The CO-VID 19 pandemic has halted the growth of every professional sphere in the world. The food and hospitality services are also one of the worst affected sectors. However, with the reduction in casualties and a daily number of cases, the food and hospitality industry is getting back to business. However, the daily workings are all proceeded with precautions and new norms. Interview Times had a great conversation with Anjali Aggarwal, the owner of Terrace, who spoke all about the new norms, precautions and working of the service Industry.
This is how the Interview went-
What are the contactless dining initiatives introduced by your restaurant after Lockdown re-opening?
We suffered huge losses during the pandemic. However, we believe that the safety of our customers should be our top priority. We don’t want our loyal customers to suffer any problem because of us at the end of the day; they are our biggest asset. Therefore, we decided to focus on our customers’ safe functioning until the pandemic gets over, and later on, we can think about profits.
Giving our customers an option for contactless dining is one of the many precautionary measures we have taken post lockdown. For this, we signed contracts with Zomato and Dineout. All the arrangements were made for the smooth functioning of contactless dining through Zomato and Dineout.
Moreover, the tables are numbered, printed QR codes are placed on the tables, and a manager was hired to manage the online dine-in dashboards. Customers scan the QR code and place the order through the app, then the manager accepts the order on the online dashboard and further coordinates with the kitchen staff, and lastly, the order is safely delivered at the table.
Besides contactless dining, what safety and hygiene measure your restaurant’s management is adapting to prevent the menace of Covid-19 spread?
To ensure safety and hygiene, simply following what others are doing is not enough. Therefore, it is essential to understand the type of customers and their comfort level. Most of the customers we get are families or are doing business. Some are very old and, therefore, not comfortable in using contactless dining.
For this purpose, we came up with several other safety measure ideas apart from the general measures. Moreover, we decided to create disposable menus for the customers who do not like to order from contactless dining. These disposable menus were specially designed and placed on tables. When the customer leaves, used menus are disposed of, and a fresh menu is placed on the table for the next customer.
Other than the menu, we are also removed common ketchup bottles and other items from the tables. They are now given in disposable packets. This way, we easily ensure minimum contact among customers. We also decided to maintain a record of each staff member’s temperature twice daily, and the temperature of customers is recorded before allowing them to enter. The room temperature inside the restaurant area is always maintained as it shouldn’t get too cold.
Therefore, we take special measures to clean the vegetables and quarantine the non-perishable items such as liquor bottles and others before using them. Besides these, we are also taking general measures such as sanitizing the tables before and after each customer leaves, using our own masks and shields, using gloves, and sanitizing the restaurant floor twice. We are also expecting a kitchen hygiene audit by Dineout any day now.
Has there been any significant change in the menu in the restaurant from that of the pre-Covid phase?
Before Lockdown, we changed the theme of the restaurant from Punjabi Indian to Restro-lounge. For this purpose, we created a menu for the new theme, which included several shakes and cold desserts. However, now, we have canceled all those cold beverages. Instead, we included soups in our menu along with coffee and tea. We are planning to add back shakes and other cold beverages once the pandemic gets over.
What is your take on the digital menu? What are its comparative advantages or disadvantages over the traditional menu?
Other than the disposable menu, we are currently using a contactless dining menu in our restaurant and planning to continue with it in the future. I believe a combination of technology and our traditional ways is important to connect with customers, take safety measures, and entertain all types of customers.
Keeping up with the new trends in technology is essential to survive competition in the market and connect with customers who love to use digital technology. The digital menu helps us to increase our home delivery sales. Every customer asks for the menu and checks the ratings before coming to the restaurant. Therefore, a digital menu is needed to connect with the customer before they come to the restaurant.
However, as I have mentioned, merely following recent technology trends or what other restaurants are doing is not enough. It is crucial to understand the preference of your customers and their nature. We aim to make every customer feel safe and comfortable. I believe contactless dining/digital menu does have a significant advantage when it comes to taking precautions and to keep up with the new trends in technology, but it also has some disadvantages.
A customer who does not know how to use technology, who wants to pay through cash instead of a card, or does not have an account would not choose the contactless dining option. Thus, coming up with new ideas such as disposable menus becomes necessary, which is comfortable for such customers and is also safe. Another problem with contactless dining is that a manager is needed only to manage and coordinate the online dine-in dashboard, which further increases the restaurant’s expenses.
Do you think contactless dining would become the norm in the future, or do you think the trend would abate once the vaccine comes out?
New trends such as contactless dining will continue in the future but not strictly to this extent. I believe the trend of contactless dining would abate to some extent once the vaccine comes out. People come for dinner to have a good time, not just have food, pay, and leave. They like to see new faces other than enjoying the place.
Humans, by nature, are social, and they love to interact with people. When a manager greets them on the restaurant floor, a smile comes on their face, and they feel more welcomed. Yes, I agree that contactless dining will become the norm in the future. Many more technological trends will come. However, these trends will always be combined with some human touch.
Interaction and human touch are the backbones of the service industry. The interaction is not just to provide the service. It also ensures that the customer is happy and satisfied with our service. I interacted with some customers post lockdown, and they told me that they want to see new faces and talk to people. They miss doing these things now. This holds, especially for the older generations. This change is tough for them.
I also believe it is not possible to do most of the activities without some human touch. From the food that the customers have to dance on the floor, everything includes human touch, even though done with extra safety measures such as masks and gloves. Technology can make serving easy, but a human makes the food. So, I believe the service sector can’t survive alone on technology. Human touch and interactions are needed to provide a warm service at the end of the day.