Are We Ready to Go Back to Restaurants?

Practical advice for restaurant owners and foodies.

Needless to say, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected a number of formal and informal eateries in Puerto Vallarta. Some restaurants have chosen to close and ride the wave while others are reaching out to current and new clients with take-out and home delivery options, some even offering sit-down service while observing safe distancing guidelines.

But are we ready to go out to restaurants? Are we comfortable ordering food from a restaurant we’re not familiar with? Are restaurants mindful of our concerns and eager to address them?

To get a sense as to where we are, I put together a small informal poll over a week ago to get some sense of where our community is when it comes to current restaurant behavior. To date, a little over 100 responses have come in; not enough to truly represent a community, but enough to extrapolate some insight.

The survey consisted of four questions. Here are the questions, along with the results to date (the survey is still open). If the text in the questions is too small, simply look at the poll using the link in the previous paragraph:

How are you feeding yourself these days?

How likely are you to consume from a restaurant you ARE familiar with (sit-down, take out or home delivery) these days?

How likely are you to consume from a restaurant you are NOT familiar with (sit-down, take out or home delivery) these days?

Which of the following factors might reassure you when considering consuming food from a restaurant (sit-down, take out or home delivery) these days?

My take on the results for foodies/consumers

Clearly, we are not ready to tackle the unknown when it comes to going back to restaurants. Most of us are cooking at home, relying only on take-out/home delivery from places we already know, and not eager to explore new restaurant options. But word-of-mouth seems to weight heavily in our decision-making process. In order to help restaurants, we can do our share by:

  • Sharing knowledge of restaurants we know and trust with our community of friends.
  • Posting about restaurants we trust on social media (our own Facebook walls and community groups that allow for posts that promote specific businesses).
  • Writing favorable reviews about the restaurants we trust on their Facebook business pages, but explicitly! “Your food was yummy!” is sort of helpful. But saying something along the lines of “In these difficult times, I’ve enjoyed your food and will continue to trust ordering from you” will help the restaurant much more.

My take on the results for restaurant owners

This may not be the best time to try to reach out to new customers. Instead, you may be better off focusing most of your attention and budget to your pre-established clientele. If you have been taking care of yourself promotion-wise, you probably have a mailing list in place to reach out to your regulars or have many folks that have liked your restaurant on Facebook. But even those regulars may continue to be reluctant to consume your dishes. Posting text or JPG images to the effect of “we do takeout” or “we are here” or “we are ready” may not be enough. Instead, consider:

  • Adding a dose of empathy to your message. Instead of “we are here” or “we do takeout,” try “we know you are concerned, so are we” or something along those lines.
  • Tell a story. If what we need to see from you are comforting images of you taking precautions as you cook or package your meals, show us those photos.
  • Take advantage of Facebook features such as Notes to publish your menus online. Show your awesome food shots there!
  • Make a personal appeal to your regular clientele to recommend you.
  • If you will attempt to reach out to new customers, identify the one (or several) dishes that set you aside from other eateries and promote those.

Needless to say, these suggestions do not begin to address the enormous financial stress that restaurant owners must be under right now, trying to make sense of having to support their staff through these difficult times, but hopefully they will help.

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