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Restaurants Surviving: 5 Steps to Thriving in a Covid-19 World


We invite you to explore these ideas within the upcoming blog posts. Please provide your insights, comments, and experiences. There is more than one way to solve the new puzzle which is the "Covid Economy". Please focus your posts on dealing with where we are and not how we got here. This is not a political forum.

"I don't know what to do." As I speak to my friends in the restaurant business, they are either frozen in this conundrum, or they are already adapting their business to a new Covid-19 business reality. Almost overnight, your business changed or was taken away from you by forced closure and/or new rules. With states beginning to allow restaurants to re-open there are 5 new realities that are fairly consistent across all states.

  1. Social Distancing mandates have reduced your seating capacity by 25-75%.

  2. Your server contacts and self-service should be minimized or eliminated.

  3. Your beautiful menus are replaced by disposable menus.

  4. Your waiting areas are no longer allowed.

  5. Your team members and your customers are scared or at least uncomfortable with the new world.

These 5 things force us to make changes which erode thin margins or simply kill the economics of our business. Maybe not! In this article, we will present how you can not only survive but thrive. These solutions should work for a large brand or a single restaurant owner/operator. We need to stop trying to force our old way of doing business into the new COVID reality. The first “Covid Economy” reality we want to explore is this: 1. Social Distancing means your restaurant now has fewer seats! Regardless of how you measure 6 feet between your tables, the "re-opening" rules or your guests fears, will force you to reduce seating capacity. Your guests will expect and demand that it be easy to maintain their distance from other people, including your staff. The math here is simple. If you used to do 2 turns with 50 seats, you would sell 100 meals. Now you have 25 seats that are "allowed", so at best, you just took a 50% cut in your top line. You must counteract this limitation by increasing turns and selling more meals “to go”. I am including Carry-out, Curbside Pick-up, Drive-Thru or Delivery (Self and Third Party) in “to go”. Improve the Appearance of Your Dining Area You laid out your seating plan to maximize the seating capacity and maintain your ambiance. This is really a tough one. Try not to wreck the appearance of your restaurant, as that may just make your guests even more uncomfortable, seeing a constant reminder that something is wrong. We can't ignore our guests desire to escape to a comfortable oasis. Now more than ever, they need to feel not only comfortable but also safe visiting your establishment. Putting chairs on top of your tables may have been the right emergency fix to designate tables that should not be used. However, it is time to remove this constant reminder of the new chaos by storing the chairs and tables out of site. Your guests need to be able to enjoy the new spacious dining and not the constant reminder and unsightly clutter of upside-down chairs. Replace “hazard tape” on booths with some other means of designating the booth is closed. Block the seating with plants and flowers and perhaps use the tables for displays that are attractive and complement the theme of your restaurant. Photographs of your products or even your team members enjoying their hobbies is a great way to enhance the experience and view. Find Alternatives to Giving Away Your Profits to Third Party Delivery Save your customers money and retain your profits by focusing on curbside and to-go options and put third party delivery at the bottom of your priority list. Make sure that you have kitchen capacity for your most profitable sales. Don’t let third party delivery “partners” put THEIR customers ahead of YOUR customers. Take care of YOUR customers first and focus your efforts on protecting that part of your business. Consider self-delivery in a very small area and grow from there. This way you retain your customers and your profits, as well as being able to retain more staff. Make it clear to every customer how much they are paying for third party delivery and DO NOT hide the cost in your prices. Be sure and SEAL your products from tampering and include your direct sales information inside the products to try and convert THEIR customers to YOUR customers. Did you really want to be a ghost kitchen for a third party delivery company? They have different priorities that are not aligned with yours. Your curbside experience should be perfect. What if your guest could see the progress of their food being prepared from the comfort of their car. What if the food could be brought to their car upon arrival with little to no employee contact. Your customer pulls into the curbside location and are identified by their license plate. They simply pop the trunk and you load up their food and off they go. Focus on your business processes for this. Make sure that they get everything that they ordered including all utensils and to go items. Use premium “to-go” packaging and make sure you test all of your menu items to understand how well they travel. Better to offer an alternative to soggy French fries than have the guest figure it out. One type of packaging will not likely work for all types of products.

Make sure that your dine-in, curbside, and to-go experiences are the best they can be. You have an opportunity to increase your transaction counts to help offset the loss of seats. But don’t abandon your dine in offerings. By leveraging some very affordable technology, you can dramatically increase table efficiency and reduce the most unpleasant part of every diner’s experience, waiting! Eliminate the inefficient wait times at your tables! Picture a new kind of dining experience. What if your diners could walk right to their table and their meal is served a few minutes later while their drinks and appetizers are delivered immediately. What if adding desert or additional beverages was quick and easy and did not require “catching” your server. What if at the end of the meal, your guests could simply walk out since their meal was already paid including the tip. This capability is real with little to no up-front investment. You can improve the dining experience and increase your table turns by giving your guests control of the experience with available technology. Not only will this make the dining experience safer for everyone, it will remove the three most frustrating parts of the dining experience. No more waiting to order, waiting for the check, and waiting to pay.

Don't try to hold on to the old dine-in experience. Seek a new dining experience and make that special. Use the systems to capture more details about your guests, likes and dislikes, and improve each visit based on their last review. Survey every guest after every experience with your brand. Take the time to evaluate their feedback and act on it. While the dining time will be shorter, you can build more loyalty and appreciation by taking the time to prepare for the next guest. Visit UBIRteam.com to learn how to enable these capabilities in days not weeks with very low cost. Our product line was developed to deliver these capabilities regardless of your current POS or type of operation. Learn how to deliver a better and safer dining experience for your guests and your team members. Learn how to get the third party customers to become your customers. Learn how to thrive in the new “Covid Economy”.

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