What are the trends you expect to see as markets emerge from lockdown?

Restaurants will have many things to consider when they reopen. With capacity restrictions still in place and pent up excitement from diners, we’ll likely see high demand.

Restaurants are going to have to efficiently manage their floor, paying close attention to turn times and understanding how to utilise non-traditional dining times to maximise the number of guests they can accommodate.

It’s key to emphasise that restaurants are not on their own facing the challenges of reopening. Whether they need an online waitlist to manage capacity, or want to run a pre-paid experience to minimise cancellations and no shows, having the right partner and product in place can help make the most of the reopening moment.  

Another consideration will be how diners discover restaurants and make reservations. We’ll likely see uncertainty around which restaurants are open, their COVID-19 policies and availability.

Diners will be looking to make booking a restaurant as simple and convenient as possible, turning to platforms like OpenTable to help. We know when restaurants were open earlier this year that walk-in numbers dropped by almost 10%* as diners made plans and having a reservation gave them a sense of security. 

How are restaurants in non-lockdown states adapting to the current situation and how are they thriving?

We see in markets like Queensland which have mostly remained open, that business is resilient.

Our OpenTable State of the Industry data shows that seated diners through online, phone and walk-ins were up on average by 84%** in Queensland in September 2021 compared to 2019.

This highlights what could be as other locations reopen and diners are able to go out and enjoy restaurants again. These trends give me a tremendous sense of reassurance that despite domestic borders remaining closed, there is a wave of support from local communities for the restaurant industry. 

In a world where COVID remains a consideration, how do restaurants attract, understand and drive loyalty amongst their diners? 

Many diners have missed the joy of sharing a meal at a restaurant. As venues reopen this experience will be more important than ever to build loyal diner relationships. The reopening moment is an opportunity for restaurants to create lasting memories not only through the food and beverages they serve, but with the warmth of genuine hospitality.

Knowing your diners remains key to driving loyalty, whether it is understanding their dietary preferences, how much they spend or even their favourite dish, wine or table.

These are your relationships to grow and nurture, but working with a partner like OpenTable can give you the rich insight and relationship management tools that you need to communicate with and market to your diners effectively, making each and every visit special, and keeping them coming back.  

In the shorter term, what can restaurants focus on to maximise revenue?

With initial demand likely to be high, simple actions can have a big impact. Depending on the restaurant and how they operate, offering a premium or pre-paid dining experience could encourage stronger diner spend, while reducing turn times could help to generate greater returns.

Alternatively introducing dining experiences like brunch or high tea can bring in more diners at non-traditional times keeping the dining room fuller for longer.

We are aware of the labour challenges that the global industry is facing. In times like this when efficiency is key, having the right technology can help with automation where it makes sense.

Whether it is tools to manage online reservations and waitlists, sending booking confirmations and reminders, or automated marketing campaigns that can turn first time diners into regulars, it all helps when there is a labour shortage and will mean you can focus on delivering an incredible hospitality experience to diners.

Longer term, what are the trends you see for restaurants into 2022? 

If the past 18-months have taught us anything, it’s that we never know what the future holds!  But looking across the rest of the world I am hopeful for the upcoming festive season and excited about 2022.

In 2022 driving loyalty among diners will be key for restaurateurs. Using data and insights to understand customer behaviour, whether that be spend or ordering habits, and effectively tapping into this information to market to your diners, will be more valuable than ever in keeping guests engaged and coming back through the door.

Again this is not something restaurateurs have to do on their own. Being part of a dining network like OpenTable can complement your own initiatives, acting as a partner to help find new diners from the local area, interstate or even internationally (as borders reopen).

My advice would be to work across as many marketing channels as possible to help fill your seats, and ensure you have a solid retargeting approach to bring those diners back to you.

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*Based on data comparing January and February 2020 to the same period in 2021.

**Based on data from the OpenTable State of the Industry dashboard.