Four trends of post COVID-19 restaurant operations

With all of the unknowns in the world right now one thing is for sure, change is upon us. As restaurants begin to reopen and restaurant sales continue to climb the industry is finally starting to see a glimmer of hope that recovery is happening but the question is, what does that look like? We can certainly expect some significant revolutions in how operators conduct business. Below are four ways we see restaurants changing and how they’ll thrive post pandemic.

Simplifying Your Operations

Temporarily shutting restaurant doors has given restaurant operators the opportunity to take a step back and think about various ways they can simplify their operations going forward.  A few common themes we are seeing:

  • Going back to core menus and reducing SKUs: Complex menus increase costs. By simplifying your menu to focus on a core base of adaptable, high-quality ingredients you’ll be able to hold less inventory and reduce your SKUs, better control waste, and ease the burden on your wallet. Using an analytical tool like Compeat allows you to easily see what items are selling best in which locations enabling you to scale your menu down to the most popular items and the ones that travel best for delivery and takeout.
  • Shifting to limited days of service or hours of operation: If you are open 7 days a week and seeing a slow trickle of customers certain days, test out limited days of service. Which days have been your busiest? Open on just those days for the time being to cut down on costs and free up your time for planning or trying out a new stream of revenue as discussed below. You should look at hours of operations as well. Does it makes sense to close earlier or open later on certain days?
  • Require reservations in order to reduce staff: To better control your labor costs and ensure you only have the staff needed for a particular shift, you can require reservations.  This will not only give you a better handle on your labor and inventory each night but also ensure you are following the state mandated guidelines for number of people inside of your establishment at a time.

Reduce your inventory cost by joining a group purchasing organization. There is no cost to join and there is substantial savings that awaits. You can gain access to $10B in buying power with 350+ manufacturers covering over 165,000 line items, many of which you are probably buying today. Reduce costs, improve quality, streamline the supply chain and gain valuable business insights. Check out Dining Alliance if you have less than 10 locations or Consolidated Concepts for greater than 10 locations.

New Streams of Revenue

Restaurant operators had to act fast and be innovative when they were forced to limit service or shut down with little notice. They first had to figure out delivery and take out to produce some revenue with the new restrictions imposed on them.  Then, as restaurants slowly starting to open limited dining back up, we have seen some new revenue streams that will most definitely stick around post pandemic.

  • Meal Kits: Meal kits have gained a lot of traction over the past few months and continue to be a go to for people who want a restaurant experience in the comfort of their home. We’ve seen everything from a Taco Tuesday At Home Taco Bar to a Boozy Sunday Brunch Box. Bonus – if you are willing to share one or two of your recipes with the public, consider offering a recipe printout in a box with all the ingredients guests need to make an extra special meal at home.
  • Virtual Cooking Classes: The truth is, even with states beginning to open back up, people continue to work from home or are just generally at home more often. This is freeing up more time to take on new hobbies such as learning how to cook and is the perfect time for chefs to offer virtual cooking classes to provide tips and techniques to these newbie chefs. Make them a fan of your chefs and they’ll be a fan of your restaurant for life!
  • Selling your own propriety products: Do people come to your restaurant specifically for your fresh pasta, signature sauce, jalapeno mango ranch, or sweet and spicy homemade BBQ sauce? Package them up and sell them and a line will be sure to form out your door.
  • Grocery Kits: Consumers need groceries and as a restaurant operator you have access to goods at a price that they don’t.  Some restaurants are currently operating as a type of grocery store and offering customers bundles of inventory or items à la carte. Sell them a meal kit, a bottle of your homemade BBQ sauce, and a roll of toilet paper – one stop shop!

Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize

While concerns over COVID-19 have declined in recent weeks, Americans remain anxious – with slightly more than half of people feeling very concerned about their own personal health according to Dataessential

To help reassure dine-in guests that your operation takes sanitation seriously below are a few steps we recommend you take:

-Start by offering hand sanitizer to all guests as they enter. Ensure that tables are spread apart or roped off to promote social-distancing. 

-Pay special attention to any surface customers touch, like door handles, bar rails and chairs.

-Schedule weekly professional cleanings to take every initiative to keep the restaurant disinfected.

-Research shows that the most unclean item on a restaurant’s menu is the menu itself, with one study proving an average of 185,000 bacteria on menus in one test of restaurants in three states. With a reduced menu, operators can also replace reusable menus with throwaway options or disposable placemat menus which are proven cleaner. Digital menus are even better with lowering your costs, touch less and eco-friendly options. New solutions are coming out every day, check out TidyMenu as an example.

-Rethink rolling cutlery. Rolling cutlery creates an additional touchpoint between the employee, and the utensils and napkin a patron will be using. Alternatives such as premium disposable napkin pockets to protect the silverware or pre-rolled napkins and disposable cutlery exist to improve cleanliness and convenience.  

To help reassure employees that your operation takes sanitation seriously below are a few steps we recommend you take:

-Provide antibacterial gloves and masks for your team, especially if they handle cash or go completely cashless (see below).

-Overly communicate the steps being taken to ensure sanitation and safety to employees.

-Go cashless – it is now more important than ever before to eliminate paper checks and cash from an operation from a sanitary perspective to protect your employees. It is also important to pay your hardworking team members and pay them fast. Compeat partners with rapid! PayCard to allow employees to get quick cashless and touchless access to their pay.

Restaurant of the Future

What does the restaurant of the future look like?  That’s the question that is going through everyone’s minds as we begin to navigate a new normal. Restaurateurs are being more creative than ever and some innovative concepts are being unveiled day by day. 

Taffers Tavern, a  tavern chain associated with celebrity barkeep and TV star Jon Taffer, was in the works long before the pandemic, but the concept idea could just be the future.  Featuring a high-volume, hoodless/ventless restaurant format with a small footprint, Taffer’s Tavern disrupts the casual dining segment by leveraging the latest technology to produce high-quality food and beverage offerings without the need for a commercial kitchen. The first franchise location is anticipated to open in Atlanta in Fall 2020.

Another futuristic restaurant idea we’re seeing is fine dining delivered straight to your home.  Acclaimed chef and multi-concept restaurateur Daniel Boulud was among those who shuttered his businesses when dine-in bans swept the Big Apple. But after two months, the chef and his team are back in action with a completely new concept, Daniel Boulud Kitchen, which is challenging the notion that fine dining does not travel well. Just as the brick-and-mortar restaurant changes its menus regularly, so too does Daniel Boulud Kitchen. It debuted over Memorial Day weekend with the Sunday in Provence menu featuring dishes such as Salade Niçoise, ratatouille, focaccia, as well as a bottle of rosé. The picnic-inspired meal was $150 for two to three people or $275 for four to six. Yum!

Famous for their robot-made hamburgers, Creator in San Francisco is now using their techie forte to distribute meals in a safe, contact free manner. “Our entrance is now sealed, with all meals moving through a pressurized transfer chamber. The chamber protects the inside of the restaurant from outside air, and has a self-sanitizing conveyor surface,” they explain on the company website. Guests can place orders through an intercom, and then pick up their hermetically sealed, double-bagged meals through the conveyor window.

These are just a few of the restaurant changes we’ve seen that we believe will stick around post pandemic in this new world we’re all adjusting to. Yes, change is upon us but if we all take this change as an opportunity to improve the way we run our business we will all come out stronger at the end of this all.

#restaurantstrong


Read also:

Five Strategies to Smoothly Prepare Your Restaurant for Delivery and Take-Out

COVID-19 Relief is Emerging. Where to Turn for Help

Nine Business Strategies for Coping During the COVID-19 Crisis

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