Masks On Doors Open: Night Out For Now

Carve American Grille – Austin, TX

As state governments lift shelter in place orders, there will be many new challenges facing restaurateurs when doors reopen. Through thoughtful preparation, our aim is to outline specific adjustments within the restaurant to positively affect human interaction making the health of patrons and employees a top consideration. Our hope is that with the intentional design we’ll be able to relieve the anxiety of guests and increase the likelihood of repeat business. We will take a look at how these adjustments could be integrated within the context of Carve American Grille, a steakhouse we designed that opened late last year in Austin, TX.

Mobile app to alert guests when their table is ready. Branded Face Masks for Employees.

Before guests enter the restaurant, there are changes you can make to signal safety to your guests and improve operating efficiencies. Tock, a reservation system founded by Chicago’s Alinea Group, allows for prepaid reservations. Instituting a system like this would enable customers to reserve their table with a small deposit, ensuring that they arrive at their appointed time. It could also allow for meal pre-ordering, providing greater inventory management. On the day of the reservation, table status trackers could alert guests when their table is available. This will help prevent guests from congregating at the host before their table is set.

In many states that have started re-opening, restaurant employees are required to be masked. We certainly understand concerns about how warm a masked welcome can be, but masks can be another opportunity to tie in your brand and be an extension of your employee uniform. Also, within the entry, consider adding decorative hand-sanitizing stations.

Once greeted by the host, guests can be escorted to their table. We anticipate most restaurants will be operating at a lower capacity for some time. Consider implementing one-way traffic in your dining rooms with the extra area left after reducing tables. Along banquettes, we suggest increasing table spacing between smaller parties, and recommend allocating groups of 6 or more to private dining rooms to reinforce social distancing guidelines amongst patrons.

Carve American Grille – Private Dining Room

Similar to the green/red coin that is often utilized at Brazilian-style steakhouses, adding a disposable server interaction indicator to designate when service is requested, will help moderate patron/server interaction. We believe using an indicator will provide a hospitable experience while respecting social distancing. This disposable item could also incorporate a QR code for patrons to access the menu on their mobile devices. With many states being required to eliminate reusable menus temporarily, online menus would allow each guest to peruse the menu on their own phone and reduce printing costs for the restaurant.

Indicators to signal when service is requested. Receipt presented in branded envelope.

Contact with prepared food is also a foreseeable comfort issue with patrons. When the meal is ready, we suggest designating runners to minimize the number of staff that comes in contact with the food. Covering plates with cloches will provide a sense of cleanliness and enhanced overall table presentation. The attention taken to lessen the amount of time food, and even silverware, is sitting out and exposed can help ease the concern of diners. The runner can also remind guests to use their server interaction indicator, should they require additional service.  Closing out an experience needs to feel as attentive as the initial experience. At the time of presenting the check, we recommend eliminating the use of check presenters, consider branded envelopes instead. Another solution could be to implement a mobile paying platform (Apple Pay, Venmo, etc.) for a contact-less experience.

Making patrons feel safe should be everyone’s first priority and will be key to driving repeat business. This is a stressful time, and dining out has always aided in escaping the stress of everyday life. We will need to temporarily redefine hospitality in order to make patrons feel at ease. Following suggestions like the aforementioned will only help bridge the gap between the current reality and what we hope to be a near-future of normalcy. If we work together and focus on the problem at hand we can expect a great many innovations to come out of this trying time. These changes will not only help in the interim but may prove to be successful in the post-crisis landscape.

Carve American Grille – Austin, TX