There’s no question that the restaurant industry has been one of the business sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with dire predictions from experts about the percentage – possibly as high as 60 percent, according to Yelp’s 2020 Economic Impact Report – of establishments that may not survive. That said, restaurant owners are also demonstrating impressive resilience, finding astonishingly creative ways to adapt and reposition themselves to succeed in this ever-changing environment.
Here at Savory, a Mercato Partners Fund, a project of Mercato Partners, we have seen restaurant owners devise a panoply of effective solutions to comply with new regulations, rethink physical spaces, and build customer loyalty, guaranteeing the longevity of their business. And we know these measures can succeed – we have seen our portfolio partners Mo’Bettahs, Crack Shack, R&R BBQ, Swig, and most recently Via313 not only survive but thrive during this difficult period, with their continuing growth exceeding pre-pandemic sales.
These are some of the strategies successful restaurant owners are using to adapt and succeed in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, past and future.
With the new availability of sidewalk dining, restaurant owners have had the opportunity to create distinctive outdoor spaces that telegraph their spirit and personality while supporting social distancing requirements. Walk down the street in cities all across the U.S. like Brooklyn, Detroit, or Crested Butte, Colorado and see everything from flower boxes and palm fronds to lanterns and live music defining cozy spaces. As winter approaches, restaurants are preparing with heat lamps, fire pits and tented enclosures where allowed.
Restaurants have, of course, invested in ample supplies of face masks, gloves, and disinfection supplies, and in training staff to follow detailed protocols in their use. Going one step more, restaurants may set up a disinfection station at the door and/or designate an employee to be on cleaning duty full time.
Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, and other large-volume third-party delivery services may be convenient for the consumer, but with commissions in the range of 15 to 30 percent, they can seriously cut into already thin margins. Savvy restaurant owners are addressing the issue by building our own sustainable ordering and delivery systems with the help of companies such as Figure Eight and ChowNow.
One of the most straightforward ways to decrease proximity is with the use of a contactless ordering and payment system such as Cheqout, Presto, or OneDine, which allows customers to scan a QR code from their phones when ordering, then pay directly. Not only is contactless ordering safer for restaurant staff, but research shows consumers prefer it too; a poll by Mastercard found a rapid rise in usage, with eight in ten saying they’d recently made such transactions. [Link here]
Some restaurateurs may feel hesitant about contactless service, worrying that it will feel impersonal to customers who come, at least in part, for the celebratory feeling of being part of a communal dining experience. The answer? Train staff to greet customers enthusiastically, share suggestions on menu options, and serve as guides throughout the experience. Contactless ordering can also speed up service, which benefits everyone.
It’s more essential than ever in this environment to connect with customers and create lasting relationships. To this end, instant customer feedback services like OvationUp can help establish an easy dialogue, while Qzzr offers the chance to develop fun customized quizzes. Restaurant owners say all it takes is two or three quizzes and they know what works to appeal to a particular customer, leading to long-term loyalty.
Another area that we work with our brands on is amplifying, editing, and shedding their menu offerings to focus on what they do best. This can be a difficult process to go through, especially since many have emotional attachments to their favorite dishes. However, we find it to be an essential part of the reorganization process and one that’s been successful for our brands.
While every brand and establishment in the restaurant industry is unique, all share a desire to create a hospitable environment that customers and employees are eager to return to. Follow these strategies to go above and beyond the expected and create a dining experience that feels exceptional every time.
As restaurants are looking for advice both during and after COVID-19, I wanted to share the 7 strategies that successful restaurant owners are using to adapt and succeed in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, past and future.
Today Savory’s President, @Shauna Smith, shares the 7 strategies that successful restaurant owners are using to adapt and succeed in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, past and future.
Today Savory’s President, Shauna Smith, shares the 7 strategies that successful restaurant owners are using to adapt and succeed in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, past and future.