Plan B for when the next COVID lockdown hits your cafe or restaurant

As COVID controls and vaccination helps business return to some type of normal operations, government policy in Australia and New Zealand now seems to be using selective lock-downs to control spot fires and outbreaks.

Your Lockdown Plan B needs to be permanently at hand, so you can move within hours to protect your business, and alert customers, staff and suppliers. Here’s a bunch of areas where you need to have emails, social posts and communication at the ready – almost like a putting the fire drill into action…

  • Alert your customers – through email, text message, social media posts and signs on the window. Hopefully you’ve been steadily building your email and SMS list (here are 10 ways to do that quickly). Spend some money to boost your social media posts in the local area, so you make a greater impact. Use Canva to design catchy signs – look sharp and professional.
  • Alert staff about roster changes and different work needs – through group email, texting, their private social media group and the messaging service. Stand down those not needed, and understand your rights in this situation.
  • Contact function & event bookings, if there are restrictions on group size or service style. Your event contract should now allow for rescheduling and deposit arrangements in the event of health-related restrictions.
  • Increase delivery and takeaway – expanding the services you are already using.
  • Simplify the menu and reduce stock – most operators are now much savvier with their numbers and cost of goods. Use your digital system or menu app to slim down the offer. Is there equipment you’ve delayed purchasing that will be part of your backup plans? Eg fridges and freezers. If equipment needs to be shut down, follow the correct procedures.
  • Alert suppliers about reduced needs and hours of operation.
  • Alert finance companies about what’s happening, You may not be delaying payments, but keeping them in the loop increases trust in case you do need to negotiate.
  • Alert landlords – they’ve been through the wars in 2020, and although they don’t love the idea of rent reductions, your regular communication can prepare them for possible concessions.
  • Build your diversification – it’s not an instant change, but the more you can diversify sales and add multiple income streams, the stronger you will be. Here’s a great list of options.
  • Prepare reopening promotions – it’s called Disaster Recovery Marketing, and there are lots of options using the communication channels you’ve developed. Move quickly and sound positive.
  • Strengthen your administration system – many operators have a new appreciation for working from home. Is your PC or Mac up to date, with a good backup for data? Is it time for a larger screen or a better office layout? Do you have POS integrated with bookkeeping, rosters and payroll?
  • Encourage COVID vaccinations for everyone – led by the owners and managers! Show staff how to book for their ‘jab’ and arrange for time off. Maybe even a bonus for doing it?

Fingers crossed this remains theory! 🤞

🤚 Check the weekly discoveries on Hospo Reset – information & inspiration for restaurant, cafe & foodservice operators.

How to use QR Codes for restaurant marketing and management – dozens of easy examples

Everyone understands QR codes, now that they’re compulsory for COVID check-ins. Point your smartphone camera at a QR code, and a website or app will pop up.

In fact QR codes have been around for many years, and widely used in Asian countries – now that they’re understood here, you can start to leverage them for restaurant & cafe marketing, recruitment and daily operations. How many of these ideas can you use?

It’s easy to create your own QR codes – for a web page, WiFi access, a feedback form or to check off a worklist. Use a web service like Scanova.io or BeaconStac or QRcode-monkey.com, or a QR generator phone app. The Chrome web browser now automatically generates a QR Code for every web page you visit – click on the right side of the URL address bar. Download the square code you create and add it to signs or stickers – easy.

📸 .. Check dozens of ways that QR codes are being used on this special Instagram Account – new examples added all the time.

Put your Front Window to Work: a couple of QR codes can lead to a welcome video from the owners, a downloadable copy of the menu, TripAdvisor reviews or more information about opening hours and bookings. Now you have a 24/7 billboard – place the codes on a poster or on a digital slide.

Boost your recruitment with a link to your main recruitment page, and liven this up with some one-minute video testimonials from staff, or an overview of daily work routines. From this page, people can click and fill out a job application form ready for you to respond.

Include a code in printed marketing material: flyers, postcards and posters can all have a QR code added for contact details, Facebook and Instagram accounts or special Coupons.

Take-Away Menus: print a QR Code on table tents, front door posters or where you’ll catch a customer’s eye. Scanning the code directs them to a digital version of your menu on the web, or as a PDF. Take it one step further and integrate this with an ordering app, so they can browse, click, choose and pay.

Share Recipes and Food Stories: put a small QR Code on your menu next to key dishes. Smartphone users can then scan the code and be taken to a recipe, or even a video of it being made. Too many codes could look unsightly, so have one that leads to a page where more links can be clicked.

Information about Wine and Cocktails: distributors and wineries often have detailed information on their websites – the QR code could lead straight to this, or to pages you’ve set up (so you don’t have to show the supplier’s pricing).

Feedback Surveys: place a QR Code on the receipt, and ask for instant feedback. This works even better when staff remind customers that it’s just 3 questions – put them on a Google Form or with a free app like Wufoo. Take it one step further and give the option to join your email list to receive promotions. Surprisingly, with compulsory check-ins now a part of every visit, most venues are not turning customer sign-ups into newsletter subscribers. Even a ‘thanks for visiting’ email can make a difference!

