COVID-19 has hit businesses in the hospitality industry hard. Restrictions and bans on travel and gatherings, as well as layoffs and short-time working, have changed how the hospitality industry works.

With the gradual distribution of vaccines, we’re on our way to returning to the usual life before the pandemic. However, as a lot of things have shifted, how can you reopen safely in the “new normal”? Here are 6 tips to get you started.

1. Spot and understand changes in consumer behavior

Due to lockdowns, quarantines, restrictions, and extra sanitation, customer behavior has changed. Owners and managers need to spot these changes and find solutions to keep up.

Customers are now more sensitive to travel and shopping. They travel less and take more cautious prevention. They prefer online transactions.

However, consumer behavior may vary. Some customers may feel uncomfortable with wearing a mask, temperature checks, or staying in their seats after a few drinks.

Even employees may struggle to adjust their working habits. With increased sanitation, cleaning duties are now heavier for staff. They also need more training on how to deal with difficult guests.

Depending on local guidelines, you may need to:

  • Enforce rules for mask-wearing with employees and customers.
  • Limit table size to less than ten people or only allow family members to dine together.
  • Prevent bar guests from close contact after alcohol consumption.
  • Gather contact information for guests upon arrival.

To make sure both staff and guests are accountable and follow safety guidelines, managers and owners need to stay onsite more often.

2. Maintain safety and sanitation procedures

Safety procedures and cleanliness have been the main concerns of many customers even before the pandemic. And now they’ve become the norm in regular lives.

Hospitality businesses need to continue prioritizing safety and sanitation procedures even after vaccination.

Some of the practices include:

  • Apply socially distant check-in measures.
  • Prepare masks, gloves, personal protective equipment, and safety guidelines for staff.
  • Schedule staff for cleaning more regularly.
  • Pay attention to staff health and well-being.

3. Create a smooth digital experience

As guests now prefer online platforms, transactions, and activities, it’s time to revamp your digital presence.

You can:

  • Post and interact more frequently on different channels: business website, social media, intermediaries, Airbnb, etc.
  • Improve user experience and interface: upload crisp, optimized photos; increase website speed, simplify the booking process, etc.
  • Produce higher-quality content on blog and social media.

4. Refocus on your digital marketing strategies

Besides maintaining your presence on online platforms, you should also invest in digital marketing strategies to gain customer loyalty and attract qualified leads:

  • Put ads on search engines, social media, and other channels to attract potential leads.
  • Provide attractive offers and tell your audience on social media.
  • Organize giveaways, online events and contests.
  • Send weekly newsletters.

5. Adopt technological and smart solutions

Digital and high-tech solutions not only better customer experience but also bring more benefits to business owners. You can use them to limit contact points with customers, reduce high-touch point surfaces, and even reduce the staff you need to hire.

Some smart solutions you can consider include:

  • Online reservation systems
  • Digital concierge: welcome guests automatically, check them in and out digitally, etc.
  • Digital menus
  • Smart door locks that can be controlled with phones

6. Get back on track

To reopen in the new normal and get back on track, there are many other aspects worth focusing on:

  • Maintain rules and regulations for social distancing while recovering business operations.
  • Prepare separate and well-ventilated seating areas
  • Work on customer service to regain customer loyalty.
  • Keep your business fully and adequately staffed to keep up with the demand while keeping labor costs in control.
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Experiment and adapt

Returning to the new normal presents many challenges to businesses in the hospitality industry. There are so many changes that the world can barely return to its pre-pandemic state. Owners and managers need to observe how customer behaviors change, then adapt accordingly. 

There’s nothing to guarantee a successful reopening in the new normal. Make sure to experiment and figure out what you need through both success and failure.

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