For the restaurant business, post COVID innovation may be the best recipe for a healthy rebirth.
The lock-down imposed for the health emergency caused a vertical collapse in turnover for the catering and hospitality sector. Activities have closed, and others operate on flimsy grounds. The industry has lost and will continue to lose considerably before the holiday season. Further losses in the second half of the year will be substantial unless some kind of health confidence is re-established.
It is indeed plausible to hypothesize that, in the post-emergency, a further limitation will be observed for the sector. Catering and restaurant marketing will need to be healthy, sharp, and specialized much more than pre-pandemic. Our health emergency will be followed by hopefully the last phase, during which it will be a question of balancing the strategic importance of economic activity with the risk of spreading further the infection.
Operators would all like to restart strategically critical activities with zero risks. The most prominent scenario would be to have the maximum socio-economic benefit with the least risk. The primary goal is to reduce hospitalizations, deaths, and infections. Still, the equilibrium point is often decided by politics, the CDC, and local authorities.
It seems that restaurants and other businesses that involve more significant aggregation of people are the last to restart. And even when this happens, it will be necessary to limit the number of covers. The limited guests in a room can equal to a consequent reduction in revenues because the trade is all about numbers,
The recovery will be difficult for everyone, but, understandably, the industry will struggle considerably. Because, in addition to dealing with the regulations imposed by the law, it will have to take into account the fear of all those people who, fearing the virus spreading, will not go to the restaurant, or postpone a catering event,
What do we do!
I will begin with my personal experience. In 1995 I opened a new restaurant in Providence, after several delays due to construction and city ordinance. Finally ready to go and for the next eleven weeks, Rhode Island was blanketed with a series of snowstorms, practically destroying every weekend. I turned the nightmare into a pleasant dream, by fine-tuning the menu, extra training for the staff, and launched three websites consecutively. Continued with my television cooking show and made numerous radio appearances, paired with a new blog. Once the snow melted, I was ahead of time and ready to do business.
Today’s circumstances are largely different, but I am making a point on a resurgence. This is the moment in which restaurateurs should not feel sorry for themselves, they should not sit on their laurels previously laid, but they must take action. It is essential at this incredibly difficult moment that the restaurateur takes over the reins of his chariot with a renewed entrepreneurial spirit. If this spirit had not been cultivated previously, dear restaurateurs, do it now! Take your future in hand and lead it to success. In addition to what they already did, all restaurateurs will have to learn to evaluate the economic, advertising, and image scenarios and act accordingly, anticipating the customers' needs. You will have to invest in communication, web marketing, advertising, relying on capable and specialized companies to avoid making a hole in the water.
Redefine your message
Consumers want to have a clear idea of what you are about, and a defined message helps in choosing a restaurant over another. What is your cooking philosophy and style are essential elements.
Design a new logo
An outdated logo demonstrates a lack of vision and a sluggish environment. Get creative, with newer colors and fonts. A modern logo expresses novelty, rejuvenation, and a renewed message from the kitchen to the front of the house.
A well-prepared staff makes the difference between restaurants. Take advantage of the downtime to expand the knowledge of your employees. Conduct in-house presentations, join web seminars, lectures on food, dining, trends, and define what America eats today. This is the time to review the staff’s uniform. Sometimes just a new bow tie on the wait staff will excite your patron, and generate a conversation.
Know your market
Understanding who sits on your chairs is vital to the growth of the business. It is impossible to target everyone, but well-defined research will offer a clearer view of your customer base. Your design, menu, and operation fitness will select your market, and promote accordingly.
Review the website
The website must be easily accessible by the potential audience, and transform the user into a customer who really comes to eat in the restaurant. It is, therefore, necessary to evaluate every aspect of the website. From graphics to textual content, every element must be considered from loading speed to ease of accessing essential information, up to usability from mobile devices. If your website has not been revamped in the past two years, call your webmaster and get a restyling quote. Include SEO in the request, which is essential for your potential customers to find you. Many companies understand the situation's difficulty in this period and may offer help and outstretched hands for a new flight.
Refine and optimize the use of Social Networks
Evaluate the possibility of planning sponsored posts on Facebook, or, better still, professional campaigns in which it is possible to better limit the target audience, optimizing the budget, perhaps with promotions reserved for those who follow the pages. Rely on specialized companies, remembering that campaigns of this type yield average returns of + 350%. Facebook post campaigns and sponsorships have a reasonably low cost.
Cultivate the Instagram profile well
Worry about exciting, being present, take beautiful photos, and entice your future customers. Consider campaigning with original and strategically engaging sponsored posts and stories. A beautiful photograph of your staff standing on the front door is a powerful image to share.
Since we are all stuck wearing masks, consider having your staff wear similar masks, and make a powerful statement. A well-coordinated team is a sign of professionalism and utmost care. Have a message printed on the mask such as: “Thank you for dining with us”. Consumers have many dining options, and you want to be the one they select.
Thanks for reading. Eat safe and wear a mask! Ciao Chef W
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Dining Room photo via Palm D’or Biltmore Hotel Miami