An industry that has been hit hard during this Covid crisis is hospitality. After having to close for over 3 months, bars and restaurants are now told to close by 10pm and in some parts of the UK, to completely close unless substantial meals are served there.

Pubs, restaurants, cafés and hotels have worked hard to ensure their establishments meet the strict safety guidelines with signboards, screens, floor stickers, new cleaning procedures, staff bubbles and so on.

Customers want somewhere to eat and drink that not only feels safe, but also is inviting and welcoming, which can be a balancing act for these businesses. So here are some tips on ways you can make your venue just as inviting as before, while still following the guidelines.

1. Welcome signs

Make sure the first signs your customers see when they enter are warm and welcoming. Rather than having just a list of “do this” and “do not do that” instructions, make it friendly and approachable with words like, “Thank you in advance for your patience while waiting to be seated.” Think of how you as a paying customer would like to be treated and spoken to.

2. Staff face coverings

Some pubs and restaurants have opted for clear visors/face shields instead of masks for their staff, which allow your customers to see your full faces. There’s a lot to be said for service with a smile!

3. Customer face coverings

You might already have signs displayed, politely requesting that customers to wear face coverings when not seated. Also follow the government guidelines here, regarding exemptions, which states “Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign. This is a personal choice, and is not necessary in law.” They also do not have to disclose their medical reason (Equality Act 2010).

4. Make your table service the best it can be

It can feel unusual for customers to not go to the bar to order their drinks and sitting waiting at a table to be served can feel a lot longer than it can at a bar where they can actually see you are currently serving people before them. If you are very busy, pre-warn the customer as soon as you seat them at a table and also keep them informed that you haven’t forgotten them. It’s surprising how more patient a customer can feel if they know they have been thought about.

5. Make it easier for customers to get your attention

No staff like to be beckoned like in the old days when customers would click their finger at a waiter to get served. So to make it an easier and more pleasant experience for your staff and for your customers, think of a creative way around this. I’ve been to a pub that reopened in July, which has made it fun to get a server’s attention. They have a washed, empty bottle on each table with twinkly fairy lights inside them which the customer can switch on to get the servers attention and a sign next to each table saying ‘Illuminate for service.”

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6. Feedback forms

Print out some simple feedback forms to have on the tables or on disposable menus, so that people can tell you what they like and dislike about your establishment. It shows that you do care, even to those who don’t fill it in. Any feedback you receive will of course help you decide what improvements you might want to make if any.

7. Marketing and promotions

If you haven’t already, consider starting a mailing list and asking your customers if they’d like to join it. You can send out emails with offers and discounts as well as a competition to win a meal for two. Or ask customers to follow you on social media for offers and competitions.