It’s an understatement to say the pandemic hit the Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) hard. Those who were able to ride out the worst of the lockdown found themselves pivoting towards 100 percent takeout orders fueled by intense social media campaigns. For some, restaurants parking lots became outdoor dining experiences, and for others, curbside pickup became the financial lifeblood. These drastic measures are now table stakes (pun intended) for QSRs to survive.
Now that the world is emerging from its year-long quarantine, people are returning back to their former dining habits and QSRs are finally experiencing steady revenue flow. However, the damage to profits is catastrophic, to the extent that the National Restaurant Foundation estimated the industry was on track to lose $240 billion by the end of 2020. Given this drastic decrease in revenue, restaurants are getting even more creative with reducing operating expenses and are now performing some financial juxtapositioning with their bills to uncover new ways to decrease costs. Here are three of the best—no-cost—methods QSRs are now using to recapture lost revenue more quickly:
Many QSRs may find that landlords are more willing to negotiate their tenants’ rents for fear of pandemic-induced closures. A recent CNBC article Renters Have More Leverage Than Ever, says, “While negotiating might have once landed your application in the reject pile, it is now something landlords will engage with, particularly in cities that saw large chunks of their populations flee to the suburbs.” The article offers six good tips to leverage a bad situation in favor of lowering payments. Keep in mind that landlords are also fearful that QSR-favorable lease provisions may kick in if a certain number of tenants depart a property.
Know Your Appliances
According to EnergyStar.gov, restaurants are extremely energy-intensive, using about five to seven times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings. Many QSR kitchen appliances are big energy hogs – in fact, a typical electric deep fryer uses more than 18,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh). Maintaining the optimal operating frying temperature, covering during idle times, and turning off backup fryers can help reduce this associated energy expense. In addition, QSR employees need to get familiar with their refrigerator and freezer thermometers. Making frequent adjustments for optimal temperature and or using state-of-the-art monitoring systems to alert staff if temperatures exceed thresholds are valuable approaches to lowering electric bills.
Look for Energy Efficiency as a Service Solutions
These types of offerings often fall into the “too good to be true” category but are actually making a dramatic impact to lower energy bills and improving environmental conditions at no capital cost to QSRs. Energy Efficiency as a Service (EEaaS) companies are a new and growing sector of efficiency upgrade specialists that put cutting-edge IoT devices and software-based energy monitoring systems into LED lighting, HVAC units, water heating, and kitchen appliances. They assume responsibility for the energy bill and take a portion of the monthly energy savings to cover equipment and installation costs. QSRs considering these services need to do their homework on vendors and always ask for references.
The restaurant industry has been hit disproportionately hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has helped with Payment Protection Program (PPP) funds, but even those were falling short because many staff members were already furloughed due to mandated closures, so restaurant owners could not leverage the grants to keep them employed.
Service creativity, menu ingenuity, and a pinch of new technology kept revenue flowing for the lucky ones—but many restaurants are still not operating in the black. To help quicken the pace toward profitability, additional measures can be taken to lower monthly expenses; reducing staff is not one of them.
Some of the aforementioned methods such as turning off that backup fryer seems minor, but can have a notable impact on electricity bills. Other methods such as EEaaS can have an instant and dramatic impact on the energy bills and improve the environmental conditions to be more welcoming (new LED lighting) and comfortable (efficient HVAC operations) for patrons at no cost to owners. Now more than ever, QSRs need to reexamine the obvious operational conditions and pivot towards reducing monthly expenses with a combination of proven options that save money.