States across Australia have revealed their blueprints to reopen venues.

New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Western Australia are all allowing cafes and restaurants to reopen.

However, diner numbers are capped at 10 for all states except Western Australia and Outback Queensland, which will allow 20 diners, and the Northern Territory, which is only limiting the amount of time customers can spend in a venue (two hours).

Such a small number of customers is obviously not ideal, and leaves operators in a less-than-desirable situation.

Do you remain closed until stage two (which will see 20 diners) or wait it out until stage three (100 diners) under the Australian Government’s plan? That said, it’s all up to the states to determine dining restrictions.

Here are some tips to consider if you are giving restricted dining a go.

Staged dining times

Limiting the amount of time customers can spend in a venue is essential to increasing turnover and getting as many people through the doors as possible. A one-hour limit should be enough time for customers to order and eat their meals, and the time should be even less if a customer is only ordering a coffee and a small menu item.

While most customers will be understanding, communication is essential. It’s up to staff to give customers a heads up on time restrictions before they sit down; this ensures a mutual understanding of the situation.

Restrict menus

Reworking your menu to showcase dishes with higher margins is a good option to streamline the kitchen and ensure you’re maximising average revenue per user. By limiting the menu, it reduces the types of produce required and boosts chef productivity. It could also give you a rough estimate of how much customers will spend, and perhaps influence the decision to open or remain closed for dine-in trade.

Encourage bookings 

Social distancing measures must still be adhered to, and you don’t want hoards of customers hanging around inside your venue. If you don’t have an online reservations system, now is a good time to get one.

Use social media platforms to let customers know you’ll be opening soon and stress the importance of booking in advance. This will allow you to confirm bookings, send reminders of any dining conditions and importantly, streamline customers coming in and out.

Expand take-home items

While dining in will be a different experience for customers right now, it doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy what they love about your venue once they leave. Preparing take-home meals, selling alcohol or making a small range of items (pickles, sauces, jams, etc) available to customers is a good way for them to support your business and spend a little extra on the way out.

Keep promoting takeaway + delivery

It’s important to still push takeaway and delivery sales. For many operators, 10 customers at a time is a fraction of the number they would usually see during a normal trade day. If you’ve got too many people lining up or have reached capacity for the day, ordering takeaway is the next best option for those who have missed out on a table.

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