Survival Guide for the Restauranteurs

Survival can only happen if the restaurants create a safe and secure environment for their patrons.

We are living in unprecedented times and the hospitality industry is nosediving to see a drastic impact due to COVID-19. Since lockdown, on an average, nearly around 70 per cent of the employees or more have lost their job in the domain. Even if one hopes for some relaxation in the subsequent days, the fear of not ordering online or going out will still persist; this is primarily because of safety concerns. Survival can only happen if the restaurants create a safe and secure environment for their patrons. Here is your survival guide:

Address the Elephant in the room - Health & Safety

The health and safety of staff and customers should be of paramount importance. Restaurants need to normalise to maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 meters between guest tables. Contactless ordering and delivery are the keywords to sustain in the industry. It is recommended to introduce contactless ordering as the single most reusable item in the restaurant is the ‘menu’. Unfortunately, it is not possible to sanitise a printed menu after every use thus it becoming a source of transmitting infection. QR ordering will enable zero contact as the guests can scan a QR code on their mobiles, check out the menu and place the order via the mobile, without downloading any app.

Regular Temperature Checks

Another step that will help is to develop a stringent practice of checking the temperature of all the staff. Staff’s image with the temperature on the contactless thermometer along with that day’s newspaper in their hand can be posted on social media and help establish trust in the consumers. The temperature of the guests should also be checked before they walk into the restaurant. This could be considered intrusive by some, hence the restaurants can also eventually move on to installing thermal cameras at the entrance as those will automatically record the temperature of everyone walking in. These cameras come in various ranges and brands and are known to cost somewhere around USD 1800 per unit approximately. The camera can take the temperature which can be displayed at the LED screen that can be stationed at the entrance. The guests can view the temperature of their co-diners thus firming that the property is taking all the safety measures.

Ensure Impeccable Hygiene Standards at the Restaurant

The restaurants should have enough hand sanitisers in the stock that is freely available to be used by everyone along. The entire staff must sanitise and thoroughly wash hands for 20 seconds before touching food and cutlery. The travel history of the staff should be checked and have them in self-isolation if need be. Additionally, the tables and chairs in the restaurant should be wiped down by disinfectants after every use. The face masks need to be a part of their regular uniform henceforward. Use social media to showcase the safety measures which the staff is taking to ensure a safe dining experience. 

Focus on Increasing Delivery Sales- The trust needs to be instilled in people

Prior to the lockdown, most restaurants considered delivery sales as an additional bonus or add-on sales to the overall turnover. The tables have turned and now delivery is not ancillary support for the restaurants but will become the nucleus of the revenue for them.  Restaurants should aim to get their own direct delivery channel. Since social distancing may still continue for the next one to two years, hence this strategy needs to be long-term. For the profit to accelerate, the restaurants have to market their direct deliveries and not take support from any third party. The world is currently going through an economic depression, the kind that it has never seen before; therefore, the expenditure on anything other than essentials is expected to be minimal. Instead of offering higher discounts cashback can be given on the next order so that you have a recurring customer. 

Refurbish the Delivery Menu

The delivery menu needs to be given more thought as unlike a dine-in menu food styling is limited with deliveries and not all items on the existing menu will last through the duration of delivery. The ideal delivery menu, apart from being super delicious must also tick certain boxes such as preparation time not exceeding over 10 minutes, must cite the nutritional value and the ingredients that will help build immunity as the consumers are extremely conscious of what they eat. Most of the delivery platforms today run on an algorithm that will showcase restaurants on the customers’ feed based on how quickly the order is prepared because faster the restaurant, more deliveries they can execute - in return generating more revenue for themselves. 

Immunity booster shots or juices should be introduced, promote freshly cooked warm food items as that is what the consumers are seeking these days. On the delivery box instruct to heat the food to ensure there is no contamination.

Cost Saving Strategies 

Restaurants need to accept the realities of today and realign their costs. Renegotiate with the landlord as it is in both parties' interest to finalise a new contract at the earliest. Due to reduced turnover, it might be an idea to buy on cash and get better pricing from suppliers. This will also help retain better control over your cash flow. 

Realign service staff. See how many of them can move into logistics and handle direct deliveries. 

Take care of all vacation days during this downtime. Most businesses have no choice but to resort to the reduction of salary, it is important to keep the staff’s morale high by conducting frequent online meetings. Moreover, it should be a higher percentage of pay cost being deducted for the employees working on a senior level and a lower percentage for line staff. Re-structure the number of heads for regular days and restaurants may choose to further reduce their payroll costs by switching to part-time staff for their busy days.

Marketing is still the Key

In the process to realign and restructure your restaurant, do not forget to market your property. The cost of marketing is at all time low and the time is ripe to invest in some result oriented marketing strategies and branding.

The customers, on a general note, are terrified of eating outside food. They fear to catch an unwanted infection or virus when they order, causing more panic in the country than calm. Thus, it is the responsibility of the restaurant to re-instill the confidence in them to order from your outlet. Highlight all the safety measures being carried out at the restaurant. This will inspire confidence with the customers to start ordering again and maintain faith in your restaurant, steering it towards growth and stabilisation.

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