Walk around any town or city at the moment and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s 2019 again. As summer kicks into gear and vaccination rates rise, American hospitality is back in business.
Recent research by SafetyCulture and YouGov showed that, encouragingly, consumer confidence continues to rise. Only 23 percent of respondents expressed a level of discomfort around dining out compared to 52 percent from the same time last year*.
While this is great news, in a partially vaccinated world businesses cannot simply return to pre-pandemic operations. Certain risks remain, meaning there’s work still to be done. In fact, research by SafetyCulture revealed that safety precautions are still a priority for the majority of American consumers. More than one in three (36 percent) of those surveyed expressed some discomfort visiting businesses in the coming months that have relaxed COVID-19 safety precautions*.
It’s clear that rebuilding customer confidence isn’t a one-time exercise. Here’s how businesses can capitalize on technology to sustain safety procedures in a changing environment.
Upskill Your Workforce at Warp Speed
As consumers get more confident, adhering to remaining restrictions may become the next big challenge for hospitality companies. This is where your staff can help … but they need to be armed and ready.
As the eyes and ears on the ground, staff members are best positioned to implement and monitor such safety practices. But it also increases their exposure to potentially negative interactions and high-pressure situations with customers. As venues ramp up capacity, it’s worth considering what new training your staff need to do their best work. Longstanding and holiday casuals alike will need training to understand new ways of working.
Instead of long seminars or ad-hoc on-the-job learning, consider adapting training to how people are already living. Mobile-led platforms that feature smaller chunks of information are a great way to break up training. In our experience, learning audiences in teams of all sizes can more easily work through highly engaging lessons in around five minutes. It’s in this microlearning format that we actually see a higher knowledge retention rate and user engagement. When repeated often, micro-lessons help ingrain practices while keeping staff in the loop and motivated.
Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk
Once you’re confident in staff training processes, you can make your venue work harder so that staff aren’t your only mouthpiece. Look at ways to use your space to your advantage, such as adding signage, safety checks, and reworking customer flow to make it easy to do the right thing. Simple things like continuing to provide sanitizer stations and displaying real-time safety checks allow your venue to become a safety signal. Not only that, it increases consumer confidence in your business.
Our research also found that 85 percent of American consumers would have increased confidence in a business which undertakes regular cleaning and disinfecting activities and makes those processes visible. Other means to increase consumer confidence included enforcing social distancing protocols, as well as making gloves and masks freely and readily available. These small details help reassure consumers in this “in-between” phase of reopening as well as take the pressure off your staff. With your venue doing some of the heavy lifting, workers are able to focus on elevating the consumer experience in other ways rather than their first interaction with customers being purely protocol led.
Fight Process Fatigue by Making Processes Frictionless
It’s important to remember that vaccines are one part of an effective safety strategy. Clear and manageable safety processes are critical to a successful reopening and go a long way towards ensuring compliance. Eliminate unnecessary red tape and break information down into easily digestible formats that people can act on. Simple checklists, repeated often, can be the most effective method for keeping on top of evolving compliance measures.
By equipping staff with the tools and autonomy to drive initiatives forward, COVID-safe practices become easier to follow and maintain. While a big post-pandemic shift is on the horizon, it’s important to get there the right way.
* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,198 adults in 2020 and 1,000 adults in 2021. Fieldwork was undertaken between June 24-25, 2020 and June 7-8, 2021. The surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all U.S. adults (aged 18-plus).