Your Restaurant Business Model During COVID-19: 5 Lessons to Keep for Future Success

Right now, the future seems uncertain, especially for those in the restaurant industry.

It may seem like the Coronavirus outbreak is going to last forever. But this will eventually pass and we will adjust to a new normal. How can we reframe this time to learn a few critical lessons about restaurant management? Here are 5 lessons restaurant owners should keep once COVID-19 is behind us.

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We’re all looking forward to the day when COVID-19 is behind us. The outbreak has been particularly challenging for restaurants and those in the food service industry. Those who work in restaurants might not think of the long term right now since many of us are dealing with each day as it comes, simply focused on survival.

But there are many lessons we can extract and use to come back from this experience even stronger than before. Many restaurants are examining their business models and making adjustments during the crisis to stay afloat. These lessons are powerful.

Here are 5 essential lessons restaurant-owners should keep, even after the COVID-19 outbreak is behind us.

1. Safety First

The food industry is all about safety first. After all, we have ServSafe Certification, food sanitation grading, and regular inspections. Restaurants pride themselves on protecting their patrons and their workers.

But COVID-19 has taught us additional vigilance when it comes to safety. Right now, the CDC isn’t sure how long we’ll live with this “new normal.” Safety protocols are changing and people are focused on hygiene and protection now more than ever.

Most restaurants have food safety and response plans in place for illnesses like Norovirus, Hepatitis A, and other major illnesses. Still, restaurant-owners have further strengthened their policies with the outbreak of COVID-19. They’re reinforcing their hand washing protocols and encouraging employees to pay special attention to cleaning and disinfecting the entire establishment regularly (even for takeout-only operations).

We should all expect that masks and other PPE like gloves are going to be part of our routine for a long time. Servers will likely need to practice eye contact and “smizing” (that’s “smiling with your eyes”) as we seek to connect with customers behind masks.

Restaurant managers should also encourage employees to report any illness and refuse to “power through” minor discomfort. With the symptoms of Coronavirus varying widely in scale and scope, vigilance is critical to keeping staff and patrons safe. Following CDC, health department, and FDA guidelines, employers may even ask employees to take temperatures and participate in screenings to ensure your restaurant staff stays healthy.

2. Automation is Essential

Improve your restaurant business model by implementing automation with online ordering systems

COVID-19 has also taught us automation is essential. Restaurants that already had ordering systems (internal and external) in place experienced fewer glitches and more consistency with suppliers.

Online ordering systems and delivery partnerships make it easy for customers to get their orders in this new situation. Still, many restaurants scrambled to set up online ordering. Restaurant owners are also figuring out curbside pickup systems; do customers take a number? Do they describe their car with their order? How do you check IDs for alcohol sales?

The new automation and procedures will only boost your restaurant’s efficiency in the long term. Management will likely find their jobs easier when they post employee schedules online. Accepting online payments and reservations help you plan safely and effectively. These accessible functions are going to become part of a smart restaurant routine going forward.

COVID-19 has also allowed us to test our automated systems rigorously. There was no time for a soft rollout as we were already in the weeds. Yes, this has meant sold-out Friday fish fries and brunches (often much earlier than planned), but with each glitch has come a lesson. Now, restaurant owners know how to shore up their plans and fix any gaps going forward. Each week helps us get better and stronger.

3. Rethink Tradition

Nothing changes perception quite like a crisis. You may have previously found it unthinkable to space out tables in your dining room. In fact, most restaurant owners wanted to pack in as many patrons as possible.

Now with COVID-19, spacing has become a matter of public safety. This experience may change how your dining room looks for the foreseeable future. You may find outdoor dining is a popular option when restaurants fully open up. Patrons will want to support restaurants but mitigate exposure at the same time. Now is the time to equip your outdoor dining area and prepare.

Even fine dining, where eating was an immersive experience, has changed. Curbside pickup and to-go options are in demand, and savvy restaurant owners should prepare to continue with these systems, even if it doesn’t fit the previous experience you had cultivated.

Our future will be full of new attention to safety and health. Even dining options and preferences may shift. People seem to crave familiar comfort food in a crisis; diners are seeking hearty options more and more. Depending on the supply chain situation, meat may be more expensive or difficult to procure, and menus may need to shift toward lighter, vegetarian-friendly options. People will focus on staying healthy, and food is part of that approach.

4. Communication is Key

Communicating with your restaurant customers and staff ensure that your restaurant business will remain strongOne of the biggest lessons of COVID-19 has been the importance of communication and human connection. This lesson is especially prevalent in the restaurant industry.

If your restaurant had a presence online—and especially on social media—you had a built-in communication platform. This communication option has probably helped you share specials and hours with clientele. With rapid changes and government orders, questions are constant:

  • Are you open?
  • Is pickup an option?
  • How do customers order?
  • Has your menu changed?
  • How do customers pay?
  • Can customers buy gift certificates?
  • Do you have specials?

…And the list goes on. Online communication is your best bet for addressing these questions with homebound patrons. Posting specials in your window or on a sidewalk sign, hoping to attract passersby, doesn’t work as well when people are sheltering at home.

Communication with employees has been another front for restaurants too. How do you ensure staff shows up for their shifts when everything is changing on a daily, sometimes hourly basis? How do you promote employee health and food safety?

These lessons will only strengthen your business in the future, even after Coronavirus is behind us. Your online presence will continue to be an essential source of information for your customers. Social media has become more and more critical over the past several years and will keep growing. Your website and a strong social presence are crucial to your success.

5. Seek Community Support

Many of us are impressed and touched by the way communities are rallying around the service industry. Your patrons love your establishment, and they want to continue to support their favorite dining spot for years to come.

The experience of COVID-19 has shown us all that restaurants are an integral part of the community. Customers are showing their support, buying shirts, gift certificates, and ordering delivery and pickup whenever possible.

Many restaurant owners are also becoming fast experts on applying for assistance and partnering with community organizations to ensure they receive support whenever possible. From your relationship with your local bank to your chamber of commerce, and health commission, you’ve likely seen how critical these restaurant resources and relationships are to your success.

Many restaurants are finding ways to give back to the local community, fostering and nurturing their connections. It’s going to be crucial to continue the maintenance of these essential relationships going forward.

We will make it through this challenging experience and come out stronger on the other side. Taking these important lessons to heart will help the restaurant industry rebuild and thrive in the new normal.

Reliable Water Services is Here for You

Use these lessons to improve your restaurant business model during the COVID-19 shutdown

Hot water is critical to health, sanitation, and safety in general, but it’s especially vital to the industries we serve—and the majority of those industries are considered essential businesses. As our customers remain operational during these unprecedented times, so does Reliable Water Services.

Making sure our customers have hot water has always been our main priority, and now more than ever, we are here for you. We will continue to provide 24/7 water heater services to our customers, ensuring you have the hot water your business relies on. Our office team is practicing social distancing by working remotely, while our service technicians and installing contractors are following extra safety guidelines to ensure they can service your building safely without putting themselves or your staff members at risk.

Our team at RWS has always viewed the relationship with each of our customers as a partnership. Through this partnership, we will work together and get through these unique and challenging times. As always, should you need service contact us 24/7 at 1-800-356-1444. Stay safe, and be well!