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Social Distancing Adds New Touchpoints in the Customer Journey for F&B Businesses

May 27, 2020

Global lockdown is slowly beginning to lift and we’re all eager to resume enjoying the experience of drinking and eating out. But with social distancing as the new normal, it remains to be seen how these experiences will change. No one is more eager to understand than the cafe, restaurant, and bar businesses themselves as they prepare to adapt to the emerging ‘day after’.

In addition to a few predictions regarding alcohol trends that are likely to remain in a post-Covid-19 world, and some visual inspiration from specialty coffee brands,  we’ve compiled the following list of touchpoints in the new customer journey that relate to food and beverage businesses in general.

They reflect both challenges and opportunities – along with ideas for leveraging them. From issues of hygiene, to space constraints, to communicating the friendly smiles of your waitstaff behind a face mask.

Touchpoint 1: Online Exploration

As food and beverage businesses start reopening, people are looking online at your website and social media profiles to find out whether or not you’re back in business, and if so, how you plan to incorporate social distancing measures to keep them safe. Communicating these issues front and center puts you in the best position to hit the ground running.

Touchpoint 2: Advanced Booking

Reduced seating capacity is likely to increase the need for booking in advance at dining establishments and even bars. As customers begin adjusting to this need, you’ll win bonus points by giving them a heads up on your digital channels so they can avoid the disappointment of hearing ‘sorry, all we have availabe is a table near the restrooms between ‘10:00-11:00pm’.

New customer touchpoints in the age of social distancing for food and beverage

Touchpoint 3: Waiting in Line

It stands to reason that the need to wait in line is going to be a central feature (or bug) of dining in the age of social distancing. Nobody likes to wait in line, but there are steps you can take to make the experience more enjoyable for your customers, whether it’s displaying your specials menu on a large screen, directing them to your web app on their smartphones to receive offers and loyalty content, or handing out some free mocktails or lattes with drink content reminding them to keep a safe distance.

Touchpoint 4: Ordering To-Go

As more customers order their coffees to go – many of them using digital menus – try leveraging data from the ordering process to add a personalized touch to their experience. It’s the kind of unexpected ‘extra’ that will have them coming back and talking about your business. It could be as simple as adding their name, details related to their drink customizations (like the cute example shown below), or even a colloquial reference that only a local or a regular customer would get.

Touchpoint 5: Ordering for Sit-Down

Depending on how long we’ll need to continue wearing them in public, we’ll get a lot better at reading facial expressions and cues behind facial masks. Still, for waiters, seating a table without being able to properly greet customers with a smile is likely to have all kinds of social implications that will be super challenging. Finding humorous ways to overcome those challenges can go a long way.

New customer touchpoints in the age of social distancing for food and beverage

Touchpoint 6: Social Media

There will be a relatively short window of opportunity when resuming public life will feel like a novelty and people will be more excited about celebrating and sharing these experiences on social media. You can leverage that opportunity by providing them with drink content that visually marks the occasion.

A Final Note on Digital Fatigue

No one fully knows how the new hospitality experience will play out, but the areas outlined above are likely to play an important role – particularly on the digital side of customer touchpoints. Covid-19 has forced a faster evolution of an increasing trend towards digital communication that has already been years in the making. Digital fatigue is going to be a factor, forcing the hospitality industry to find new and creative ways of merging digital and physical experiences.

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