The reality is, things are probably not going to return to what they were in January for a while. There will be a wide range of changes in the industry: from small practical changes such as table layout to bigger changes in consumer habits, such as more demand for quick service caused by consumers being hesitant to dwell in one place for too long.
There’s a lot of pressure and anxiety flying around, however, so we’ve made a start for you on a few things you can consider when reopening.
Food for thought
Once governments allow restaurants to reopen, there will no doubt be a huge range of questions for operators to answer; the biggest of which will be which locations to open, and when. To give you some guidance on the topic, we’ve pulled together what we think are the most important aspects to consider.
It seems likely that, with their spritely care-free nature of invincibility, young people will be the first to venture out. It might be prudent to open your locations that are most popular with the younger generations first. Perhaps it’s time to take the plunge into a student discount if you weren’t offering one before.
Furthermore, is there something you can change in your menu that is low impact but will appeal to the early venturers more than before? Maybe a happy hour or fun brunch specials - you know how much millennials love a bottomless brunch after all.
Theatres are shut, cinemas are closed, and many other attractions that restaurants gravitate towards have been hit very hard. Know what draws people to your areas and check out what their schedules are like. Once they’re ramping up, perhaps then that’s the time to get on with reopening.
Another thing to consider is that there are not going to be any live sports in the foreseeable! No Euros, no Olympics and worst of all, no Formula 1! Pretty disastrous if you ask me. Not to worry while we’re recovering from lockdown - there are alternatives.
Covid-19 has given an injection to online esports and virtual events that have never been seen before. Sky sports are shifting all their energy into Vodcasts, and everyone is optimising themselves for Facebook TV, Youtube, Twitch etc. This may be a time for sports bars to consider other events away from the ‘classics’. This way, sports bars can open and attract customers before the cancelled sports restart.
Once you know which locations are opening, you’ll need to consider the potential micro level changes to restaurants as we know them. After this is all over, there will no doubt be new regulations to abide by when reopening.
Social distancing will not be eradicated immediately. This will mean that staffing numbers, table layouts, order-taking procedure, and any face-to-face contact will need to be approached with safe distances in mind.
Staff hygiene will also be a big concern, both for proprietors and customers. You will need to follow government guidelines and prove to customers that you are abiding by the rules to avoid any unease. It may be worth asking yourself now if you have ample hand washing stations for your staff and have a disinfection plan for all surfaces in place. You’ll also have to consider the need for masks and gloves, as well as how often they’ll need to be changed. Whether the use of these articles is mandated or not, using them will keep customers reassured.
It’s possible that, to begin with, outdoor seating will be all that’s allowed thanks to amplified air circulation. So if you have space that usually doesn’t get used, now might be the time to dress it up. Thankfully summer is on our doorstep, and everyone is sure to be craving a good pub garden or terrazza.
Getting your operations back on track
Finally, when restaurants are eventually allowed to re-open, there will be a lot of obstacles to overcome: from supply chain disruptions to a downturned economy. We’ve put together some of the changes that might need to be considered when re-opening.
All menus will likely have to be reconsidered to accommodate your suppliers’ availability. As obvious as it sounds, make sure to ask what they have available. If you can, look at dishes based on local produce as foreign imports might still be tricky. Better yet, find out what is in low demand, and see if you can create new dishes out of these to help out your suppliers.
You might also need to play with portion sizes and increase sizes of what you have easy access to and decrease the size of whatever is harder to source.
Deliveries have been restaurants’ best chance of a safety buffer during the lockdown. Whether you have always offered them, or whether this is a new endeavor; there will be plenty of demand after this episode is over. Whether there’s a staggered ‘unlocking’ of the country or not, it’s highly unlikely that in the flick of a switch people will go back to eating out. Many will opt to remain indoors where they can. Plus, with so many now used to being able to order from their favourite restaurants, demand for delivery is very unlikely to slow down.
Don’t forget to factor in delivery demand as well as in-store sales when sourcing your ingredients and scheduling staff! (It seems simple, but we see it missed out time and time again!)
As mentioned, it’s unlikely that social distancing measures will be lifted any time soon. Be sure to factor in the decrease in capacity due to increased distancing between tables, or a lack of bar seating, for example. Make sure to calculate new profitability estimates based on these new covers.
Staff can still be trained during furlough! Use this time wisely. Not only will it help with staff performance and keep them up-to-date with the newest practices, it will also increase morale and prevent such a high labour turnover - saving precious pennies.
Forecasting your demand is not an easy thing at the best of times, but it will be near impossible at the beginning. You’ll need to make some tough decisions about how much inventory to have on hand and whether to keep staff to a bare minimum or schedule more just in case. You’ll need to keep a close eye on numbers once you’ve reopened and adjust accordingly on a day-to-day basis.
Most notable for us at Tenzo, we’ve seen that restaurateurs are using these mad times to dedicate time and effort to building their techstacks, so that they’re up and ready to go once reopening begins. With so much information out there, if you would like to discuss what’s best for you, just drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to discuss your other systems and assist where I can at all levels of the techstack.
At the moment it seems like this period of uncertainty and shutdown will never end, but it will. Wuhan have now lifted their lockdown after 76 days, and Austria who is allowing small businesses to slowly reopen this very week. Once we can safely do the same, consumers will want to go out and enjoy freedom and hopefully these tips can prepare you for that eventuality.
If you’d like to hear more about what the future might hold, check out this webinar from our partners at Planday, where Tenzo CEO and co-founder discusses what’s to come and what we can do now to prepare.