The new mark of Hospitality: How to deliver excellent dining experiences with mask on

Image credit: Cafe-Bistrot David

City: Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur 

Restaurants are starting to reopen, adhering to a dizzying array of government laws and restrictions that are constantly shifting. The industry is left to fend for themselves by setting up their own standard procedures and staff training. A lot of restaurant owners have come to terms that the dine-in experience is no longer the same. Check-ins verification, digital menus, social distancing, mask-wearing are dehumanizing the restaurant experience. All these procedures have become the new marks of delivering hospitality. 

The most obvious contributing factor, for now, is mask-wearing. From the highest rank of fine dining restaurants to hawker centres, mask-wearing is mandatory. The lack of facial expression and engagement with diners can be disheartening, coupled with the balancing act of keeping diners safe from Covid-19. Beyond adhering to hygiene and safety measures, you can still deliver a hospitable experience behind the mask. 

Face Mask as a Marketing Tool  

With a limitation of only the top half of the facial expression can be seen, restaurants are struggling to appear friendly and warm to their diners. Mask-wearing during service can be turned around to an opportunity to be creative. 

Design customized face masks by adding your restaurant logo, a pin, or a short, catchy tagline. Think of it as an extension of your brand and consider the face mask as part of how your staff will present themselves during service. 

Have staff wearing matching face masks to deliver consistent service. In addition to having all staff wearing black face masks, each Rama V Fine Thai Cuisine in Kuala Lumpur carries a tag with their double vaccination certificates. 

Body Langauge does matter. Amplify it! 

Covid-19 has shifted the way we live. Even as life inches back closer to “normal” for most of us, people are still cautious of dining out. Walking into a restaurant, one would wonder if the virus is in the cool conditioned air or if the lone diner at the far right is a carrier. 

Map out your diner’s experience journey from the moment he arrives at the restaurant and minimizes shared physical touchpoints as much as possible. Assign dedicated safety hosts that will assist in opening the door as the diner walks in, taking their temperature and sanitize the diner’s hands before being seated. 

With masks on, staffs have to be creative in practising non-verbal communication. 

Body language is non-verbal language, and it speaks volumes. Make grand gestures such as a thumbs up and waving hands to welcome the diners to their tables. Motion to the table for the QR code to scan for menu offerings, and so on. Remind your staff about the importance of maintaining eye contact, and continue to nod respectfully to signal that they understand the diner’s requests or orders. Encourage your team to speak clearly and slower as masks can muffle speech.

Keep smiling, even behind the masks, as your eyes will reflect the same expression too! 


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A post shared by Les Amis (@lesamisrestaurant)

Diversify your revenue stream: Merchandizing 

Restaurateurs have always been masters of reinvention. Some may view such business pivots cynically and as an absurdly insane idea. Who would purchase more masks these days? For some brands, it’s also been a way to give back to the frontliners, medical staff, caregivers, and at-risk communities. All in all, having your team and diners wearing your brand as a mask will ensure maximum brand visibility. Bangkok’s famous chain Greyhound goes simple with their Greyhound Original logo, the perfect combination of street-style wear and comfort safety. 

Mask wearing will be part and parcel of hospitality moving forward, just like how online reservations and delivery apps are increasingly becoming non-negotiable elements of operating a restaurant. Every little touch of hospitality is an opportunity to be creative! 

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