Cafés and coffee shops can either operate as convenience led food-to-go offers or as more relaxed, enjoyable spaces to sit and socialise.

When social distancing measures are in place, convenience will naturally need to be your guiding star. You will however, need to work hard to ensure you don’t lose your human connection with customers.

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?

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 – Online

– Aside from delivery, enable ‘click and collect’ orders via an app or your website. You should do everything you can do to minimise the time customers need to be in your restaurant to make a decision.

– 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.

– If you have multiple entrances, designate one for entrance and one for exit.

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


3 – Queues

– Be very clear where people are expected to queue. Floor graphics are of great help here. Design something simple that fits with your brand DNA; it is a piece of brand communication and should be treated as such.

– If possible split up queues to help manage the flow better e.g. one queue for customers that want a hot drink made up, another for pick up or quick orders only.

– Consider building a temporary take away counter to split up queues. It does not need to be expensive.

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


4 – Staff

– 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.

– Keep staff circulation to a minimum, ideally working behind a counter at all times. Encourage customers to clear their own tables if you have any.

– Implement a visibly increased cleaning regime.


5 – Counter

– Remove as many self-serve elements as possible including free tap water, condiments, straws etc. Everything must be handed over at the point of order. Staff will need to be extra aware when asking customers what they need when ordering.

– Add protective screens for both staff and product displays. You may have to rethink the way product is displayed to ensure it still looks tempting.

– Increase graphic communications, menus and explanations so customers can clearly see what is available without causing delays.


6 – Payment

– 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.


7 – Seating

– You are going to have to reduce table numbers to allow for an increased 2m space between guests or build in some form of screening.  Any shared tables and seating will need to be reviewed and divided up to ensure people are kept apart. Do not underestimate how important it is to your customer experience to do this properly.

– Consider the pros and cons of table service. It will increase contact between staff and customers, but may alleviate pressure around the counter and order pick up points.


8 – 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.

– If you have toilets that need a pin code for access, remove this for now.


9 – Leaving

– 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 at home:

a) Delivery

b) Make at home meal kits

c) Ingredients to buy

d) Online barista demonstrations


We hope that provides some food for thought.

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

This post was written by David Chenery

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