How Restaurants Can Minimize the Impact of COVID-19
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Lyndsay is a Hong Kong-based member of the Customer Success Team looking after SevenRooms clients across APAC and Europe.
My day starts at 7am with calls to clients in Australia. With COVID-19 mandating the closure of their venues, it offers us a unique opportunity to take stock and build an onboarding strategy focused on re-opening post-pandemic. This is new territory for everyone but I love the incredible challenges, solutions and conversations that come out of discussing so many hypotheticals, based on assumptions on what reopening could look like in their market. The common theme from everyone I’ve talked to is an incredible level of optimism. The venues will reopen in the next few weeks, with a brand new reservations platform, a fully-trained team, a robust central database and the ability to blow their guests away with their hospitality. All bolstered by data and learnings from SevenRooms. The early morning start to my day is totally worth it.
By mid-morning I dig into my inbox, digesting dozens of Slack messages from colleagues from around the globe, busy at work whilst I slept. I fire through dozens more Whatsapp messages from my clients from across APAC, and even get a couple of messages from Paris and London clients checking in.
These messages are the best source of information for me in terms of getting a finger on the pulse of what’s happening on the ground -- Singapore’s lockdown has been extended again; London is slowing starting to think about next steps; Dubai is looking like it might slowly be opening up; and Hong Kong, although still under strict social distancing rules, is open for business.
My inbox is full of updates on our Direct Delivery product. New features, new processes and new functionality rolls out almost daily, so I spend 1-2 hours watching recorded videos of meetings, discussions and updates to catch up on what happened yesterday. The latest news from our team is that we are launching in London. This is going to be big. I fire off a few messages to London clients who I know will benefit from this product.
As I work through my emails, my focus keeps getting pulled away to my phone, which is buzzing away with questions and queries from clients. A new venue just opened its doors in Hong Kong and is trying to change its floorplan mid-service. In truth, I did not expect any new restaurant to be opening up at a time like this, but given how busy they are on day one, it seems like the gamble has paid off. Remotely, I edit their floorplan for them and the new tables are seated within seconds.
Next, a client in the UAE is using 7X Offer pages to advertise Order-for-Pick-Up and needs help programming the correct timings. Using 7X for pick up was an off-the-cuff idea I came up with when we launched Direct Delivery in the U.S. We weren’t yet able to roll out internationally, so I needed to offer our clients around the globe an alternative. I jump on a call and screen share with them to walk them through the settings to ensure their team can cope with these new orders coming in via the widget. It’s not a perfect solution, but it serves the purpose and I’m thrilled it’s working for them.
After lunch, I head into town to go onsite with another client, recently new to SevenRooms. The last few weeks, the streets have been incredibly quiet, so I am weirdly happy that I have to wait to grab a taxi and get stuck in traffic on my way in; a busy Hong Kong is good news for everyone.
I also arrive to a reassuringly busy restaurant.
The venue is moving from pen-and-paper to SevenRooms which can be a challenging transition. However, it doesn’t take long before the host team is tapping away happily on their iPads. With a 50% cap on restaurants’ capacity imposed across Hong Kong’s dining scene, a queue builds up at the door, waiting for tables to turn. Everyone is wearing masks and no one is batting an eyelid as the host takes their temperature while adding their name, email address and phone number to the waitlist - it’s the new normal. It’s generally thought of as best practice to take full contact details for all guests, so that if an outbreak is linked to the venue, all potentially affected guests can be contacted. Only a maskless face would raise eyebrows here now.
After service, I race home for some evening calls with London. I’m sharing learnings and lessons from Hong Kong as best I can with anyone looking at their re-opening strategy. A key lesson I have seen several learn the hard way is to limit the movement of staff members between venues. Strict boundaries between teams is the only way to ensure that a case of a COVID-positive guest in one venue does not impact the operations of another, as all staff members and those they have been in close contact with are put under self-quarantine. “Chinese Walls” have been put in place between many outlets here in an effort to stem the possible transmission. And it’s working - we have had a dozen days of “0” cases in Hong Kong now. Confidence is building in the recovery but no one is letting their guard down. The risks are just too high.
One predominantly walk-in London venue discusses the pros and cons of taking 100% reservations for the foreseeable future; accountability, guest-traceability and control over pacing and crowding all play in favor of the move. We edit their floorplan, re-do their pacing, update the messaging in confirmation emails and upload new information to their widget. We do all of this while being sure to make a note of the changes we're making. When it’s time to go back to ‘normal,’ we want this switch to be seamless. Again, optimism is at play here.
Another venue, concerned about having to manage a queue, is testing out our new online waitlist product, allowing guests to add their name to the waiting list remotely, limiting contact. They are concerned about guests feeling alienated, uncomfortable or just unwelcome. It’s inspiring and heart-warming how all my clients are equally concerned with both protecting and bolstering their business, while ensuring that guests continue to feel welcome and looked after. Hospitality is the end game.
My day ends with a few check-ins with New York. Trying to stay connected in an international ‘work-from-home’ environment has its challenges, but the energy, enthusiasm and positivity that the SevenRooms Customer Success Team sends out over Zoom is extraordinary. I clock off at 10pm buzzing with new updates and information.