I have some good news for you and your restaurant. The world is not going to end (even if it felt like that)! However, it is going to change and for that you need to be ready NOW!
In fact, this market adjustment is needed. Granted it’s a little more intense then anyone anticipated, however 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 am betting that by the beginning of June 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 too! For people on lockdown, staying at home is fun for a week or two. Then eating canned food and instant ramen will become very boring. Then the “cabin fever” sets in.
Restaurants are being allowed to reopen slowly around the world. Even after all we have been through, I’ve already seen more people posting pictures of being back at their favorite restaurant. Human beings are social creatures and we need each other. That is why the human race has evolved and flourished...we come together to create communities and build things that alone we could not. There is safety in numbers...just maintain your social distance.
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 black swan events you might have already been though... the events on September 11, 2001, for examle. What happened that day altered how we travel and our perceptions of the world around us.
Coronavirus will change the way restaurants do business as well. You will 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. Take out, curbside, and delivery became a lifeline for restaurants that had to suspend dine-in services. Don’t think that once this is over that everyone is going to go right back to their old life. 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 going to only become more in demand.
This pandemic will create a shift in buying and dining patterns that you must adapt to. You can’t reopen and just expect everything to be like it was... because it’s not. The world changed rather quickly and we must evolve as well. You are going to need a different game plan to thrive and not just survive.
The majority of restaurants and bars got blindsided. They didn’t have adequate cash reserves and lived for the weekend sales to keep them going. You can’t operate anymore from a hand to mouth mentality. That has to stop!
There is 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 and yet their lives were completely opposite. How did this happen? The man with the wealth has a mindset that he always paid himself first! He put 10% of his earning away no matter what. You’ll need to adopt this mindset in the post-coronavirus economy. Remember that those that 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 the recipes cards and costing. We should take off some of those items that just don’t sell. We should be managing our inventory better. Yeah, you just should be all over yourself every day. Now, look at your restaurant. It’s not a good feeling. Now, I’m not saying that anyone could predict this pandemic, what I am saying is you had a big list of things you “should” have been doing and you didn’t! Then the coronavirus came and gave you an open handed slap across the face! Ouch!
If you didn’t learn the lesson that you have to turn those “should dos” into “must dos”, the new economy is about to slap you once more!
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’s to connect with people and... wait for it: BE SOCIAL!
You have to revamp your social media to more storytelling and sharing of those emotions that make us human. Love, joy, pride, humor, nostalgia, family, and happiness. These are the emotions that get people to follow you. When you have your guests engaged because of the emotional connection they have with you, they don’t abandon you when times get tough.
I have seen restaurants struggling during this pandemic with no guests or their community showing them support. I have also seen restaurants that were connected to their community 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 into the mirror and ask “why?”
When this pandemic is over you want to be ready to jump and jump fast! Some restaurants are going to be a little “shell shocked” and will want to ease back into this slowly. Forget that!
I want you to imagine you are in a drag race and the stakes are winner takes all. You are 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 at the finish line. You see the Christmas tower 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 are amped up and ready for this.
The lights drop to yellow and then green...you floor it.