Restaurants were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many shutting their doors forever. Now that restrictions are beginning to lift, many restauranteurs are faced with difficult decisions; how are you going to reopen, and what can you do to make your business successful in this climate?
Even though lockdowns are starting to subside, the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, and may continue to be a threat for months, or years to come. If you want your business to be a success with this threat in the background, you’ll need to make some changes.
Understand and Follow the Latest Regulations
Your restaurant may be allowed to reopen for now, but it’s still important for you to understand all laws and regulations that apply to you. These vary at the state and local level. For example, in some areas, restaurants are being forced to restrict their capacity, accepting a limited number of patrons at a given time. In other areas, no such restrictions may exist. Additionally, these restrictions may change as authorities get access to new information. It’s on you to understand how these regulations affect you, and how they might change in the future.
Launch a New Marketing Campaign
Next, work on starting a new marketing campaign. Depending on the nature of your business, you could advertise on television or radio, or print new materials you can use to spread word about your business’s reopening.
However you approach the campaign, you’ll want to achieve four main goals:
- Tell people you’re open. First, let people know that you’re open. Even if your state is aggressively reopening businesses, people won’t know for sure that your restaurant is reopening. It might have closed down permanently during the pandemic. Or it might need more time to get back up and running. Formally announce your opening with a major campaign.
- Let people know how you’ve changed. Next, tell your audience how you’ve changed the business. We’ll talk more about the adjustments you’ll need to make for your business in the next section, but in the context of your marketing campaign, make and effort to communicate those changes, so customers are prepared and confident in your efforts.
- Advertise new specials. Some people might be reluctant to eat out after being inside for so long, so incentivize their patronage with a new special. Offer discounts, new menu items, or other exciting specials to bring people in.
- Differentiate yourself. Pay attention to what other restaurants in your area are doing and saying. You’ll need some way to differentiate yourself if you want your messaging to stand out as meaningful within the crowd.
Prioritize Health and Safety
With COVID-19 still representing an active threat, it’s important to update your business to prioritize the health and safety of your employees and your patrons alike. There are several simple measures you can take to reduce the potential spread of the disease; for example, you can increase the physical distance between people. Depending on your restaurant’s operational model, that could mean placing tables further apart or using floor markings to keep people separated while standing in line.
It’s also a good idea to step up your cleaning and disinfecting habits. Thoroughly wipe down all contact surfaces between each guest, and consider taking breaks throughout the night for deep cleaning. Additionally, consider requiring your patrons to wear face masks when not eating or drinking.
Prepare for Reduced Capacity
In some areas, restaurants are being forced to operate at reduced capacity. Even if not, you may personally choose to do this, or you may suffer from a steep decline in your number of customers. In any case, you’ll want to adjust the business so it can thrive even with a smaller number of customers. This could mean keeping fewer staff members on hand, changing the way you serve customers, or reducing your expenses in other areas. No matter what, it’s important to update your financial model with the new information you have.
Consider Adding New Revenue Streams
Restaurants are likely going to struggle for the next several months, even if the pandemic remains under control. To increase your financial stability, consider adding new revenue streams. Depending on your business model and your access to funds, this could mean selling merchandise in your restaurant, or offering new services or modes of delivery—like curbside pickup, if you aren’t already offering that.
There’s still much uncertainty about how COVID-19 will develop, and how it will impact the economy. If you want your restaurant to succeed, you’ll need to pay close attention to changing rules, regulations, and recommendations, as well as the financial impact that the pandemic is having on your business. Stay adaptable and keep experimenting until you find an approach that works.