the fear of contamination still exists. The good news is that most people are ready to get out of the house and back into society. Following reopening regulations, a restaurant after COVID-19 will now be responsible for reconfiguring its seating to maintain social distancing requirements. Workers wearing face masks, plexiglass barriers between tables, and easily accessible hand sanitizer will also reassure patrons that your fast-casual restaurant is safely open for business. Try Envysion’s Operational Audit Service to track and report on restaurant hygiene standards.

2. Ramp up restaurant mobile technology when reopening

While many restaurants accepted call-in orders pre-pandemic, the impact of COVID influenced increased restaurant online or mobile ordering. Restaurants with high order volumes even incorporated food delivery into their services. “…around 42% added delivery, according to research by financial services company Rewards Network.”

Another important aspect that restaurants were forced to revisit was how to streamline payment processing. Mobile POS devices greatly reduce person-to-person contact by having the customer process their payment. By having a customer scan their debit or credit card directly on the POS device, direct contact with servers is decreased. The POS machine can then be wiped and sanitized for its next use.

3. Pay close attention to your restaurant customers when reopening

COVID-19 has reset the playbook for the restaurant industry. Tables packed into every possible space in the restaurant, using menus repeatedly, and direct contact with restaurant workers are all things in the past – at least in the short term. A restaurant after COVID-19 must accommodate customer concerns about health, safety, and flexibility in dining options. The most successful restaurants will be those that quell their customer’s concerns, offer a hygienic and organized dining area, and continue to offer home dining through mobile ordering. Touchless payments will be essential for all dining options as individuals cautiously leave their homes and participate in outside activities. Restaurants can begin to regain lost revenue with just a few tweaks to their operational model.