It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on many industries and individuals around the world. For the past 18 months, the restaurant industry has had to come up with innovative solutions to aid their effective transition into the new normal and reduce the effects caused by the pandemic. But, how have they managed to stay up and running so far?
According to a report by the National Restaurants Association, more than 110,000 restaurants and bars closed their business for good or temporarily by the end of 2020. Over 8 million restaurant employees lost their jobs [permanently or temporarily. Additionally, the restaurant industry lost $240 billion in sales compared to the Association’s pre-pandemic forecast of the year 2020.
In a bid to counteract these negative effects in the restaurant industry, the government established various regulations to ensure the safe operation of the restaurant industry. Although these regulations are ever-changing, there are several ways that restaurant owners and stakeholders can continue to run a successful business, and most of the solutions heavily rely on embracing modern technology.
1. Focus on Online Shopping
For the last 15 years, the online shopping and ordering market has grown exponentially. Even a small vegetable vendor can take orders via some kind of online ordering platform. Furthermore, the pandemic has eliminated the need for salespeople, forcing many operators to heavily rely on website/app focused shopping.
Luckily, it is faster, more convenient, and allows you to compare different prices from different vendors. The biggest drawback is that there is limited integration of these systems with those of restaurants and that you will have to log into various company websites as you search for what you want.
2. Optimal Supplier Integrated Pricing
Gone are the days when vendor pricing organization was done through texts or email. Now, you can easily arrange and analyze all the prices from your suppliers electronically, making the task of mapping and transferring such prices to a spreadsheet as easy as possible.
3. Use of Electronic Communication
With the constant change of FDA regulations, menu offerings, promotions, and pricing lists, electronic communication has become key in the restaurant industry as it allows operators to easily and quickly tweak and review content in real-time. Even before the pandemic crisis, emailing and texting had already become the second nature among many chefs.
However, the pandemic has made it clear that all those in-person and frequent conversations by salespeople were completely unnecessary. New products in the market and relevant nutritional data can easily and effectively be communicated online, with the help of photos.
4. Ship the Samples Directly
Nowadays, there is no need to wait for salespeople to find time in their schedules to bring various samples. Simply, ship the samples directly from the manufacturer or to various wholesale distribution points for ease of access. It is even more convenient and easier to make decisions if you have a connection to manufacturing partners who can ship the samples overnight.
5. Get Rid of Paper Invoices
Long gone are the days when you need scanning services, especially since the data is free. There is no need to translate your digital data into paper invoices as it can pass from you to your distributor easily. Nowadays, many companies can directly send their invoices electronically, or through secure and reliable third parties, at no additional costs.
6. Automate Cost Allocation
Many operators can attest to the numerous number of times they have struggled to create separate primary cost categories for their restaurants, especially Food, Beverages, and Supplies. Well, not anymore. Distributors can provide you with a more detailed breakdown to help you analyze costs for specifics, like pasta, seafood, or meat, in just a few simple tests. Several digital solutions can make this possible at no extra costs.
7. Use Credit Cards for Wholesale Transactions
During these uncertain times, many small businesses are using personal credit cards for their expenses. The majority of credit cards allow extended payment terms for card purchases, making it highly convenient for wholesale transactions. Although some wholesale food and supplies companies may charge extra credit card processing fees, many of them do not. Additionally, the extra cash flow can make a difference in the running and management of your business.
8. Get Rid Cash-and-Carry
Even before the pandemic, time away from your business and the effort and expense put into retail shopping has always been a bitter pill to swallow. Nowadays, many businesses cannot afford to send an extra employee or even take time out to go to a crowded retail store.
9. Spreadsheets Begone!
Often used as a means of separating your wholesale food order between suppliers to aid in finding the lowest cost of ingredients from several sources, the use of spreadsheets is long gone. The pandemic has forced businesses to pull together their resources and limit the extent of possible credit options. In turn, this has led to lesser deliveries, decreased need for labor to receive the suppliers, and fewer invoices to process. Furthermore, the larger orders have made suppliers more attentive and price aggressive.
10. Two Meeting Limit
The role of salespeople in the restaurant industry is slowly diminishing. Nowadays, sales are done upon initial contact. The first meeting is where the presentation, assessment, and review of the products occurs. The other meeting happens electronically via text, email, or a website or app. As a result, chefs can concentrate more on training, labor costs, menu costs, and recipes, without wasting any of their precious time with salespeople.
11. Frequently Train your Team
Undoubtedly, the Covid-19 pandemic has established a new set of roles and responsibilities in the restaurant industry. From safety stewards to concierges to sanitation specialists to temperature takers and dining room attendants, there is a continued increase in new restaurant staffing positions.
As a chef, you need the most efficient and reliable team by your side, especially during such difficult times. It is advisable to start with a small team for the front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house operations.
Furthermore, it is crucial to train your team on the most current rules and regulations for Covid-19 as required for kitchen and restaurant premises. You can avail the training materials online for easy access by your staff. Frequent quizzing and retraining sessions will help you know if the staff is understanding the new measures or not.
12. Increase Advertising Budget
As the restaurant industry tries to stay afloat amid this pandemic, operators should consider increasing their advertising budget as a form of providing informative communication with their patrons. First, they should ensure that their premise abides by all safety regulations provided by the CDC. Instill confidence in your patrons by informing them of the steps you have taken to ensure a safe dining experience and food quality.
Another effective marketing strategy you can use to keep up with this new normal is by welcoming your patrons with various promotions and loyalty programs. Whether it is offering special combos or bundles, drink or daily food specials, or even a buy one get one free deal on small items, it could go a long way in encouraging your patrons to support you. Chefs could even share their recipes, host live cooking shows or provide cooking tutorials.
13. Make Use of Social Media
Operators can also optimize their social media platforms to connect with their customers. Do not be afraid to share how you are coping with the effects of the pandemic and how you plan to reopen the restaurant. You could also consider using influencer marketing as it is very effective, according to the 2019 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report.
14. Keep All Your Plans Under Active Review
Given that these are unprecedented times and the environment is constantly changing, it is crucial to always stay abreast of what is going on in the world and the possible impact of such developments. Always be prepared to respond quickly to new changes that you may not be accustomed to when it comes to business processes and operations.
For instance, operators can opt to convene a separate governance structure in their business with the responsibility of making new regulations and swiftly making decisions, communicating and implementing them effectively. If you have temporarily closed your restaurant business, take this downtime to re-evaluate its operation, develop new and more flexible products and services, and train your employees adequately. You could also take this opportunity to look for new opportunities to diversify your business and compare yourself to the competitor to find out how to manage during these difficult times.
There is a clear desire among consumers to enjoy in-house dining more than ever before. Luckily, with the widespread availability of the vaccine and as more restaurants continue expanding their outdoor and off-premise dining options, more people can return to eating in restaurants.
In addition, the vaccine, expansion of business operations, and adoption of cloud-based and hotel automation technologies are key factors for growth in the restaurant industry. As a result, restaurants will be able to deliver high-quality customer service while increasing gross revenues and gross operating costs even during these rocky times. With adequate preparation and planning, support from your local community, and following the steps mentioned above, you will survive and return to normalcy soon enough.