Restaurant Survival Post Covid-19
We as a nation have faced health crises before, and while the duration of the effects of Covid-19 are still unknown, our society will hopefully return to a level of normalcy with the development of a vaccine. During different times such as these, all businesses, especially restaurants, must adapt and overcome the various challenges they face. These challenges include but are not limited to the need for an increased online presence, proper safety measures, minimized in-person dining, and menu adaptation. Adjusting to the above challenges are difficult for any restaurant owner, but to stay afloat, they must also prepare for a return to normalcy. In the following paragraphs, I will outline five ways that restaurants and new concepts can be successful in a post-Covid -19 world.
Create a Menu Around Customer Needs
With 21 million Americans unemployed, individuals are going to conserve funds and choose what they purchase with higher specificity. According to a TD Ameritrade survey, 64% of Americans said they are only going to order from the restaurant of their choice if they feel that the meal is reasonably priced and adjusted to the reality of times. I think that revising prices will be an excellent way for restaurants to rebuild their customer base and sales numbers in the post-Covid-19 world. According to a new study by Simon-Kucher and Partners on restaurant dynamics post-Covid-19, customers’ latest value drivers are price and number of healthy options available.
* The above bar graph displays restaurant value drivers in a post-Covid-19 world
This public health crisis has made millions of Americans re-evaluate what they eat, the ingredients used, and its effect on overall dietary health. With customers’ needs shifting, restaurants and new concepts have to create menus that are cost-friendly and taste-oriented through the use of organic ingredients.
Use Creativity to Build Stability
After an extended period in quarantine, customer’s habits have changed drastically. They have become used to ordering to-go, cooking meals at home, and not sitting within dining rooms at their favorite eateries. As society returns to a level of normalcy, I don’t foresee all customers immediately reverting to pre-Covid ways. I think that restaurants have to use creativity and think outside the box to build a steady customer base once again. One way that restaurants can add new customers and revenue streams is through DIY boxes of popular dishes. What this entails is a well-designed box that represents the restaurant’s style and approach to food. Included would be all the necessary ingredients and recipe instructions, to cook dishes to restaurant-quality perfection. Restaurants can also develop an iOS application that allows customers to view tutorials and chef secrets to making their favorite dishes. Combining these two ideas will provide a sub-category for consumers who are tired of online ordering but don’t want to go through the process of making a meal from scratch.
Streamline the Delivery Process
Throughout the pandemic, restaurants have experienced a broad level of instability shaped by state mandates. This has forced owners to shift a large portion of their business to online delivery or in-store pick-up, ultimately accelerating the percentage of online orders through third-party delivery services. The consequence of an increased rate of online orders is an overstressed kitchen, lower profit margins, and uncontrollable food quality. To combat these issues, restaurants can develop several initiatives, including kitchen segmentation and an advanced pick-up system. Kitchen segmentation would divide the kitchen into two parts, creating a workspace and team that focuses exclusively on delivery. This would reduce stress on the head chef, which in turn could have a positive effect on food quality and taste. Another option that helps reduce the burden of online orders is the creation of a Ghost Kitchen. While GhostKitchens are a reasonably new concept, they can help reduce kitchen overload while simultaneously expanding the delivery radius. To control the quality of food, restaurants can help reduce the time it takes for delivery drivers to obtain the meals physically. This can be done through a separate hostess and organizational system near the front of the restaurant.
Expand on Initiative’s Created During Covid-19
A recent survey by OpenTable, a provider of online restaurant reservations, has counted a tenfold increase in outdoor seating this spring compared with a year ago. Once a vaccine is developed, and people are entirely comfortable eating out again, restaurants should not revert to the traditional in-dining room experience. For restaurants that have the ability to, there needs to be a hybrid initiative that allows customers to choose between eating inside or at a custom patio area. In addition, restaurants need to provide greater ambiance for customers who decide to eat outdoors. This can be done through several ideas that can already be seen in restaurants across Los Angeles and New York City. These initiatives include private outdoor cabanas, string lighting, painted murals of the dining room, and even astroturf. The outside seating area should also reflect the restaurant’s design cues and stylistic approach. Hopefully, these improved dining initiatives will assist restaurants in providing a sublime atmosphere while building a new customer base.
Develop Permanent Safety Protocols
Even with the development of a vaccine, a portion of consumers are still going to be wary about shopping and eating in a retail setting. To make nervous consumers feel safe and protected, restaurants must have safety measures in place to reduce the risk of transmitting viral diseases. To do this, they can implement virtual menus, provide hand sanitizing stations, and invest in air-purification systems. Through a safety-first type of approach, restaurants will be able to rebuild trust amongst consumers.
The early stages of covid-19 were chaotic for all restaurant owners, forcing them to adapt overnight to new state restrictions and customer’s perspectives. Many restaurants and concepts were unable to make such sudden shifts in the ways that they operate. Once a vaccine is developed, I foresee restaurants having to alter their business models once again and quickly too. Restaurant owners must realize that preparation is key to being successful in the new normal. The ideas that I have outlined above aim to help restaurants rebuild their customer base and differentiate themselves based on new consumer dynamics. As a “foodie” I hope for the best for the restaurant industry, and I yearn for the day when I can enjoy my favorite dishes inside dining rooms once again.
Author: Connor Wohl, Beta Summer Intern 2020