The pandemic has had a brutal effect on the restaurant industry. Government restrictions and those frightened of the virus have ruined trade. On top of that many customers are fearful they will lose their jobs and so are being very careful with how they spend their money. But there are a number of things you can do to protect your business, the mindset is on survival right now not profit:
Review the Menu
Your menu needs to be modified to reduce costs, obviously you need to keep the popular dishes that your regulars enjoy but are people ordering the more expensive ones? The menu needs to be reviewed not just in terms of food cost and demand but also the labour that goes into it.
Staffing is one of the biggest costs and therefore difficult choices need to be made with regards to who stays and who goes – remember you’re fighting to save the business. Dishes that need a lot of prep time need to be removed from the menu and simpler dishes added where possible.
Normal rules don’t apply, so prepare the rota expecting to be quiet. Put the minimum amount of staff on per shift. Your team needs to be flexible, so if on Wednesday you start getting a lot of bookings for the weekend, then add an extra member of staff. If on the odd day the restaurant gets a lot of walk-in’s you can either explain to customers that you have less staff on due to the pandemic so they will have to wait longer or just don’t take the tables and preserve your customer experience.
Employing more part time staff makes more sense than having a small number of full timers, as with smaller teams if someone gets sick or can’t make it into work for whatever reason the restaurant may not be able to open at all.
The next six months are key to your survival, come spring when the weather gets better I predict things will start getting better for restaurants. But with Christmas office parties almost non-existent, winter is going to be bleak.
Don’t give up marketing, there is still some trade but now more than ever you need to make sure you don’t waste resources. One area to focus on is the booking platforms and discount sites. You can promote special offers and drive bookings with no initial outlay – just a commission or flat fee for people that actually dine in your restaurants. Maximize your efforts here.
Use free meals as marketing currency. Offer a few free meals to local charities and schools for fundraising will help generate goodwill and help reach a lot of people with your brand messages. Competitions on social media always get a lot of engagement and reach.
Be stricter with opening hours – is there really enough trade to open on a Monday lunch? These are difficult decisions but it’s essential you minimize losses.
Although some operators bulk at the idea of paying 30-percent commission to the likes of a third-party delivery service, they are necessary right now to keep turnover coming in. But there are other operators, so it’s worth getting listed on a few others. Although our Epos system and surrounding area looks like Mission Control at Cape Canaveral with all the tablets and screens! Think about what else you can sell on these platforms and amend your menu accordingly.
Selling gift vouchers on your website or in store can help generate cash flow as loyal customers buy them for friends and family.