The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has compelled authorities to issue orders for the temporary closure of several businesses, including many dine-in restaurants and bars across American states. This extreme measure has been deemed necessary to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of the coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases hinges close to 40,000 in the US (as on 23rd March 2020)
This has caused a sweeping concern throughout the restaurant sector as they battle to keep their business afloat and safeguard their employees’ livelihoods. However, as uphill a task as it may be, restaurants can still manage to keep their revenues up and stay profitable with a few small adjustments and creative solutions during these times of trouble.
Restaurants have always had strict safety protocols and best practices in place, but in light of the coronavirus outbreak, these establishments have to double down on their sanitation efforts to ensure both the customers’ and their own protection.
Make it mandatory for your employees to wash their hands at least every 15 minutes, even during busy shifts. Clean and disinfect both the front and back of the house including kitchen equipment, tabletops, seats, door handles and bathroom surfaces, preferably with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved disinfectants.
Do away with keeping crockeries, cutleries, glassware, napkins, menus, and condiments on the table until the guest is to be served. It is also important to sanitize delivery vehicles regularly. These cleaning efforts are to be carried out more than once during opening hours.
Keep your customers informed about all the precautions you’re taking to avoid the spread of coronavirus through videos shared on social media and email newsletters.
Come up with a manual that has safety guidelines to train your staff regarding COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and an actionable response plan in case of emergencies.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises displaying posters promoting precautionary measures and respiratory hygiene in addition to offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers. Make it mandatory for staff to avoid being in close proximity, maintaining a distance of at least six feet, to the customer as well as to other employees. Advocate respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
To keep revenues up, it’s important to keep costs down as much as possible. Prioritize on creating small menus to keep inventory costs in check. Do a thorough examination of your current inventory to take stock of the current ingredients and accordingly build your menu, a new one if you have to. This way you reduce inventory ordering and save on expenses.
Even your vendors might be facing difficulties in procuring supplies at this difficult time. You should focus on creating limited cost-effective dishes, with relatively affordable and easily available ingredients, and only serve the best-selling items from your regular menu.
While most dine-in establishments have closed down due to the coronavirus outbreak, restaurants are now turning to online delivery and curbside pick-ups. Even fine-dining spots, like Canlis in Seattle, has temporarily converted into a drive-in burger eatery, bagel shed and family meal delivery service.
Having an online ordering service allows you to stay in business and continue to generate revenue. However, it is recommended that you have your own in-house online delivery service and not rely on third-party food aggregators who cut into restaurant profits with steep commissions.
In addition to this, in-house delivery is much safer, as Dr. Adam Splaver, a Florida-based cardiologist and internist, explains to Today. This way there will be one less person handing the customers’ food and packaging.
Take all the steps you can to amp up your delivery services and let your customers know that you are open for take-out and delivery through social media channels. First of all, optimize your menu for online delivery. Make sure your online ordering system allows you to modify menu updates easily. You can also withdraw the minimum order size to increase order volumes.
Introduce contactless delivery which is basically leaving food at the customers’ doorsteps or any other place of their choosing. Also, discourage customers from tipping in cash and instead to do so through other cashless transactions.
Ensure delivery staff is washing their hands or at least using hand sanitizers soon after completing a delivery. It is critical that your delivery team is following all the safety protocols. Benjamin Chapman, a food safety professor at North Carolina State University, has stated to CNN that the risk of disease transmission from food or the packages is very low and any real risk of contamination comes from the worker handing out the food. Here are some more tips to ensure safe deliveries to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease.
For Brooklyn-based restaurant Rucola, who closed their physical dining space recently, profits have been pouring in from two channels—online deliveries and gift card orders. The income from gift card purchases can serve as a much-needed cushion to sail through this tough phase.
More and more customers are already buying gift cards in order to support their favorite restaurants. Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger has launched SaveOurFaves, a directory of Bay Area restaurants selling gift certificates to compensate for lost income during the coronavirus outbreak. Use this opportunity to actively promote your restaurant’s gift card offerings, especially through targeted emotional marketing.
Finally, your employees are putting themselves at risk coming to work daily so you should take all measures to safeguard them and let them know how valued they are. There are some simple steps you can take to protect them during this health crisis. Besides offering clear and concise guidelines on safety and precautions against COVID-19, the WHO also advises employers to identify a room or area at the workplace where an employee who is feeling unwell or has symptoms can be safely isolated.
Offer them paid sick leaves if you can and encourage them to stay at home if they feel unwell. This is a stressful time for all, so raising awareness about mental health is also important. Try to create a supportive and positive work culture despite all challenges. Your employees will definitely appreciate your efforts and you will reap the benefits in the long run.