The pandemic has highlighted the importance of high hygiene standards and good air quality. And indoor air quality (IAQ) solutions are an essential part of generating revenue for restaurants by filling tables with customers who feel safe and confident. The thing is, customers who are uncomfortable with and/or allergic to cleaning products, paints, insecticides, and other materials used in restaurants won’t stay as long or spend as much money.
So how can restaurants solve these air quality issues and attract more customers every night? Let’s dig a little deeper.
What makes customers happy?
One design solution that has really helped during the pandemic — spanning the gamut from quick service to fine dining — is open-kitchen restaurants that have “nothing to hide.” They have been selected by a growing number of diners concerned about cleanliness, safety and health.
The fact is that in the future, customers will take a much more proactive approach to choosing where they go based on IAQ. Restaurants can experiment with a wide range of ventilation and air filtration techniques, allowing the restaurant industry to establish a better relationship with indoor air, with people able to judge where they dine based on the quality and transparency of real-time readings.
Metrics and Use Cases
A clear example of catering to customer requests comes from the Sierra Mar restaurant in California. They now have IAQ features dotted throughout their restaurant. These include 18 tabletop mini-purifiers, ten HEPA air purifiers, an upgraded heating and air conditioning system and four sensors measuring air quality in real time.
The Post Ranch Inn, an upscale resort in California, installed indoor air quality monitors throughout its dining room to track real-time conditions and display relevant information for guests. This gives them peace of mind and allows them to proactively manage and optimize air quality as needed to help reduce risk and ensure the healthiest air environment possible. Importantly, they also post the restaurant’s air quality updates on their website, so diners can see for themselves that the air quality is good before deciding whether to order takeout or to commit to an in-person visit. This is especially important for potential allergy-prone guests, given that the area has been plagued by recurring wildfires in 2020 and 2021.
Other useful restaurant-related IoT technologies include advanced automated temperature sensors, which are placed directly, wirelessly, into refrigeration units to ensure accurate temperature readings. Temperature probes are not just for monitoring, they are installed to prevent food spoilage by alerting if the temperature exceeds a safe level. This can save a restaurant thousands of dollars by ensuring produce isn’t wasted.
Is there a return on investment for these measures?
You could be forgiven for reading these metrics and thinking, “Well, how do restaurants actually benefit financially from improved air quality?” Sierra Mar measured ROI in just three days, based solely on the incremental food and beverage spend in the restaurant. Many guests, previously wary of COVID-19, were immediately persuaded to ditch takeout and room service dining at the lodge, favoring luxury meals in the dining room instead with appetizers and extra drinks that they wouldn’t have ordered to take away.
Finally, with these measures, service personnel can feel safer. Restaurants can increase employee satisfaction in the most competitive environment ever in the restaurant industry. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that customers will feel even more motivated to dine out, provided the air quality is high. Rather than installing countless different filters and systems in a restaurant, owners should consider what is right for their building and invest within their means.