The bad news: Here we are, waiting for the world to end.
I know I wrote a post a little while back saying that there would be a restaurant apocalypse in 2020. I did not see this curve ball coming.
The good news: The world is not going to end! However, it is going to change, and to deal with that you need to get ready now.
In fact, this market adjustment is needed. Granted, it’s a little more intense than anyone anticipated. But it’s here and we need to deal. Just like everything, it will run its course and things will get back to normal soon (well, as close to normal as that can be). I’m betting that by the beginning of May things will start to stabilize.
So, what do you do until then? Get ready!
This pandemic hit us fast and hard. It also will end that way. People are on lockdown but staying at home is fun for maybe a week. Much longer than that and eating canned food and instant ramen will become very boring. Then the stir crazy, cabin fever feelings start to set in...
After that, people will start to venture back out to restaurants in the areas they’re permitted to do so. I’ve already seen more people walking around my neighborhood than ever before. Human beings are social creatures and we need each other. That’s why humans have evolved and flourished: we come together to create communities and build things that alone we could not. There’s safety—and therefore comfort—in numbers.
The Post-coronavirus Economy
Events like this are what economists call a “black swan,” catastrophic occurrences that basically cause a global shift in mindset and behavior. Look back to a black swan event you might have already been through: the events on September 11, 2001. What happened that day altered how we travel and our perceptions of the world around us.
The coronavirus will change the way restaurants do business as well. You’ll need to be ready to adapt and perhaps even change certain aspects of your business model if you want to thrive in the new economy that will arise from the ashes.
Takeout, curbside and delivery have become a lifeline for restaurants that had to suspend dine-in services. Don’t think that once this is over everyone will going to go right back to their old lives. Some will be very apprehensive and a little scared to venture back into a crowded dining room, so have patience. Online ordering was another savior to restaurants that fought to keep the sales coming in without personal contact—it’s only going to increase in demand.
This pandemic will create a shift in buying and dining patterns to which you must adapt. You can’t reopen and just expect everything to be like it was, because that’s not going to happen. The world changed rather quickly and we must evolve as well. You’re going to need a different game plan to thrive and not just survive.
- Keep the revenue momentum going with takeout, curbside and delivery.
- If you don’t have online ordering, you should look into it.
- If possible (depending on your state regulations), look into going cashless. I hate to say it, but this crisis brought more awareness to germs and how they’re spread.
- Keep the sanitation standards high. Once again, people became keen to the idea of hand sanitizer being provided by restaurants, so don’t stop offering it.
Get Your Shit Together
Most restaurants and bars got caught with their pants down. They didn’t have adequate cash reserves and lived for the weekend sales to keep them going. You can’t operate with a hand-to-mouth mentality any longer—that shit has to stop!
There’s a classic self-improvement book out there called The Richest Man in Babylon. The premise of the book is quite simple: Two men who grew up together lose touch and after many years meet randomly. One man is a hard worker and living paycheck to paycheck, the other is rich beyond measure. They had the same upbringing and same education, yet their lives ended up completely different. How did this happen?
The man with the wealth had a mindset that he always paid himself first. He put ten percent of his earnings away, no matter what. You’ll need to adopt this mindset in the post-coronavirus economy. Remember that those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
You also must dial in the cost of everything (and I emphasize everything) on your menus. We all know that we should update all our recipe cards and costing. We should take off some of those items that just don’t sell. We should be managing our inventory better. Yeah, many of us just “should” all over ourselves every damn day.
Now, look at your restaurant. It’s not a good feeling. I’m not saying that anyone could have predicted this pandemic. What I’m saying is you had a big list of things you “should” have been doing and you didn’t do them. Now, the coronavirus has come and given a lot of operators an open-handed slap across the face.
If you didn’t learn the lesson that you must turn those “shoulds” into “musts,” the new economy is about to slap you again.
- Cost out everything on your menu.
- Reduce your menu size so you are leaner and meaner. This will also reduce inventory and staffing as well, which is a good thing moving forward.
- Get rid of those negative energy vampires who have been coming to work and just getting by. When this thing is over (and it will be over), there will be fewer restaurants and bars in business. That also means that there will be more people looking for jobs. You’ll have the pick of more A-list talent, so make some space for them.
Plot Your Return
I want to you develop a wicked plan to be able to jump out of the gate and take market share as it opens up. Here’s the secret: Have your plan ready now.
It starts with social media. When this pandemic hit, fear and panic consumed the media and social media channels. You need to amp up your marketing frequency to where you almost start to become annoying. The purpose of social media was never to make a sale, it was always to connect with people and.—wait for it—be social.
You must revamp your social media to implement more storytelling and the sharing of the emotions that make us human: love, joy, pride, humor, nostalgia, family, and happiness. These are the emotions that get people to follow you. These are the emotions that create connections between you and your guests. When these bonds have strengthened, they don’t abandon you when times get tough.
I’ve seen restaurants struggling during this pandemic, seeing no guests and receiving zero support from the community. I’ve also seen restaurants that were connected to their communities, and when the chips were down they came out and supported them. If you haven’t received a lot of support during this crisis you need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask, “Why?”
- If you haven’t done so yet, clarify your core values and mission statement. People connect with those who are clear about who they are and what they stand for.
- Start creating social media posts and recording storytelling videos that you can use for social media. You can create a DropBox folder and have them ready to go.
- And since you’re recording videos for marketing, you might as well make some training videos for the new team that you’ll have soon. You know that improving your training program is important, but you’ve approached it with a “should do” mindset. It’s now a “must do.”
When this pandemic is over, you want to be ready to jump, and jump quickly. Some restaurants and bars are going to be a little shell shocked and will want to ease back into operations slowly. Screw that!
I want you to imagine that you’re in a drag race and the stakes are winner takes all. You’re sitting at the starting line with the engine revved up, one hand on the wheel, one hand on the stick shift, your eyes focused down the track toward the finish line. You see the Christmas tree of lights next to you out of the corner of your eye. It’s red—you have no idea when it will change colors, but you’re amped up and ready for it to change. The lights drop to yellow and then green, and you floor it. Go!