Managing Your Restaurant During The Pandemic COVID-19

uEngage Team, 22-Mar-2023

The phenomenal impact of COVID-19 presented an unprecedented challenge for restaurants to survive and cope up financially from losses, tottering on the brink of extinction. Some on-premise restaurants went out of business, unable to adapt to these tough times. The remaining restaurants are surviving the day by providing Take-Away services. A little less affected are those off-premise restaurants who solely provide online ordering services, nevertheless, the volume of orders has significantly gone down. Even the vintage establishments which always remained packed with patrons and loyal customers are now witnessing a dip in business up to 80%. And there is looming ambiguity over how long this colossal pandemic and such crippling economic conditions might last.

Yes, times are grim for the restaurant industry. Everyone is affected—restaurant owners, kitchen staff, servers, delivery personnel, farmers, supply chains and etc.  But the industry can mitigate an absolute disaster by quickly adapting their operations and business models to work for them in these challenging times.

And hey! That’s why we are here! We’ll help you to navigate your restaurant business through these tough conditions with some healthy ideas which shall, hopefully, contribute to the restaurant’s longevity in the current state of affairs.

Focus On The Return On Investment

This is the time for boosting business while keeping costs and expenses as economical as possible. And this is the time to wisely invest in those segments which draw the highest business. Two such segments in the restaurant industry which contributed to, at most, 50% of restaurant revenues in the past, are now becoming the sole survival pillars for restaurants, contributing to 100% of their business. These are Curbside Pickup and Delivery. Directing investments and reshaping business models around these two segments shall yield good returns. For curbside pickup, training the staff with cross-sell skills, for example, pitching drinks, desserts, and add-ons with the main meal, upsizing the meals, and etc. shall be fruitful. For on-premise restaurants which are just struck with Curbside pickup, and lacking a delivery option, investment into an effective delivery service shall be profitable in the long-run.     

Skimming Down The Menu

Whether a given restaurant has opted to operate on Take-Away service or on delivery service or both, it is essential for the restaurant to downsize its regular menu, and offer only a set of limited items. It is highly recommended for a restaurant to offer only its specialties and flag-ship items which are the most popular with the public. This will reduce inventory and procurement costs for the business, and if a restaurant is working on reduced kitchen staff, it shall make things easier for the cooks to focus on a scaled-down menu. When it comes to off-premise business, the restaurant should customize a limited menu that is travel-friendly, consisting of only those items which remain fresh and attractive after packaging and a considerable amount of travel.

Staff’s Health & Safety Is Paramount!

Masks, gloves and sanitizers—this is the mantra for the restaurant workforce. All the staff, on-premise workers, supply chain personnel, and delivery boys, must be checked with body temperatures and if anyone with a hint of sickness should not be allowed to work until such person completely gains his/her health back. Though it may be difficult during these times, but providing your employees with paid sick-leave shall boost workers’ morale. Mental health is as important as physical health. Being a kind and empathetic employer shall help staff in a great way to get through these distressing times. Staying connected with one’s employees and checking on them frequently induces a great sense of positivity among the workforce.

Offer Attractive Deals & Rewards

With COVID-19 slowing down the economy, customers have become more price sensitive. With downsizing salaries, layoffs, and pause on salary cheques, people are no longer prone to spending big sums on restaurant food. Providing attractive package deals, combos, and discounts is the best way to go to pull price-conscious customers. Restaurants should target those busy ladies and gentlemen tied up with hectic work-from-home grind, to get them to download and order from their restaurant through delivery app. To drive this aggressively, restaurants can provide rewards such as free drinks or desserts or appetizers with an app download, big discounts on first meal order, free and contactless delivery service, introducing rewards-points program, and etc.

Managing The Restaurant Premises

Thorough and rigorous sanitization for every two hours is necessary to keep the premises clean from visitor walk-ins. Peddle sanitizers (foot-operated) must be installed both for staff and customers for contactless hand sanitizing. Physical distancing markers must be drawn to keep the customers and delivery boys from crowding up at the counters. Restaurants should start innovating on safety measures, for example, Vidyarthi Bhavan, a 77-year-old establishment in Bangalore, is coming up with plexiglass partitions which are designed to be installed on restaurant tables to distance and protect the customers dining in. While the expensive restaurant space has now become a liability for the business, restaurants can still use the exterior space to install attractive advertising boards and flags to provide an instant flash of restaurant’s deals and offers to all those who are passing by the restaurant, be it pedestrians or those on cars, bikes, vans and trucks.

Reaching Out To Customers

Restaurants can reach out to customers, through digital media, with their stories of spirit and struggle to survive in these difficult times. They can communicate about their sanitization procedures and about their efforts invested into creating safe environments for customers to order from their restaurant, be it online or offline. Restaurants can share the ways and means by which they are taking care of their staff and cooks and can also offer a glimpse of their behind-the-scenes footage showing how safely their delicious food is being prepared or packaged. They can reach out for support from patrons, loyal customers, and new customers encouraging them step-in or order-from-home from their restaurant and keep their beloved establishment alive.

IN CONCLUSION, in the face of dire and unavoidable consequences from a disaster such as COVID-19, the only way and manner of coping up from these conditions is through keeping up one’s spirits alive and strong. With a strong spirit, one shouldn’t be afraid to risk, to change, and to adapt to the new normal which is being forcefully presented to us.

There are many ideas which one can find and come up with in order make those adaptations in one’s restaurant’s business model and some of them are presented above.

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