Four Types of Pandemic Customers for Food Businesses

Learn about the different types of customers during the pandemic and how to keep them coming back.
October 27, 2020

One of the hardest-hit industries during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the food industry. Temporary shutdowns, revenue loss and adapting to new business models have put significant strain on this vital industry in Australia. The Australian food industry is also seeing a significant change in the types of customers that frequent food businesses. The pandemic is having significant effects on the behaviour of customers, including their needs, wants and expectations. Food businesses need to ensure that they are catering to these new types of customers so that they are satisfied and keep coming back.

In order to cater to the variety of customers during the pandemic, food business owners and managers must understand them and how best to serve them. It is important to identify what the different types are, and make sure that all types are being catered to appropriately.

Here is a breakdown of the types of customers based on what they prefer:

Prefer indoor dining

Who they are

These customers were the first ones through the door when food businesses were permitted to open for indoor dining again. They:

  • enjoy the social aspect of dining out
  • use restaurants to meet up with friends, family and colleagues
  • are supportive of local food businesses

What food businesses can do

These customers are important for food businesses to cater to, especially during the pandemic when business is slower than usual. Food businesses can cater to these customers by making them feel welcomed and valued. Providing special menu items or discounts on traditional favourites for only dine-in meals will help these customers see how much they are appreciated. Making these customers feel valued also comes from top-notch customer service. Front-of-house staff must ensure that indoor diners are welcomed warmly, seated promptly and served with care. These customers will continue to come back and dine indoors if they can see how much they are appreciated.

It is also important for food businesses to ensure that all COVID-19 safety protocols are implemented consistently and correctly. This demonstrates to dine-in customers that the food business is taking the pandemic seriously. These customers will appreciate knowing that they are in good hands and as safe as possible.

Prefer outdoor dining

Who they are

These customers are the ones who enjoyed dining out before the pandemic and want to do it again, but are a bit hesitant. They:

  • may have frequented the food business before
  • have personal reasons for why they are not fully comfortable yet (e.g. high-risk family members at home, high-risk themselves, work with high-risk people)
  • enjoy dining out on the patio to get a similar experience to dining out before the pandemic
  • like that there is less risks involved with dining outdoors

What food businesses can do

It is important for food businesses to cater to these customers by providing a clean, physically distant and comfortable atmosphere outdoors. Even though these customers do not want to dine indoors just yet, they are supporting the food business and must be shown that their business is valued.

Food businesses should also ensure that all COVID-19 safety measures are in place on patios and other outdoor dining areas. These customers will appreciate knowing that they can dine at the food business and still be as safe as possible. Food businesses can also inform these customers that the same COVID-19 safety protocols are in place inside, which may make them feel comfortable and entice them to dine indoors next time.

Prefer take-away and delivery

Who they are

These customers want to support their local food businesses but are not ready to dine out just yet. They:

  • probably have been ordering from the food business during temporary closures
  • are concerned about dining outside of their home
  • like that they can support local food businesses while also staying safe

What food businesses can do

It is important for food businesses to recognise and acknowledge that even though these customers are not dining at the premises, they are still supporting the food business with their take-away and/or delivery orders.

Food businesses can ensure that these customers know they are valued by:

  • providing an easy ordering experience
  • giving discount coupons to those ordering take-away or delivery
  • ensuring excellent customer service

These customers will also be comforted by seeing that the food business is following COVID-19 safety protocols such as:

  • physical distancing between staff and customers
  • using contactless payment
  • providing zero contact pick-up/deliveries
  • using personal protective equipment (PPE)

By letting these customers see that the food business is following protocols, they may start feeling ready to dine out again. Food businesses can also let these customers know that the patio or outdoor space is open for dining through promotional materials placed in take-away/delivery bags. These customers may be willing to try dining outside if they know it is an option.

Prefer to wait it out

Who they are

These customers are the ones that food businesses have lost during the pandemic. They:

  • have concerns and worries about COVID-19 and its risks
  • are not ready to order take-away, get food delivered or dine out at a food business right now

It is important that food businesses do not forget about these customers. Many of these customers are probably missing their favourite local eateries, but are unwilling to take the risk. Remember: Even though they are not dining from a food business now, it does not mean they won’t order from a food business in the future or partake in indoor dining again.

What food businesses can do

Food businesses can stay connected to these customers by:

  • reaching out using their website, social media and traditional marketing such as fliers
  • informing them of what the business is doing to keep staff and customers safe
  • communicating the COVID-19 protocols that are in place for take-away and delivery, dining outdoors on a patio and dining indoors

If customers can learn and see what is being done in the food business to keep people safe, they will be more willing to try take-away, delivery or possibly even sit on a patio. The key is to demonstrate what is being done and put their minds at ease. It is also important to let these customers know that they are valued and important, even if they are not ready to eat out of the home just yet.