There’s a lot of information out there about the coronavirus and the pandemic. Some of it good information, some of it… not so much.￼ The CDC is probably the best resource for accurate information and precautions you should be taking as a restaurant business.
￼ It’s becoming very clear that the restaurant industry is feeling the effects of the pandemic.￼ Unfortunately, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Add the fact that this industry is low-margin, makes it even more difficult to weather the coming storm.￼
Some industry leaders like Danny Meyer of Union Hospitality Group have responded by shutting their restaurants down. While this might be prudent for some, for others it could lead to a permanent closure. Plus, people need to eat.
If shutting down your restaurant completely is not the best option for you here are some ideas to keep you going in the short term and prepare for when things return to the new normal.￼
Assure Your Customers During the Pandemic
First and foremost, you need to educate yourself on all the procedures to minimize the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. As I mentioned before, the best place to do this is the CDC website or possibly your local restaurant association.￼￼
Once you have implemented all of these safety precautions, let your customers know exactly what you are doing and how that helps to keep them safe. You can do this through social media or, even better, your email list.￼
Pivot – Make Adjustments to the Current Market
The way we do business, especially in the hospitality industry, has changed in the time of the pandemic. Like any major industry change you either adapt to those changes or, you’ll be left behind.￼
Social Distancing in Your Restaurant
One of the most often heard safety measures (besides washing your hands) is social distancing. ￼If you are in an area of the country relatively unaffected and people are still going out, you can facilitate this by reducing the number of tables in your restaurant and placing them further apart.
This is probably a temporary solution as most experts are predicting that certain parts of the country will go under mandatory quarantines. Even in places with few cases, people are becoming more and more reluctant to go out and expose themselves to groups of people.
￼￼Keep Some Revenue Going
For most restaurants keeping some sort of revenue stream going is critical to their survival. ￼Your front of house might be empty but that doesn’t mean your back of house has to go dark.￼ People need to eat.
Ramp up delivery. ￼Even if you’re not known for delivery or if you haven’t done delivery, now is the time to start.￼ Don’t rely on third-party delivery services, ask your servers if they would be willing to do the deliveries to keep working.
If you don’t have direct online ordering on your website, put it out on your social media and email marketing that your servers are standing by to take their phone orders.￼￼ Post a delivery menu of things from your menu that travels well.
If you can’t offer delivery, offer curbside service. People can call in their orders, pull up in front of your restaurant, and your servers can bring out their food when it’s ready.￼ This helps people minimize contact and you’ve already assured them that your staff is following all safety precautions.
Get Your House in Order￼
Slower times are an excellent opportunity to take a step back from the day-to-day grind to see what needs updating and improving. ￼Without the routine of getting ready for service, dealing with the rush, and then getting ready for the next service,￼ you might find the time to deal with some details that you haven’t been able to get to before.
It’s that time of year. Now would be an excellent time to do a deep clean of your entire restaurant. Move those fryers out and get those areas squeaky clean. Remove all your furniture from your dining area instead of just cleaning around the tables.￼￼￼
Take the time to get all areas of the restaurant cleaned, organized, and decluttered.￼ Just like our homes, our restaurants can get cluttered while we’re going through our daily routine. Now’s the time to take a fresh look.
Now could also be the best time for an update.￼￼ It could be something as simple as a new coat of paint, or even a complete cosmetic overhaul. If this is something that you’ve been thinking about, there are probably good deals to be had on new dishes, tables, chairs, etc.
Get Your Staff Together
Getting your staff to pitch in is an excellent way to ensure them a paycheck and can be a great team-building exercise. It’s hard to find good staff these days and keeping them working during this downturn ￼will keep them around for when the industry bounces back.
Speaking of employees, cutting costs will most likely be necessary. You want to do everything you can to keep your good employees. But, this is also an opportunity￼ to let go of the ones that aren’t as good for your business.￼
Take the time to go over your current procedures with your staff. Not only is this a great time to review and make improvements, but it’s also an opportunity to do some additional training.
￼What’s On the Menu
When’s the last time you updated your menu? Just like spring cleaning, a fresh coat of paint, and new silverware, menu updates get your customers’ attention.￼ Of course, you have your favorites on the menu that you don’t want to change. But, take a look at some of the items that aren’t doing as well. What can you do to improve them or replace them all together?
Have the kitchen create some possible new menu items. Get the entire staff involved in the tasting. Make it a contest. Share the whole process on social media. Get your followers to vote on new dish ideas.
Never Stop Marketing
￼￼￼Speaking of social media, everything you are doing during this downturn should be shared.￼ be authentic about your hopes and concerns, but strive to be a calming influence rather than inducing panic (no matter how he might feel inside).
If you have an email list, consistent communication with your customers will be very effective in generating empathy and keep you top of mind. If you are not doing any email marketing now is the time to start.
Going dark is the worst thing you can do right now. The more interaction you have with your customers and the more you can convey a ‘we are all in this together’ message, the more memorable you will be and the quicker you will be able to bounce￼￼ back when the country starts its recovery.