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Pods or next to teddy bear, coming to terms with new normal dining out
Tuesday, 08 December, 2020, 12 : 00 PM [IST]
Ankit Mehrotra
Indians are slowly and steadily coming to terms with life amidst a pandemic. While initially most of life had come to a screeching halt, 7 to 8 months down the line, people have started to release the pressure from the brake. The most significant change that is being witnessed is an increase in social gatherings and dining out. Whether seated in sections/compartments/pods or next to a teddy bear, people are coming to terms with the new normal dining out.

Most diner activity has been observed in Delhi, Bengaluru, and Ahmedabad, with online reservation portals such as Dineout recovering 60 per cent of their usual business. The projected recovery rate for the ongoing festive quarter for these cities is above the national average at 70 per cent. Chennai, Kolkata, Jaipur, and Hyderabad are not far behind, with a promising recovery rate of 55 per cent. The major credit goes to the restaurateurs who are constantly listening to their customers, evolving, and adapting to the new demands. Restaurants around the country have focused on the following factors to ensure a safe dining out experience.

Rebuild Confidence and Increase Trust
Customers continue to be wary about coming in close contact with unknown people and places. Most restaurants are taking two essential steps in this direction to ensure customer confidence. First, getting a certified hygiene accreditation that showcases that external experts are making sure it's a safe dining space. Second, as an extra measure sanitizing the seating area right in front of the customers. 

This move helps restore faith in your customers that their safety is your top priority. It makes them confident and comfortable.

Reduce Contact 
The definition of dining out has changed in 2020, and most changes will continue to stay even after the pandemic is over. The sooner restaurants adopt these, the faster their recovery rate will be. Some of the tactics involve the adoption of technology that helps with capacity management. Not only does it help you adhere to social distancing, but it also provides you with essential data that can be used later to make calculated & risk-free moves.

Pre-booking of tables for dine-in helps restaurants gather and own customer information. This provides them with much-needed data points, like covers/number of guests, average bill value, meal choice, and drinks. Most restaurants are using such data points to achieve two things.

First, predict guest visit frequency and dining out habits; this can be used to send out personalized communication and build loyalty. Second, forecast footfall, analyse ordering patterns, and ultimately reduce wastage.

Another set of game-changers are the digital menu and digital payment. Restaurants promoting QR code-based menus, minimizing contact between guests and staff are winning the battle. 65 per cent of our restaurant partners are already reaping the benefits of this. An increased interest in these is proof of massive growth in mobile ordering as more and more customers get tech-enabled.

Branching out To Takeaway andCurbside pick up
While there are many customers showing interest in dining out, the remaining form an untapped source of revenue; these sceptical groups are keen on eating restaurant quality food but are restricted in terms of social activities. The key here is to get them to a restaurant's door. Given an option to pick up their indulgent meals from their favourite restaurants from the safety of their vehicles is a dream come true. 

Having experienced a surge in demand for takeaway, many of our restaurant partners have expanded their business model and revenue channels. 

Building a direct connection
For the longest time, restaurateurs have been involved in a tug of war with 3rd party aggregators for online orders. Those days of complete dependency on such firms are long gone now. Many of our restaurant partners have recognized the relevance and importance of having a digital presence through a website. This just doesn't let their customers find accurate information; it also allows them to place direct orders for home delivery and takeaway. 

This has two significant implications. First, restaurants skip the commission route, get direct orders, and increase their profit margins. Second, they also gather customer information and feedback basis, which they launch future marketing campaigns to build a repeat customer base. This helps them foster long term relationships.

Such steps in the future direction are a refreshing change and hold the promise of growth. While these are a few major ways the restaurant industry is bouncing back, there are many more innovative ideas restaurants around the country are adopting to bring back the joy of dining out to food lovers across India.

(The author is CEO &co-founder of Dineout)
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