Nutritional Information: there’s a wide range of information available online – now you can link directly to it for the people who are interested. This avoids your menu becoming like Wikepedia – the facts are there just for those who want them.

Download a phone app: if you have your own app, or want people to use one for ordering, a QR code can be set up to go to the Apple or Android app store, according to the phone being used.

Ordering lists, instruction sheets, operating systems and food safety routines can all be accessed online with a QR code – generate it for the web page or relevant documents. Dymo Printers or A4 label sheets can be set up to print the labels with a description underneath, so there’s no confusion.

Opening and closing routines, COVID and food-safety checklists can be set up in Google Forms or specialist apps like iAuditor – a QR sticker on the wall will trigger them for each location or time of day. Even those hourly checklists behind the bathroom door can be a thing of the past!

Need equipment repairs? Have a QR code for repair information and manuals, all on one laminated sheet on the kitchen wall or in a folder.

When you need to generate bulk quantities of QR Codes on labels or as images, there are services to do that eg QR Batch, or it could be part of the software you are using eg Shopify.

🤚 Check the weekly discoveries on Hospo Reset – information & inspiration for restaurant, cafe & foodservice operators.

QR code examples

10 Ways to Reduce Noise in your Cafe or Restaurant – and Bring Customers Back!

Why don’t people come back, after they enjoyed your food and the service? It could be the noise – too loud to talk with friends and feel relaxed.

Here’s a bunch of ideas for noise reduction, if you have to do it after your venue opens. The fact is, most architects and designers give little thought to effective noise reduction, creating hard-surface boxes with all 6 sides reflective so the noise bounces like bullets to kill our enjoyment.

It’s good to understand some of the technicalities of noise and how it’s created and reduced – the excellent Acoustical Surfaces blog is full of great articles such as Soundproofing vs Sound Absorbing – What’s the Difference? and Noisy restaurant solutions- when peace and quiet are not on the menu. Noise is measured in decibels, and the different levels are listed below. Measure it with a noise meter app from the iOS or Google App store – they’re good enough to show you the level of pain, which can quickly move into the danger level (above 80 dB) in a noisy venue.

Here are some easy ways to reduce noise in restaurants and cafes…

  • Acoustic panels – attached to walls or ceiling. These can be the expensive sound baffles like they use in a recording studio (they absorb sound) or simpler ones from a hardware like Bunnings. Even egg crates can be combined in an interesting way if your look is ‘cheap and cheerful’.
  • DIY acoustic panels – foam stuck onto plywood cut to size, covered with interesting fabric. In Australia, Clark Rubber has foams of all thicknesses and grades that they will cut to size.
  • Hang attractive floor rugs from the walls. There are many varieties at markets that could double as interesting art, and IKEA has a wide range at low cost
  • Hessian coffee sacks, filled with padding and hung as interesting wall features – another idea for a casual environment.
  • Padded panels between tables, to create more intimate spaces and reduce sound. Better in a more formal space with a large area.
  • Cushions and padding on chairs and benches – it all helps.
  • Tablecloths! Out of fashion in many places, but they do the job very well. Avoid padding under tables – it makes a slight improvement but feels a bit creepy when if you reach underneath.
  • Carpet! In my Cafe Troppo days, we had commercial carpet tiles in a charcoal grey and sound was never an issue. Steam cleaned once a month and very few spills to worry about – people don’t notice what’s on the floor. Artificial grass is also an option, and could be used in strips or as a feature – it’s done effectively by the Cafe 63 group in Queensland.
  • Turn down the music – it’s often up loud because of all the other noise, and people can hardly hear it anyway! You don’t need stereo in a large space, but you do need quality sound. Small speakers spaced around will be sufficient rather than a couple of big stereo speakers. If good music is a special feature at your place, it’s important that people can hear and enjoy it.
  • Reduce noise from the bar – blenders and appliances can be intrusive, best to have them with shields and covers.

Understanding noise levels…
Loud noise causes damage in two ways: the actual volume, and the length of time exposed to it. A noisy venue could result in occupational health and safety issues – attention clubs and entertainers!

Here’s a detailed chart of noise levels, and a quick summary of decibel levels:

140 – Jet engine at 30 m
130 – Rivet hammer (pain can be felt at this threshold)
120 – Rock drill – level at which PAIN BEGINS
110 – Chainsaw
100 – Sheet metal workshop
90 – Lawn mower
80 – Kerbside heavy traffic – level at which sustained exposure may cause HEARING LOSS
70 – Loud conversation
60 – Normal conversation

🤚 Check the weekly discoveries on Hospo Reset – information & inspiration for restaurant, cafe & foodservice operators.

Seen behind the bar in a Las Vegas nighclub…

‘Respect is the Rule’ – new anti-harassment website for hospitality workers

Respect is the Rule is a new initiative from United Voice, the union for most hospitality workers in restaurants, cafes and pubs. They don’t have much profile with our very casualised workforce, and it’s good to see they’ve jumped onto this important issue to make some impact.

The website has lots of resources for staff and venues, and businesses are asked to make a pledge of support. Here’s part of one of the posters you can download – there are versions for public and staff areas…