Post Lockdown Dining Experience

Case-Study – A Customer Journey

My partner and I wanted to experience a new dining venue – post lockdown on 15th July – the day of the indoor eating reopened again in Scotland.

She had made a reservation at a restaurant which we had recently discovered. We had checked out the website and the pub-style menu offered a variety of dishes. Although the pub name referred to a seafood theme, there were also steaks and burgers on offer – in addition of course to seafood. We were intrigued.

The Arrival

Our reservation was for 5.30pm. Upon arrival we were greeted by a young staff member who wore a face shield. She checked the reservation sheet and then had to ask her supervisor/owner (“O”) which table was foreseen for us. Our table was close to the bar/service counter. All tables were well separated from each other in order to adhere to the distancing rules. There were 4 parties (with 2s and 3s) of customers already seated.

The pub interior was nicely decorated with many seafaring ornaments which contributed to the overall ambience. However, the front door was held wide open in order to allow for the recommended air circulation. The backdoor to the garden area was also held open.

Order taking

“O” came to our table and asked for our contact telephone number. She was very nice, and she told us how keen they were to open again. We were handed double sided paper menus and we soon selected the dishes we wanted. After a wait of several minutes, “O” came to our table – stood in a good distance and asked if we knew what we wanted to drink. It was not easy to understand “O” due to the face-shield, her standing some distance away and the background sounds. We placed our drinks order and also informed “O” that we had chosen our dishes. We shared a seafood starter and chose different dishes – one hot, the other a cold seafood salad. “O” informed us that we could keep the menus as they would only be used once. We had not received a drinks list.

When the drinks arrived, the young waitress announced the drinks. Then she placed them on the outer edge of the table (trying to keep a distance). We had to sort out our drinks as we had ordered them. My partners half-pint was soon finished.

The Starter

The nice-looking starter arrived with two extra plates. However, we did not have cutlery which then had to be fetched by the young waitress. Some of the food items needed salt and pepper. So, we had to ask for it and small sachets were delivered. Nobody realised that my partners glass was empty – so we had to ask for a new half-pint. When the newly ordered drink arrived, the old glass and bottle was left on the table.

The main courses

Some minutes after we had finished the starter the young waitress came to clear the dishes and she stacked the plates on top of each other. Shortly after that “O” delivered the main courses and again the napkin wrapped cutlery had to be fetched. We were asked if we wanted some sauces which were promptly served. “O” then asked if we wanted some more drinks – probably because she realised that all glasses were empty. We ordered new drinks which were again delivered by the young waitress – without removing the old glasses! My partner then placed these empty glasses on top of the bar counter.

The food quality was ok – nothing special and the portions were reasonable based on the price. After having finished our main courses the young waitress cleared the table and asked if everything was “ok”.

Other observations, payment and farewell

I had to check out the toilet. There was a sign at the door that only one person was allowed in the WC and that the outer door had to be locked from the inside to prevent other people from entering. The second door could be opened inwards with the elbow. On the way out however, this door had to be opened using a handle, so was the outer door and the door lock – both had to be opened by touching. Therefore, both presented a possible cross-contamination issue. There was no sanitising station in front of the toilets. The only visible sanitising dispenser was located at the entrance door.

After my return, we sat for a while to finish our drinks before my partner said she was very cold due to the draft. The “summery” outside temperature of 17 degrees C did not help. So, we asked for the bill, which was placed on the table shortly afterwards. We then had to ask again to pay by card and the young waitress brought the card reader. Shortly after paying, we said farewell and left.

Missed opportunities

It certainly was an interesting experience. We felt there were missed opportunities and some room for improvement:

  1. Floor staff must be familiar with the new booking and guest contact-detail collection system (staff training)
  2. Even on disposable menus customers must be informed about allergens: Listing “GF” or “V” is not enough.
  3. Staff members must be aware of the service sequence and principles of service in general:
  • Drinks should be placed in front of customers as ordered – this can be done despite the distancing requirements
  • cutlery must be on the table before food arrives
  • customers should be asked of any condiments are sought since S&P shakers have been removed
  • staff should be trained to professionally serve and clear tables – plates should not be stacked. This basic technique should be trained no matter what type of establishment and quality grading a venue has.
  1. Missed sales opportunities:
  • Up-selling recommendations:
    • aske customers whether they prefer seafood or meaty dishes – then recommend dishes with good profit margins
    • Offer a drinks-list. Some customers may like to choose a wine rather than a beer (usually good sales margins); mineral water can also be offered as an extra.
  • Empty glasses mean more dinks should be offered
  • Once the main course is finished – sell a desert – even if one desert is shared it’s an extra sale.
  1. Payment process. Ask if the dining experience was well received by the customer. Present the bill on a wee plate along with a “business” card. Tell customers that positive comments are always appreciated on rating websites such as TripAdvisor etc. Give details about rating websites on the card along with new booking options.

Our Post Lockdown Dining Experience can serve as a case-study for other operators. Hospitality businesses must adapt very quickly to the “new way” of doing business to ensure their medium term survival. In addition to ensuring trustworthiness to customers regarding health and well-being issues, operators must enhance their customer service performance and quality of service.

Happy to discuss more details – just contact me.