Since Covid-19 hit the papers, there has been little to no good news for restaurants. In many states, dining rooms have been shut down entirely. In response, some restaurants have decided to closed down completely, furloughing staff for an indefinite period of time. Yet other restaurants owners have pivoted and decided that instead of closing, they will swim against the current and continue to operate in order to feed their customers in creative ways. And customers look forward to seeing independent restaurants open. In fact, Datassentials recent report notes 69% of consumers prefer to support independent restaurants over chains–so they just need to know you’re open for business!
Everyone is trying something different – from the local pizza shop to the fine dining steak house down the street. Yet, all these hard working, creative restaurant owners are finding some similarities in what’s working. The first, although seemingly obvious, is perhaps the most important: Clear Signage.
With both Federal and State politicians declaring that, “all non-essential businesses must close,” this makes us think that everything, besides maybe grocery stores, hospitals and pharmacies, are closed. However, that is not the case.
Although restaurants and bars are seen as regulated as non-essential, they still have the ability to be open for take-out, delivery, and in some states they are even allowed to deliver alcohol. Therefore, the first step owners can take is to make sure that their customers know what’s going on. That means putting a clear sign in front of your establishment with the new rules.
- Make sure the sign is large and clear, telling your customers you are open for business and your specific hours.
- Place another sign on your door and on your website with the, “rules of engagement.” Or in other words, explain what your restaurant will be offering. Is it just take out? If so, will an employee bring it directly to a customers car or does the customer need to go inside? Make sure there is a clear and easy path for customers to follow.
- People are scared. Covid-19 can be on anything, including the food they buy. Restaurant owners need to recognize this and be clear with what they are doing to prevent the spread of the virus. Examples can include requiring employees to wear gloves, extra cleaning and sanitizing, and much more. Whatever it may be, customers need to see the steps your restaurant is willing to take to keep them safe.
- Click here for ready to print “we are open” sign
Coupons and Discounts
Restaurant owners should also seriously consider any promotions or “deals” they can offer their customers. Try offering discounts, theme nights, and family meals. A great example of restaurant doing just this is in Washington State. The restaurant, Ba Sa, is serving a Community Rice Bowl for only $5 that customers can take home and enjoy with their families. Other establishments have created a “pizza night” with all sorts of discounted pies or take home kits! Whatever the idea may be, successful owners are not only catering towards the individual but also towards a family.
Sometimes, an old fashioned coupon is all it takes to get started: “A gallon of milk and a loaf of bread for $7” is all most people need.
Try creating one on your own and make it stand out: canva coupon templates
Or if you simply don’t have the time or are not artistically inclined (after all we are in the food business, not the art business) try one of these already built coupon templates! coupon template.
Another tool savvy restaurant owners are using to reach their customers is social media. Since (the majority) of social media is free and people suddenly find themselves stuck in their homes with little to do and far too many books to read, this is something every restaurant should be utilizing to reach customers.
Create posts on Instagram, Facebook, even LinkedIn telling customers that you are open, what times you are open, and what you are serving. Show mouthwatering pictures of your food: Oozing cheese melting out on a cheeseburger or basil leaves sticking out on a margherita pizza. Whatever your making, take a picture of it! Or, if you’re going the route of adding meal kits or cocktail kits to your menu for customers to take home, don’t forget to share, share, share! Many communities are happy to support independent restaurants during this hard time and are looking for creative ways to keep those kids at home busy.
Check out the following accounts on Instagram for inspiration! https://www.instagram.com/bostonburger_co/ & https://www.instagram.com/phantomgourmet/
Business Ideas to Implement
Finally, if Covid-19 has thought us anything, (other than hoarding toilet paper) it is to be creative. Think outside the bowl (pun intended)! This may sometimes mean taking big risks like:
- opening a pop up burger shop in your parking lot available for take-out or curbside pickup.
- Implementing grocery store items into your operation for customers to grab as they do take-out. This may be a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a bag of flour, or even a dozen eggs.
- Selling not only ready-made meals with easy reheating instructions
- Have available non food items like disposable gloves that are in short supply and can often take as much as a month for an Amazon order to arrive.
Whatever it may be, get creative! Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and imagine what they would want.
Some restaurant operators are also taking this time to pivot their businesses completely by becoming a pop-up shop to feed healthcare workers and furloughed employees. Though this path is only possible for some operators with crowdfunding, it doesn’t offer support to the healthcare industry and free meals to furloughed employees while also hopefully allowing you to keep on a few more employees.
Unfortunately, there is no way around it, this pandemic has added stresses to all of our lives and people are making major life changes. Yet, restaurants all over the country have shown to be versatile, agile companies that can change their entire business model at the drop of a dime. Although everything might be different, one thing has remained the same: Restaurants are still able to provide comfortable food — at a great quality — for the countless number of people stuck in their homes, with only their cooking skills to keep them going. It won’t be without headaches and it won’t be easy. However, there is a way. All we need to do is find it.