No restaurant owner could have predicted the current coronavirus pandemic or its impact on the industry. Now that it’s here, there are some things restaurants can do to continue to meet the needs of their diners even through service disruptions and limitations. Read on for a roundup of five tips aimed at helping your restaurant navigate the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
1. Create a pick-up friendly menu.
While larger or chain restaurants, as well as those accustomed to a takeout model, may be able to offer their complete menus for pick-up and delivery, smaller operations should consider scaling down in order to ensure the quality and service their customers crave. Offering a limited menu lets restaurants maintain operational efficiencies in a few ways:
- Reduces inventory ordering
- Allows for prioritization around ingredients already on-hand and new, versatile ingredients that can be used in a variety of dishes
- Streamlines preparation for a likely reduced kitchen staff
In addition, restaurants should consider menu items which will stay most appetizing through transportation. (Don’t forget to factor in the role of containers, as well.)
2. Meet diners where they are.
We mean this both figuratively and literally. Your customers are not one-size-fits-all. Nor are their wants and needs when it comes to food ordering and delivery. Make it easy for them to choose to patronize your restaurant by offering several pickup and delivery options, including curbside pickup; internal online ordering and delivery by your restaurant staff; and third-party ordering and delivery.
3. Utilize your current staff.
Restaurants aren’t the only ones feeling the catastrophic impact of the coronavirus. So are their employees. Utilizing your current staff whenever possible can help you see your staff through these challenging times. Plus, the connection between diners and your staff cannot be overstated. Your customers will be pleased to know that you’re taking measures to minimize the impact on your employees. This is also an investment in your restaurant’s future as retaining employees is cheaper than hiring and training new ones.
4. Encourage gift card purchases.
Diners don’t want local restaurants going out of business any more than restaurants themselves want to close their doors. Gift cards are a win-win for customers and restaurants alike. Not only can they be used immediately or in the future by diners, but they generate immediate revenue for cash-strapped restaurants struggling due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Keep in mind that -- as with food ordering and delivery -- the easier you make it for customers to purchase gift cards via online channels, the more likely they are to do so.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
The coronavirus landscape is constantly changing. In an unprecedented era of uncertainty, one of the most important measures restaurants can take is to commit to ongoing communications with their customers. Changing your safety precautions, hours, menu, or pickup/delivery practices? Use the breadth and depth of channels at your disposal, including your website and social media, to get the word out.
There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic is unsettling to restaurants and diners alike. These five tips can not only help you keep your restaurant afloat by continuing to meet the needs of your customers, but can also help boost diner loyalty toward stronger relationships when the outbreak is over.