Social distancing, face masks, hand sanitiser stations, cashless payments. These are just some of things we are now used to seeing in everyday life.
Covid-19 has changed the way that businesses across the world operate, coffee shops included. Many were forced to temporarily close their doors, and some have had to shut down permanently.
It has now been several months since countries all around the world entered some kind of lockdown. More and more cafés and restaurants are starting to reopen, and adapting their operations as they do so.
One of the biggest changes has been a new awareness of the invisible risk associated with physical touchpoints. As such, the pressure is now on for coffee shops around the world to make their operations as contact-free as possible.
Many customers have now come to expect a touch-free journey when they buy coffee, and safety is rightly a number-one consumer priority. Gemma Kiernan, Head of Marketing at Marco Beverage Systems, tells us more about how coffee shops can create a contactless customer experience.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Coffee Shops
“Most small businesses such as cafes rely on a steady stream of regular customers, whether they’re in a neighborhood or urban area,” Gemma says. “As Covid-19 lockdowns were put in place, most businesses had to close for a period. After reopening, they saw a dramatic decrease in their foot traffic.”
In most parts of the world, coffee shops and restaurants have also reopened under very specific guidance. While regulations vary from country to country, they often include some kind of social or physical distancing, restricted indoor dining capabilities, and more rigorous hygiene procedures. They may also make it mandatory for customers, staff, or both to wear some kind of face covering.
These new rules affect each individual coffee shop differently. “Social distancing may mean less staff are available to serve and customers must wait longer to get their order,” Gemma explains.
“Staff wellness has also been a big consideration for coffee shops and cafes throughout Covid-19. Lay-offs, personal difficulties, and anxieties about returning to work have all played a part in how coffee shops and cafes manage personnel,” she adds.
Gemma also explains that in response, many coffee shops have implemented rigorous hygiene procedures and limited the number of physical touchpoints. “This includes reminding staff to wash their hands regularly, or trying to adapt their systems to hands-free usage.”
Limiting The Number Of Physical Touchpoints
When we talk about customer touchpoints, we mean anything that people customers can touch while they walk through the café. This includes doors, counters, condiment bars, POS systems, menus, and so on.
Gemma explains that implementing a touch-free customer journey is essential. Not only does it make a coffee shop more safe and hygienic, it also allows both customers and staff to feel more comfortable on a day-to-day basis.
“If staff and customers can see that the cafe is actively trying to create a touch-free experience, they know that management takes their health and safety precautions more seriously,” Gemma says.
How Do You Create A Touch-Free Journey?
While creating a contactless customer experience may be easier said than done, there are a few areas you can focus on in particular.
Limit Your Seating Capacity
By having fewer seats in your coffee shop, and spacing them effectively, you allow for customers to easily adhere to social distancing guidelines. The general recommendation is that tables should be at least six feet apart.
To meet this requirement, you may have to temporarily remove some seating. And while limiting your seating options will also mean limiting the number of customers that can spend money in the coffee shop, there are other ways to compensate for the decreased traffic.
Consider placing more focus on delivery and takeaway orders, and maybe even look at offering curbside pickups. If your location is suitable, you may also be able to move some of your unused tables outside.
Put Signs And Messages Up
Post signs in high-traffic areas, such as entrances and restrooms, to promote protective measures such as regular hand washing and face coverings.
You may also want to add floor markings in high-traffic areas where customers typically queue. This will help them to stay spaced out and follow social distancing regulations.
Provide Contactless Payment Options
If possible, you should also provide customers with contactless payment options. Removing any physical contact from payment processes will minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading, and also makes the process of paying much simpler and quicker.
If you don’t have access to contactless payment machines, then place a tray on the counter to safely exchange cash or cards. This will avoid accidental hand-to-hand contact. However, keep in mind that if you do use a tray, it is crucial that you frequently clean and disinfect it.
Remove Condiment Bars
If you have areas or stands that previously saw a lot of customer contact, such as condiment bars, it may be worth removing them entirely. While customers previously used to pick out their own sugar, cream, or sweetener, this is no longer the most hygienic option.
Instead, baristas should ask customers whether or not they’d like anything added to their drink before preparing it. This way, customers will get their drink, made the way they want, without touching anything but their cup.
Use The Right Equipment
Gemma says that it can be both more efficient and safer to use hands-free equipment on both sides of the counter. The hands-free FRIIA fonts, for example, are easy to operate for both staff and customers.
“The font is activated by a user holding their hand about 4 inches over the top,” Gemma says. “This means that the actual font is never touched.”
The hands-free FRIIA cold water fonts can be used easily by both baristas and customers, and it is the first Marco product to provide a completely touch-free experience. ”Plus, it’s also very energy-efficient, making it a great option to minimise costs in these critical times,” Gemma adds.
Marco also offers tap adapters which can easily turn pre-existing water boilers, coffee urns, or other hot beverage dispensers into touchless systems. “This eliminates the need for baristas, staff, or customers to touch the tap and provides a more hygienic, comfortable experience for everyone.”
Provide Adequate Hygiene Supplies
Adding hand sanitiser and hand washing points throughout your coffee shop can also help mitigate the risk of Covid-19 spreading, even if customers do touch each other. Gemma also recommends setting an alarm to make sure staff regularly wash their hands.
Furthermore, by providing appropriate hygiene supplies, you don’t just encourage healthy and hygienic behaviour for customers. You also show them that your coffee shop takes the health and safety of its customers and staff seriously.
Covid-19 has brought a great many challenges to different businesses around the world, and coffee shops are no exception.
Adapting to these new times will be a different process for every café. However, by doing your best to deliver a touch-free customer journey, people will be able to feel safe while coming back to enjoy a drink at their favourite coffee shop.