Are you in the restaurant industry? If so, you have felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in a unique and serious way. You’re not alone. According to Abigail Johnson Hess from CNBC Make It, “Every person CNBC Make It spoke with said that business dramatically decreased starting in March 2020.” As we hit the one-year mark from that time, it is helpful to see how COVID has influenced the restaurant industry, and how we can jump back and improve.
1. Health and safety guidelines are stricter than ever before. As Food Safety News reports, “Overall, the industry will take cleanliness more seriously, going beyond meeting FDA regulations and taking a proactive approach to disease prevention.” You can use this to your advantage by taking a leading step in keeping your restaurant safe and healthy. Also, make customers aware of your hard work so they feel safe and cared for. For instance, let customers know that you frequently sanitize the restrooms by putting up a little sign showing how often the restrooms are cleaned. Have hand sanitizer readily available for guests entering and exiting your establishment, and use contactless payment options as much as possible. By implementing strict health and safety guidelines, you will be helping your customers to feel comfortable frequenting your restaurant, all the while keeping employees and guests healthy and safe.
2. Customer needs have shifted, putting discretionary businesses in danger. As Danny Klein from QSR Magazine reports, “consider the trends we’re seeing with food choices. More comfort options. Pizza on the rise. A focus on ‘eating to live,’ over ‘living to eat,’ and viewing the daily practice as more of a necessity than an experience to share with others.” Clearly, this shift of focus came at a surprise to restaurants planning other marketing strategies. How can you bounce back from this shift? Be proactive and ask your customers what they’re looking for. As Klein explains, “Family bundles have been a big menu shift for chains” such as KFC. Consider adding a family package into your deals, marketing for comfort foods, or catering to people in a hurry by making your meals to-go friendly. By asking your customers what they’re looking for, you will make them feel appreciated and eager to support you. By implementing what customers are looking for into your business, you will grow your customer’s support and loyalty as you cater to their current needs.
3. COVID has forced restaurants to look beyond themselves and turn to their local communities. USA Today highlighted the Pittsburgh restaurant Scratch & Co. and its owner, Don Mahaney. Mahaney focused on keeping his employees safe during the COVID crisis by creating a menu “designed to minimize his staff’s risk of exposure to COVID-19” through crafting menu items in various separated stations, according to Pittsburgh Magazine. Pittsburgh Magazine pointed out that Mahaney focused on his community by using his restaurant as a space for families to purchase needed daily items, and by creating school lunch boxes and dinner boxes that families can subscribe to. While COVID has taken away many aspects from the restaurant business, hospitality can be shown in new and creative ways through taking initiative and supporting the local community like Mahaney did. Look around at your community, listen for their needs, and use your restaurant as a creative space to support those needs. You, your staff, and your customers will be better off because of your intentional and community-focused choices! COVID-19 has heighted health and safety measures, has changed the needs of customers, and has drawn communities together in an effort to keep everyone healthy and nourished. By proactively initiating health and safety guidelines, by seeking out and meeting your customers’ needs, and by focusing on helping your community, your restaurant can bounce back from the COVID crisis with a renewed strength and fortitude. As you implement these strategies, watch how your employees and customers increase in loyalty and gratitude.
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