While restaurants have been affected by curfews and lockdowns, ushering in new changes, there some changes that will stay post-Covid.
“Gone are the days of 10+ page menus, customers are more appreciative of a menu that is focused on quality ingredients,” said Ravi Gabriah, the Food and Beverage Manager, Sarova Hotels and Resorts.
The hotel had slightly scale-down menus, retaining the favourites, and enhancing them with “specials” and “limited time frame menus.”
Due to the reduced number of diners and the uptake of deliveries, restaurants reduced their menus only retaining popular and signature dishes. Mugg and Bean also compressed their menu to popular favourites.
“Items like chicken mayo sandwich, egg meals increased in delivery requests and the fact that we also joined other food delivery platforms helped us get extra revenue during the pandemic. Due to this positive uptake, we retained our products on the platforms and continue to serve new customers as well,” says Priyanka Dhall, Mugg and Bean.
To reach more customers, Mugg and Bean introduced buy-one-get-one free discounts which has worked well for them.
“As much as our food costs increase when we have such offers, based on the uptake and engagement with new customers, this is still a strategy we intend to retain as we have seen new customers and repeat business resulting from it,” she said.
Fine dining restaurants such as Tandoori Patio faced a massive dip because Indian cuisine is commonly communal and families and large groups were no longer visiting.
“We had to join other delivery platforms that we previously were not listed just to try and see if we can maximise on deliveries,” says Ismail Karmali, the owner of Tandoori Patio.
When the restaurants were open, Mugg and Bean had also introduced offers on bottomless drinks which helped customers stay longer and use the restaurant as a working space.
“Such offers only came up during the pandemic as ways which we can have more traffic into our premise,” she adds.
The local market has appreciated staycations more and with the affordable rates by hotels, more families are taking weekends and a few days for an out of home experience at various hotels in Nairobi. “We saw a rise in the locals from Nairobi coming in for a night,” said Randy Ngala, Marketing Manager, Radisson Blu Hotel & Residences.
“I believe the misconception that staying at a hotel is too expensive is slowly changing and more locals are open to staycations which was not the case before the pandemic.”
Furthermore, Randy states that hotels will now tailor-make rates for locals who wish to experience staycations.
Offers on menu items
For restaurants like Tandoori with slightly high food prices, they came up with special meal offerings which cost less. “We introduced combo menus which were below Sh1,000 for one or two people . This worked for us because we were able to cater to customers whose income had been affected. They could still experience fine dining at a more affordable rate,” explains Ismail.
Catering to Smaller Group Celebrations
For Radisson Blu Hotel & Residences, Edward Momanyi, Food and Beverage Manager shares that they introduced group packages for catering to smaller groups.
“Pre-Covid, our target was mainly corporates for conferences. However, after most corporates shifted to working from home and virtual conferences, we shifted our focus to a market that was not predominantly out focus. We found a way to cater for small groups for occasions such as birthdays, baby showers and smaller wedding receptions which was manageable at that time and it was also sustainable as there were not many hotels around that could take up such events,” he explains.
Kitchen equipment to handle lesser numbers were acquired to handle the reduction in numbers.
“I see the seating capacity reduction in restaurants still happening post-Covid. Different properties will become more creative and ensure their decor and ambience matches the reduced seats and tables,” adds Edward.
Linen handling for hotels
This has drastically changed in what seems to be permanent.
“We no longer mix linen like before. More sorting and separation is being done now and the towels are cleaned at a much higher temperature of 180 degrees up from 110 degrees previously which is something we intend to retain,” he adds.
From structural changes such as installing windows that open in the soundproof conference rooms to encased TV remote where only the guest can unseal, are some of the changes included in the hygiene and sanitary protocols. Room sanitisation every day including all surfaces, keycards and frequent touchpoints is also an activity that will not end after Covid.
“Room service is now being left at the door by the server and guests call for the collection of the cutlery after they are done,” he says.
Cleanliness and Sanitisation
Restaurant owners and managers believe that social distancing and mask-wearing might be phased off over time, however, activities such as frequent hand washing and space sanitisation will continue.
“This will become a way of life for everyone and it is now the new normal,” adds Randy.
"Overall, the hospitality industry will prioritize cleanliness over and above regulation standards and take a more proactive and constructive approach to disease prevention," highlights Ravi.