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Best practices to attract on-premise diners as restrictions lift

As dining rooms reopen, safety and efficiency are non-negotiables.
Photograph: Shutterstock

The pandemic catalyzed a year of nonstop shifts in safety standards and what diners prioritize, and restaurant operators have been staying light on their feet ever since. From implementing rigorous safety protocols, to utilizing new technologies, to rethinking the restaurant’s layout itself, restaurateurs have remained nimble to keep sales steady and guests happy.

Now, as pandemic-related changes to the market are fading out, operators will again need to reassess and revamp their operations—and on-premise service is at the forefront.

The return to dining rooms: what to expect

There’s no better news for the restaurant industry than the ever-expanding availability of COVID-19 vaccines. According to Technomic’s What to Expect in 2021 report, 43% of consumers say the COVID-19 vaccine is highly likely to encourage them to dine in at traditional casual-dining restaurants again.

While off-premise service will remain popular in the coming months, the prospect of dining in safely appeals to consumers and operators alike: According to Technomic’s Feb. 2021 Consumer Food Trends report, customers like that their food is fresh and hot when they dine in, and skipping the fees associated with delivery is a plus. For operators, on-premise dining is key to expanding check averages, as guests are more likely to order drinks, appetizers and desserts as they linger in the dining room.

Still, customers may need some convincing to bring them back to the restaurant. For restaurateurs, some key operational changes can help win guests over.

Leveraging on-premise strategies

According to a Q1 2021 report by OpenTable and the James Beard Foundation, What Diners Expect in 2021, 31% of consumers say they’ve already resumed their pre-pandemic dining out behavior, and 33% expect they’ll resume their regular dining out behavior between April and September 2021. Consumers’ biggest concerns when choosing where to dine are, unsurprisingly, focused on safety. More than 70% of consumers say it’s extremely or highly important for restaurants to require diners to follow safety precautions; have staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE); space tables 6 feet or more apart; or communicate strict cleaning policies.

While many of these are practices restaurants have employed amid the pandemic, boosting efficiency despite added protocols is more pressing than ever. Balancing an influx in on-premise dining with continued interest in off-premise services can add stress and labor behind the scenes. That is, if operators don’t seek solutions to keep operations safe and seamless.

Leading restaurant-reservation services provider OpenTable offers a host of solutions to make any operator’s reopening a success. OpenTable’s management platform offers custom floor plans and flexible table inventory to help operators make the most of their dining space—even as they keep safety at the forefront. Solutions for the front of house include table assignment recommendations; automatic table status updates when restaurants connect their POS; and waitlist services that provide hosts with approximate wait times and send guests text alerts when their table is ready.

In addition, OpenTable’s platform gives employees an overview of restaurant operations at a glance. Managers can analyze turn times to measure efficiency, and staff can see shift overview details and important guest information to help them provide the best service possible.

With these and many other solutions, OpenTable empowers operators to leverage the strategies and insights they need to make the return to on-premise dining a success. To learn more, click here.

This post is sponsored by OpenTable

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