You don’t let your other health and safety requirements have a negative impact on your customer’s experience, so why should this be any different? There should be seen as an opportunity to use the requirements for physical distancing to reinforce the genuine, caring hospitality you provide. Also, given that privacy is a key part of luxury these days, ask yourself  whether you can use the enhanced separation as a way to create a more unique, special experience for guests.

Here is our step by step guide through the customer journey with our thoughts on what might need to change to deal with social distancing in a fine dining restaurant.


1 – Booking process

– If you don’t already, implement a booking process to avoid any queues. Keep 10 minute gaps between sittings to allow for disinfection routines.

– Ensure staggered timeslots to even out flow. Consider incentives for less peak times e.g. 5% off if dining at 6pm, 10% off if dining at 5pm.

– Really invest in developing an enhanced digital relationship through social media, an app or email comms etc pre-visit including what guests can expect to be different and how you will make the experience special for them.


2 – Entrance

– Install an automatic door opener if possible. 

– If not, then look at anti-microbial door handles, foot operated openers or change to copper handles (viruses have been shown to live for much shorter times on copper).

– Or simply leave the door open if weather permits and it has no negative effect on HVAC performance.

– Install multiple menu displays to minimise need for passing traffic to congregate together.


3 – Greeting

– Staff should be wearing gloves and a face mask. Get well designed versions that feel part of your brand DNA as they are so visible. Have spare masks for guests who have forgotten theirs.

– Assume that you will have to carry out temperature checks on guests arriving, as other countries have done.

– Give an introduction to what has changed to adjust for social distancing.

– Have a hand-washing station or anti-bacterial gel available on entering.

– If taking coats, bags etc, explain that these will be disinfected for the guest when they leave.


4 – At the table

– Ensure you have surfaces that are both easy to clean AND look clean; distressed timber with no protective top coat is not going to be a good idea right now.

– Enhanced separation between tables will be required. We are seeing some Asian countries enforcing a policy of 50% reduced capacity. 

– If removing covers to achieve a 2m gap is not feasible, consider how to physically screen off between tables and create bigger circulation areas.

– Install air filtration equipment linked to existing HVAC systems (which remove viruses from the air) such as Airlabs AirBubbl technology.


5 – Ordering

– Ensure that tables are only served by one member of staff throughout their visit. 

– Menus should be delivered in the following order of preference:

a) Through an app on your guest’s phone. 

b) Digitally projected on a wall/ table or physically 

mounted onto the wall. 

c) Printed on disposable paper that can be recycled.

– Or maybe it would be a chance for staff to engage in conversation with guests (from 2m away) by having no menu and making recommendations.


6 – Eating

– Increase visibility of kitchens and food being made.

– Ask customers if they wish to move away from the table as their food is served and cleared away.

– Leave wine on/ next to the table and inform guests that they should top up themselves.

– Consider some theatre around the food delivery, perhaps on a trolley that guests then unload? Or have table tops that can rotate to minimise staff walking around the table.


7 – Toilets

– As with any doors, look at anti-microbial door handles, foot operated openers or change to copper handles (viruses have been shown to live for much shorter times on copper).

– Reduce contact as much as possible with automatic taps, soap and hand dryers.

– Urinals should be selectively closed off so that guests do not stand next to each other.


8 – Leaving

– Payment should be taken in the following order of preference:

a) Through an app on your guest’s phone. 

b) Contactless card payment

c) Chip and pin card payment

– Avoid cash, including tips. Look at initiatives like TipJar.

– Have a designated one way system for getting guests in and out of the restaurant, train staff to think of this as smuggling out a VIP to keep them out of harm’s way.

– Bring coats and bags to the table to avoid congregating around the exit.


9 – Online

– Start following up on guests properly after they leave! Ask for feedback and stay in touch.

– Look at how to deliver your experience to customers in their homes:

a) Delivery

b) Click and collect

c) Cook at home meal kits

d) Ingredients to buy

e) Online cooking demonstrations

f) Virtual chef’s table link to restaurant kitchen

g) In home private dining experiences


We hope that provides some food for thought.

Here is a downloadable pdf with this article in case it want to save it SD Fine Dining journey

This post was written by David Chenery

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