Every week we comb through the news to find employment trends affecting the hospitality industry so you don’t have to. This week’s topic: ghost kitchens and mobile ordering.

Due to the continued prevalence of the coronavirus, the wants and needs of consumers have been changing, with “cleanliness [being] the new ambiance” when it comes to guest’s intent-to-returnRestaurants ranging from fast food to dine in service have been improving and altering their concepts in order to accommodate what guests want: the guarantee that health and safety measures are being taken. And there are two ways businesses are prioritizing those wants – ghost kitchens and mobile ordering. 

Ghost Kitchens and Mobile Ordering

These operational adjustments have led to various new concepts, one being ghost kitchens. A ghost kitchen, “also referred to as dark or virtual kitchens, are professional kitchen facilities set up to support delivery or carryout meals only, offering restaurant operators an opportunity to start an additional revenue stream.” The ghost kitchen industry has experienced an increase in interest and revenue because it allows restaurants to continue providing a great at home dining experience (through to-go or delivery) while maintaining social distancing requirements and capacity concerns. Ghost kitchens are especially useful for restaurants that are just starting up, or who want to get rid of their dining rooms but continue servicing their customers.  

Another concept that’s being improved upon is mobile ordering. Following the lead of companies like Starbucks, more restaurants have begun to incorporate mobile ordering through customers smart phones. Recently Taco Bell announced the launch of Taco Bell Go Mobile, designed specifically for diners to order ahead through the chain’s mobile app.” This change to the traditional ordering method is intended to speed up the ordering process and reduce the number of people lingering in the restaurant waiting for their orders to be ready. Through mobile ordering, the process for customers should be easier and more efficient. 

Both these concepts are unique ways to combat the main concerns we’re seeing regarding restaurant dining – the crowds. They also create more accessibility and limit close contact between employees and guests. But when considering these conceptual changes, especially ones that limit human interaction, it’s crucial to find ways to maintain excellent customer service to continue driving consumers to your business. Here are a couple ways to prioritize great customer service amid these changes 

  • Increased marketing efforts. When making conceptual changes that effect your brand, it’s important to reach out to your audience and explain why these changes are happening and what to expect. In doing so, you’ll be figuratively (and literally) communicating that your customers are important when making business decisions and that you’re keeping them in mind.  
  • Continue prioritizing soft skillswhich are the personality characteristics that make an exceptional employeelike the ability to connect with those around you or great leadership qualities. By valuing the soft skills of employees you do have working, you can find ways to continue connecting with guests, like through a friendly cashier greeting customers when they pick up a mobile order. Simple acts of kindness can not only improve someone’s day but be the difference on them choosing you over a competitor.  
  • Go above and beyond. Customers are the reason restaurants can operate, so by going above and beyond to make an experience special –– even with limited human contact –– is a good way to show patrons you care. Think about what’s realistic for your business, whether it’s a handwritten note or a couple extra sauces, and then put it into practice.  

As the coronavirus continues through the summer, restaurants and other service industry businesses have been getting creative with their concepts in order to create a safe environment for guests. By continuing to prioritize customer service and creating a warm guest experience, patrons will show their loyalty amidst the unsure times we’re facing.