I love NYC. I found my success in this city which is struggling amidst the Pandemic. This year, I have watched the news and social media, alongside the restaurant-owned communication channels, share their plight. As such, I made it a point to choose staycations and delivery and braved visits to restaurants when many of my friends would wait to see how I fared and reported back to them.
We all know that diners are much more careful about their outings and selective about how they spend their money. We still want an experience and ambience. Sadly, it’s all starting to feel very transactional, and going out to eat is merely another thing we do to escape for a moment.
It is time for restaurants to stop trying to get through it to get back to the old way and instead seek out opportunities to invent a new way.
Restaurants need to do more than just offer a meal. Consumers are online watching cooking videos, sommeliers, and educational videos to entertain themselves in some form. We shop online because stores are closed or we are afraid to shop in store.
It is time for restaurants to stop trying to get through it to get back to the old way and instead seek out opportunities to invent a new way. The club culture and lounge dining world are a bit distant, but the experience in front of us is one that can open up a door to meaningful conversations, experiences and feelings. But that won’t happen in a 25 percent-open or even a half- empty restaurant alone.
Restaurants owners and managers who are operating on life support need to do more than fundraise to sustain their employees and pay the rent; they need to seek out partnerships and collaborations with other industries for their mutual survival and benefit. It’s the time for us to rethink what a private event means. In the Pandemic world, a private event features a single host inviting specific guests. We need to flip private into partner language. Let’s talk about partner dining concepts.
For example, restaurateurs should be looking for ways to bring together culture, dining and education for those that have eternal style and are hungry for entertainment. Imagine diners enjoying a curated, educational dining experience with artisans, stylists, and designers that provide samples to your diners in an effort to pair craftsmanship of design with the delicacies of the food palette.
Why not offer a themed menu for diners in the restaurant, as well as at home? Why not merge virtual “Meet the Chef” with “Meet the Artist” and serve a prix fix course that teaches the diner how to’s, while offering them an opportunity to taste that special dish and receive a product sample at the same time?
In another example, the pandemic has underscored for many just how precious good health and healthy living are. Restaurant owners should see this as an opportunity to speak to and invest in the things “that matter” to their customers.
Why not celebrate Clean? Clean eating meets a clean lifestyle with sustainable farming, wellness and clean products. Menus should reflect clean farming, ingredients and techniques. Diners should have an opportunity to watch, read and taste. Why not integrate an education video, presentation by staff or experts while gifting the diner with a clean pack takeaway vs., sending them away with a clean box of chocolates or sweets or their leftovers in a to-go container?
Before meaningful change, there is often chaos and confusion. But change can be a pathway to new opportunities, new connections and partners, and ever greater business success. Now may be the perfect moment to look for inspiration from unexpected places. Opportunity knocks if we open the door.