How restaurants can turn themselves in takeaways to survive Covid-19

Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that planning laws will be relaxed to enable pubs, bars and restaurants to transform into takeaways in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis that has brought the UK to its knees.

Although this news is potentially a lifeline for the UK hospitality industry, there will be hundreds of restaurateurs wondering how they are going to put the necessary infrastructure in place. Here are three things for owners to think about as they contemplate a fast change of strategy.

The first place to start is some quick, agile marketing to inform the local community that your service is available. You can effectively reach the vast majority of your existing and potential customers using social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You might want to consider spending a small sum, say £500, on paid social but given the current situation it is likely your post will be organically shared quickly. Updating your Google listing with information about opening hours and takeaway services is a useful step. Also, flyers are a good way of spreading the word, especially to the elderly who might not be active on social media.

Next up, ordering. The temptation for restaurateurs is to gravitate towards phone-based ordering because it is familiar and instantly available. However, it also effectively ties up a member of staff for the whole shift and can result in customers waiting in a queue or even giving up.

There are providers who can build a digital service for a takeaway using its existing website or app in a matter of days. This keeps employees off the phone and in the kitchen preparing meals, as well as providing a level of resilience against staff absences. This also means customers can pay online and reduce the need for contact or handing over cash.

Finally, given the current climate it is also critical for owners to demonstrate that they are carefully considering hygiene and germs when it comes to preparing and delivering food. This is important to all customers, but particularly the elderly or those with underlying health conditions.

In addition to extra measures in the kitchen itself, for example introducing masks and conducting deep cleans after each service, restaurants must also take steps to minimise the risk of virus transmission on the doorstep. For example, we advise all restaurants to ensure their drivers are offering customers contactless delivery rather than exchanging cash.

Independent restaurants are the lifeblood of the UK hospitality industry and a fundamental part of the cultural fabric of the nation. The Chancellor’s changes yesterday are a small chink of light during an extremely worrying time for restaurant, pub and bar owners. The steps outlined above should enable them to take advantage of the opportunity and keep their business above water in the coming weeks and months.

By Conor McCarthy, CEO of online ordering company Flipdish

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