Will Your Restaurant Survive This Crisis?
8 things to shape your future in the restaurant industry
Our company is often asked to give presentations at restaurant shows, as recently as early March. The first thing we would do is to have all the attendees raise their hand and say: “I am entitled to a profit.” We did this because after more than 25 years in the restaurant industry, it seemed to us that a lot of restaurant operators didn’t know that. After the middle of March, we would change that to a question: will your restaurant survive this crisis?
Many predictions put the independent restaurant closure rate at somewhere between 20 and 80%. Nobody knows for sure. It’s a future for the foodservice industry that looks bleak, but isn’t decided yet. What is true is it will be different. And the answer to that question, will your restaurant survive this crisis, is more about what you do now. And how well you can pivot.
As restaurant consultants and foodservice marketers, we’ve been thinking a lot about what the future holds for our beloved restaurant owners. We currently work with food manufacturing companies, restaurants and distributors, and we are all connected. So we’ve decided to share the top 8 bits of advice we have been giving our clients.
1 – Your Restaurant Business Will Not Be The Same
It is very unlikely that anyone in the restaurant industry will be the same after this crisis. That’s why you will have to rethink your business. To survive and thrive, you will need to make significant changes in your business.
2 – You Cannot Survive on 80% of Sales
Change your thinking about what it will take to make your business profitable. The sad fact is, most restaurant operators were scraping by on 4¢ on a dollar before the crisis. So at full capacity, margins were tight to begin with. Your new line of thinking about the restaurant will need to be how to get sales above where they were before the crisis. It can be done. I have clients who are doing better now than they were before Coronavirus hit in March. That’s why I know firsthand it can be done.
3 – Rethink Your Menu Offering
What sold before the crisis may not sell as well now. My advice is to trim your menu down to make ordering easier and quicker. That, and to have a separate carryout and delivery menu that offers items that travel well. Some items that are great at the restaurant may not be great at home. It is in your best interest to know what you can continue to make that your guests will come back for.
4 – Test Your Foods Based On Environment
We had a conversation with a client the other day. He mentioned that he was getting complaints on certain items from carryout customers. Our question: have you taken that item home with you? Rather than fight with your guests, test the products you make in different environments. Take some of the items home or to the park, eat them in the car and see if they represent your best effort.
5 – Do Not Lose Sight Of Your Personality
Many of our restaurant clients are so busy scrambling to stay in business they are prone to make mistakes in the process. Your business has a personality. So your food, service and marketing need to express that personality. Do Not Lose Brand Perspective.
6 – Be Aggressive With Social Media
The restaurant operators I work with who are doing well are also doing the most with social media. That includes posting a lot, and advertising a lot. All of the most successful clients I have outsource a good portion of their social media. Not all of it. They still post some. But they have us post for them every couple of days to keep the conversation going.
7 – Get An Objective Consultant
In a crisis, you need a sounding board with an objective point of view. This is because when times are tough you may make quick decisions with long term impacts you hadn’t considered. Having a sounding board is essential to your success. You’re needing surgery to save your business. So, call a surgeon.
8 – Make Your Guests Feel Comfortable
In late May a client called to talk about his business. He told us that he had reopened in-house dining. The only problem was, only 12 people showed up to eat in his restaurant in 3 days. Just because the government says you can open, doesn’t mean anyone will show up. That’s because they are spooked. You will have to do a lot of work to make your guests feel comfortable. Take reservations. Keep people apart from each other. And make sure your restaurant is clean and sparkling.
HotOperator is offering a consultation to help you navigate these difficult times. Reach out before it’s too late. A simple email to get things started, and we’ll be there for you. We are committed to the foodservice industry. We love restaurants. We want them to survive. But we can’t do that unless we work together. Let us help you with romancing your restaurant brand.
M+K Laux dba HotOperator is a farm to table marketing consulting firm. Mark and Kelly are a marketing team and managing partners of HotOperator. They have been working in the food business since 1989. Either can be contacted through the HotOperator website, or by calling 800-316-3198. or contact Laux here.