COVID-19 has forced restaurant owners and operators to work hard to diversify income streams. Some helpful trends have emerged that may apply across the spectrum as we prepare for the months ahead. And those trends suggest we should keep in mind that we are all an integral part of a community.
Consider the Bodega
In the coming months, as suppliers catch up to demand, many restaurants would do well to look more like grocery stores, and grocery stores more like restaurants. Both should offer family-style takeaway prepared meals, as well as grocery staples.
Delis and bodegas have long practiced this model. They offer local, regular shopping for staples, and they often do not expect customers to dine on-site. In addition to offering a consistent menu of takeaway meals, a restaurant can help its regulars prepare for the quarantined and work from home week ahead by selling staples at a fair price.
Some suggested items include eggs, olive oil, butter, salt and pepper, pasta, rice, pickled and aromatic veggies, leafy greens, smoked fish, roasted chickens, egg salad, red sauce, and pesto.
Don’t Be Afraid to Go Back to Basics
Noma, one of the best restaurants in the world, recently reopened as a burger and wine bar. They recognized that more than fancy food, customers are craving the simple exchange of humanity. Your restaurant should be safe, sanitary, dependable, and transparent. And your supply chain probably requires menu simplicity anyway.
Know that your customers will deeply appreciate the opportunity to experience relative normalcy through your simple, professional menu.
Digital Integration Is Bound to Increase as the Pandemic Waxes and Wanes
We’ll have to normalize and improve the pickup and delivery experience. You should make sure your bottom line is secure, and scale from there. That means taking the time to find great digital partners. Don’t get locked in toxic relationships.
Communicate clearly with your diners and shoppers. They will want to do right by your business, but it can be confusing for them to track across multiple businesses. Clearly communicate your status and policies, menu, pickup, and delivery across digital platforms, as well as at your restaurant. And then regularly post updates.
Don’t Be Afraid of Ghost Kitchens
Ghost kitchens are emerging as a potentially excellent option for expanding your business’s reach while keeping overhead and risk relatively low. But the same principle as above applies: take the time to develop great partners before running headlong into potentially risky relationships; trust but verify that safety and sanitation standards are met. And make sure that your customers are receiving the highest possible quality of service.
A major lesson of this pandemic is that the places we dine are at once incredibly special and commonplace. They are essential to any community.
If we are grateful for the places we gathered, and appreciate what it means to do without, then we have no doubt the restaurant industry will soon return stronger than ever.