“I’m happy to re-open but it was easier to close!” This is a popular sentiment among retailers right now. You’re thrilled to be able to open up your doors but with the rules, restrictions and government breathing down your neck it’s all a bit daunting for anyone in the restaurant and retail world. Neighboring states are open and I spent some time learning what their challenges have been so here are some things you can learn from my home state of Indiana who opened up two weeks ago.
1. Don’t expect full capacity of your 50% capacity.
This surprised me a lot! I’ve been itching to go sit down in a restaurant and have heard this from so many other people, that I assumed that when one of the very popular family-owned café restaurants opened up at 50% capacity that there would be a line or maybe I’d even have to wait in my car to get in — Nope. Walked right in. My party of 3 was seated immediately. The entire time we were there the place did not fill up to even their 50%. Not only did this surprise me, it was disheartening.
What you can learn:
On closer inspection of their Facebook page, I discovered they had failed to post that they were opening for dine-in seating. They still only had posts of their curbside menu for that day. Since I was driving from out of state I had called ahead to ask, which was the only reason I knew. Update your social media pages and post when you’ll be open or that you are opening! Update your website, make sure your fans and people searching for you know you are open for business.
2. Visibly show shoppers you are open.
Even in states that are open, some retailers have remained closed causing confusion for shoppers. Some are simply not ready to reopen, and some won’t be re-opening. The point is no one knows who is open and who isn’t because every store has white paper signs posted about new hours, mask requirements, etc. and some of these stores had their lights with employees working so shoppers can’t tell from the outside if they’re open or not.
What you can learn:
If you are open, physically leave your door opens, if you can. Have banners, balloons, big and bold signage indicating you are open for business. Don’t make people guess or decide it isn’t worth getting out of their car to investigate. Make it welcoming and entice them to walk in.
3. People want to get back to normal.
The “new normal” mantra that is being pushed is being bucked nationwide and as the weather becomes warmer and more doctors are speaking out (and as the CDC continues to change their stance) more and more people are ditching masks. Think about this just as you would any other difference when dealing with the public, different flavors for different people. Wearing a mask is not a law in Illinois and you are not a big retailer where someone feels they “have” to shop with you. If you decide you want to enforce masks in your store, you need to know ahead of time how you will handle a situation if someone walks in without a mask or removes it while in your store. Are you prepared for a confrontation?
What you can learn:
I saw two retailers who left their doors closed with “Masks required” sign posted on their door and for the hours I was walking around, saw no one enter while all the stores with either a “Masks suggested” or no sign at all had heavy traffic in and out. Throughout the day I mostly saw groups of people where only one member of the party was wearing a mask which means if masks are required, you’re likely going to lose out on that entire party since three of the four would not be welcomed. While I was enjoying a delightful ice-cream cone in front of a store that stated “Mask Recommended” we overheard the couple next to us walk by, read the sign and the woman said, “No, it’s just too hot” and they kept walking. Again, potential lost revenue.
Unfortunately, Illinois politicians have far exceeded their authority and are threatening business owners state-wide so be sure you understand what the law actually says and understand your rights both as an individual and as a business owner. You have more power than you’re probably aware of. Be informed. Be smart.
4. Don’t forget about your curbside services
Curbside has been around just long enough that some consumers are finding this an ideal situation for all their shopping needs, so do don’t disregard it just because you’ve opened your doors. Those who are concerned about Covid-19 are likely to continue to use these services – and some may just simply appreciate the efficiency of it.
5. Talk loudly, articulate and slow down when wearing a mask
I don’t know how many times I had to ask someone to repeat themselves last weekend. Wearing masks muffles the voice, obscures their mouth so we can’t lip read and it makes workers self-conscious and as they breathe in the mask inevitably blocks their mouth which resulted in them holding the mask while they talked making them even more self-conscious.
If you and your employees are going to wear masks, coach them to just slow down, joke around – anything to help them relax so they can concentrate on communicating clearly despite the mask.
Wishing you all a fantastic open and may shoppers flock to your stores – Godspeed.