Jon Taffer is scared for restaurants and terrified for bars.
He cautioned that when restaurants can reopen for dine-in service, they will have to face the bittersweet reality of less seating capacity and less sales–he estimates as much as 30 percent–due to social distancing practices and guest apprehension.
"They have to expect 30 percent less seats and 30 percent less revenue when they open their doors," he told Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine.
But the star of Bar Rescue does feel those who are using this time wisely to regroup will have the best chance for coming back strong.
"The fighter is going to win, right now."
He suggests owners and managers take a two-prong approach: a consumer focus and a business-forward mindset.
On the consumer side, restaurants need to be more engaged with customers than ever, he urged.
"You can grow brand equity by supporting your community and engaging customers now."
He said if they are able to pivot to a curbside pickup/takeout/delivery model, they can learn from examples set by Tiffany Derry, who guested on his show, as she added meal-prep kits and is focusing on beng part of the Dallas community where she is located.
Social media is a key component to staying connecting with guests.
On the business side, he suggests owners use the time to know where they stand on the financial front and build relationships with landlords and suppliers if they had not already done so. This will help them have all their needed financials in line to enable them to ramp up quickly.
The man who specializes in saving bars doesn't anticipate guests bellying up to the one next to a stranger anytime soon due to social distancing, but there is another aspect of the current quarantine that gives him pause: virtual bartending. People are watching videos and learning to make cocktails.
"People can't learn to be a chef, but they can learn to mix a drink."
He feels house parties might be the comfort level of choice for consumers in the short term, impacting bar culture when they are able to come back on line.