Published 23 June 2020
As food businesses reopen after shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that food businesses know what to communicate to customers during this time.
The key to the success of any food business is consistent and clear communication with customers. As food businesses reopen throughout the world, particularly in the United States, Canada, Australia and the UK, open communication has never been more important. Here are some ways that food businesses can ensure that their customers know about their reopening and the rules for dining at the food business going forward.
Once the food business has been given the go ahead to reopen, it is essential to communicate this with customers. Explain when the business is expected to reopen and what the business is being required to do in order to reopen. Informing customers of the requirements for reopening helps make customers feel comfortable about returning for meal. Communicating with customers about the reopening can be done in a variety of ways. The following are some of the main ways to reach out:
Directly mailing customers is one way to inform them of the business reopening. Sending letters gives a personalized feeling, while sending out colorful postcards can be attention grabbing and elicit excitement. If there are discounts or coupons being offered for the reopening, these can be included in the letters or printed on postcards.
Most food businesses have a website, so a quick and easy way to get the word out is on the food business website. Website banners can be updated with a reopening announcement, or a letter from the owner can be posted on the homepage. The business website is a great space to let customers know when you are reopening, what customers can expect when they visit, and that the food business is excited to welcome customers back.
If a food business has a customer database of emails, now is the time to make use of them. Create an email campaign that welcomes customers back and explains when the business will be reopening and what to expect. Emails also provide an easy way to link to the business website or social media sites where customers can get more information. If the food business is offering discounts or specials for the reopening, be sure to add these to the email campaign.
Social media is another efficient way to communicate with customers before reopening. If a food business does not have a social media account, now is the time to consider getting one. There are a variety of social media platforms that can be used such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Business social media accounts are efficient for sharing important information, photos of menu items or even posting videos messages from management announcing the reopening and welcoming customers back.
Once the food business has reopened, open communication needs to continue. There are new rules to follow and different ways that the food business will be conducting operations. Clear communication is essential to running a safe and healthy food business. The following are a few ways to easily and clearly communicate with customers on the premises:
Signage is an essential way to communicate with customers. Display signage that states the food business is taking COVID-19 seriously and lists the requirements for opening based on governmental regulations. Signage can also be displayed at the entrance to the premises which lists the rules for entrance, such as a requirement for wearing face masks. Posted signs can also help to inform customers about physical distancing rules, capacity limits or where to stand in line ups.
It is important to remember that customers will be nervous about dining at a food business. This means that customers will be more likely to be stressed and frustrated while dining out at this time. It is important that all staff are trained on how to handle customer complaints. Staff need to listen to all customer concerns and communicate what they will do in order to address any identified problems. Listening to customers and taking steps to address concerns is essential for business success, especially after reopening.
Staff must also be trained on what to say to customers that call the food business with questions. As food businesses reopen, customers will have questions and may call the establishment for answers. Ensure staff are trained on all of the facts about reopening including: what governmental requirements the business needs to follow, what changes have been implemented and what customers can expect upon visiting the business.
Should a customer or staff member fall ill with COVID-19, it is essential that food businesses communicate this to all individuals who may have been exposed. If the food business has been conducting contact tracing through a customer log, that log can be used to contact all customers that may have been exposed. Customers who are informed of a potential exposure will be upset and concerned, so compassion and empathy are needed when communicating with them. Despite the difficulty of the situation, it is essential that customers are communicated with so that they can be made aware of the potential exposure, get tested and self-isolate.