Restaurant Strategies for Surviving COVID19 and Coming Out Stronger on the Other Side

Don CrosslandMarketingLeave a Comment

Schitt’s getting real. And I know you’re feeling it. I’m feeling it, too since I threw my lot in with the restaurant industry (no regrets). So… we’re in this together. I have never met more passionate, hard-working people in any other sector I’ve worked with I’m my career. My hope is, by working together, we can all help each other through this tough time. There’s a lot of info here so bear with me.


I’ve spent the last week helping my clients pivot to take-out and delivery. This has been easier for my NYC clients than my Wisconsin clients since most NYC restaurants are already set up for delivery with their own delivery staff.

If you’ve been able to make that pivot, congrats (and thank you). As I wrote in my last article, people need to eat. Many of my clients have been reporting an uptick in sales. Most likely due to people getting tired of the dried beans and canned food they rushed to buy out, along with the toilet paper.

If you want a little boost, consider creating some pandemic specials. One bar in NYC had a shelter-in-place survival kit which was bar snacks, a 2-liter bottle of margarita, and a roll of toilet paper.

Get creative. Make something a little different. Package some things together as a full meal for one, two, or a family. If you’re family-oriented, ‘some assembly required’ meals work great. Families are spending more time together and parents are constantly looking for things to do with their kids.

Pig In A Fur Coat in Madison created take-and-bake pasta meals. I had the lasagna, it was awesome. The great thing about this is, they cleared out their walk-in and customers could buy extra and freeze them for later.

Gift Cards

The public is aware of the restaurant plight and they want to support their local restaurants. In addition to delivery and take-out, customers are lending their support by buying gift cards.

The beauty of this is, you can sell gift cards from your website whether you are open or not. It gets you revenue now and also ensures that people are going to think about you and come in when all of this is over.

Depending on what POS system you are using, you may already have the capabilities to sell gift cards. The key is, they have to be available to purchase on your website.

Here’s a couple of virtual gift card services my clients use:

GiftFly – This one is the easiest to set up. It’s free for you if you choose to pass on the $2.99 service fee to your customers or you can take that on yourself (disclosure: the link is an affiliate link, if you signup, I get a little $).

InstaGift – This one takes a little longer because you can’t just sign up and go. They also have a $19 per month fee along with 5% of the card sales. But, they are currently waiving the monthly fee for the first 6 months.

Email Lists

If you have an email list, congratulations. You are ahead of the game and have a direct link to your customers. You can promote your delivery, take-out, specials, and gift cards directly to your customers, free of social media algorithms restricting your reach.

If you don’t have an email list, you have an uphill climb. But, it’s not too late to get one started. Now is the time to start building your list. The goodwill of the people is with you and they want to support you.

If you think now is not the time to invest in marketing, think again. Right now is the most critical time. But, it’s not even a big investment. You can get a starter account with MailChimp for free.

I’ll make this offer to you: if you would like to work with me now to get your email set-up, gift cards going, and marketing in tip-top shape to put your restaurant in the best possible position when the dust settles, I will defer all fees until your restaurant is back to normal operations.

That’s right. We can get this all set-up for little or no cost to start. If you want to get going, schedule a call with me and we can set things in motion right away. We’ll work out the financial arrangements that make sense for both of us when you are back up-and-running at full speed. Marketing now will get you there faster.


I’ll be the first to admit, the financial side is not my strong point (in my business or yours). But, I would like to share some resources that might be able to help.

The SBA announced its Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan to help small businesses. If you have healthy finances, a good track record, experienced a “blip” as a result of the coronavirus and in an area declared a disaster, you may qualify. You can seek up to $2 million in funding, and the capital can be used to cover expenses or payroll or to pay off fixed debts.

If you have time for a webinar How To Manage Your Financial Plan During a Crisis by Donald Miller, author of Building a StoryBrand & Marketing Made Simple and Mike Michalowicz, author of Profit First.

The webinar is happening tomorrow at 10 am and 2 pm CDT.

In it, they’ll talk about how you should be managing cash flow, how to create a financial strategy that makes sense in the current environment, which types of debt you should (or shouldn’t) consider taking on, and more.


Podcasts are also an excellent source of valuable information for free.

Running Restaurants
Jaime Oikle from is joined by Dale Willerton of the in this timely update for restaurant operators about how to handle restaurant lease questions and concerns during the COVID-19 crisis. Dale shares a variety of tips including negotiation strategies to help restaurants get through this tough time.

QSR Magazine’s Fast Forward
From the editors of the publication for foodservice owners and operators, it discusses the future of the fast-food restaurant industry. Made for restaurant executives, entrepreneurs, and leaders, each episode features an interview with fast-casual founders and visionaries who discuss the ongoing successes and challenges of building a restaurant company from scratch.

Secret Sauce
We discover the ingredients of your Restaurant’s secret sauce. SEO, Facebook, Twitter, emails, coupons, yield utilization, USPs, Menu engineering, direct mail, Instagram, partnerships – there are many ingredients for creating your Secret Sauce and with the right Secret Sauce you can find more customers and turn them into repeat customers.

I trust these tips and resources are helpful.

Take care,

P.S. No one knows when this will all be over, but it will be over. When it is, people will be flocking to restaurants. I would like to help you put your restaurant in the best possible position now and when the country gets back to health. Schedule a call now, and I will defer all of my fees until your restaurant is back up and running.