2020 was the year of COVID. Lots of other stuff went down, too, like murder hornets and Sean Connery leaving earth for 007 Heaven. But in the annals of history books, this year will forever be defined by the global health pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. The service industry was wiped out for the first few months, but we’ve adapted and shown our determination to survive.
So, what does 2021 hold? What do the next five years look like for the service industry? Some of 2020’s lessons will forever shape the future of our industry. COVID’s impact on restaurants should not be seen as a one-off disaster. Instead, let’s apply these lessons to improve worker safety and better our industry.
Here are the lessons COVID taught us about the future of the service industry.
Workers Are Everything
The people who prepare, deliver, and clean up after us are everything. Our society relies heavily on service workers, and the pandemic made this starkly obvious to millions of casual consumers who previously took them for granted.
Now, everyone understands just how important it is to treat workers well. In a crisis, we still need service workers to feed us. If workers don’t get the protections, support, and compensation they need, then we all suffer. This is a lesson that we will continue to learn as a nation in 2021 and beyond. Workers are the backbone of everything we enjoy, from clean streets (someone emptied the garbage) to dinner and a movie at home (someone safely prepared and delivered the meal to us).
Supply Chains Get Disrupted
If you’ve ever seen a zombie or apocalypse movie, then you know all about supply chain disruption. Supplies can’t get through safely, so people have to improvise. In the most dramatic films, conflicts erupt over who gets access to precious equipment like life-saving medical tools or even food. However, for some reason, most businesses never thought this situation could apply to them.
2020 provided that food supply chains get disrupted—but that adaptation is possible. It didn’t take long for additional protocols to spring up to ensure that essential goods could still be delivered. But in the future, restaurant owners would be wise to prepare for supply chain disruptions because they’re bound to happen again.
Don’t Hide the Hygiene
In the days of yore (pre-pandemic), service workers were often discouraged from performing cleaning tasks in public sight. Boy, has that changed! COVID taught us that customers want to see our hygiene protocols. It brings them peace of mind to witness frequent cleaning, and public cleaning is a trend we’ll see in the service industry in 2021 and onward.
Hygiene includes cash handling, too. Money has always been connected to “grubbiness,” thanks to people who hoard it. But that phrase has taken on an entirely new meaning this year. To protect your people from the germs on cash, use a tip distribution software. Tip allocation at small businesses is often a painful process of sorting out quarters and bills. The most hygienic way to handle tip pooling is to use an automatic tip sharing system like Tiphaus. Both your staff and your customers will appreciate it.
Customer Relationships Are Critical
When times are hard, it’s the strength of customer relationships that keeps you afloat. When COVID hit, plenty of restaurants experienced an upswing in takeout orders and gift certificate purchases, thanks to their strong and positive customer relationships. People remember the way you treat them, and your customers’ brand loyalty could be the determining factor in whether or not your business survives the next pandemic.
In 2021 and beyond, we’re likely to see more authentic relationships springing up between restaurants and customers. Owners will pull back the curtain on their struggles. Servers and delivery workers will get the respect they deserve. Customers will gain a deeper appreciation for their local businesses.
Technology Can Support Public Health
When we say technology, we’re not only talking about robots and other fancy hands-free food preparation solutions (although those are gaining in popularity). Instead, very basic technology can help support public health while also supporting the service industry.
Tip distribution (or tip sharing) is the way that shift managers dole out tips to workers. But when cash isn’t the preferred method of payment, it becomes a bit more difficult to calculate. To figure out how to calculate tips easily and safely, restaurants will begin using tip sharing software or tip pooling software. With the touch of a button (and a sanitized hand), a manager can know how to fairly distribute tips.
Making the restaurant tip automatic is a great example of how technology can support public health in the next five years. But as much as we’ve faced trials and tribulations this year as an industry, there have also been amazing innovations and creativity. Let’s allow 2020 to be a catalyst for improving the service industry for workers and customers alike.