How Restaurants Can Defy the Post-Covid Odds and Get Back to Business

As a business owner in the restaurant industry, you know better than anyone that your industry—more than any other—has suffered the most job losses during the pandemic. Now, you must defy post-Covid odds and get back to business. But how?

More than 8 million restaurant employees, or two out of every three, have been laid off or furloughed since Covid-19 hit, according to the National Restaurant Association’s industry survey of more than 6,500 restaurant operators. In addition, the restaurant and foodservice industry was projected to lose $80 billion in sales by the end of April and $240 billion by the end of the year.

With such staggering–and frightening—projections, figuring out how to dig your way out from a hole that keeps getting deeper could be paralyzing. If you let it. Thankfully, customers across the country have tried to help by purchasing take-out, and now that states are opening back up, some customers will be anxious to return.

Wooing Customers Back

Unlike pre-Covid days, you aren’t competing with the bar or restaurant down the street as much as you are against your customer’s own kitchen and their need for safety. This is outlined in a Datassential Study, One Table Consumer Report, conducted in early May, that says yes, people are tired of being stuck at home, and excitement to go to a sit-down restaurant is high, but their freezers are full, and they are still crowd shy.

In order to woo back your customers, you have to meet them where they are. That means showing them that you understand, value, and are doing everything you can to address their concerns. Those concerns, of course, include safety, and customers appreciate restaurants that go the extra mile to keep them safe.

One way to show your concern for their safety is to use a standing divider that can be used to safely separate tables in any restaurant environment. SafeDivide would be a great choice for this, and casters make it easy to move. Customers will also expect masks, distancing, sanitizing, and lots of handwashing and hand sanitizer.

Appealing to Their Appetites

Answers to a survey question, “What motivates you to order from a restaurant during shelter-in-place?” also gives restaurant owners and operators insight into their customers’ tastes.

The top motivator was “A specific craving.” These are most likely your top-selling entrees, pre-Covid. Other motivators included convenience, supporting local restaurants, getting foods they can’t make at home and getting tired of cooking for themselves.

With this in mind, consider using advertising and social media to remind them of their favorite entrees, highlight comfort foods, and spell out what you are doing to make the experience not only great but convenient. Doing this in a way that tells them you are not only a beloved restaurant of theirs, but you are one of them, with the same concerns, will go a long way toward bringing them back into the foodie fold.

Adapting to a New Normal

Those who were surveyed, which included a mix of all different ages, confirmed that everyone is ready to get back to normal, but they will return to everyday activities at different paces. Of them, 59 percent said they will take their time getting back to normal, while 25 said they will do so as soon as shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted. Only 16 percent plan to hang back for a while.

A lot of people anticipate their new normal to look much as it does right now, with all the safety precautions in place. Others think that will last until a vaccine becomes available. What does this mean for you?

It could mean that the lunch crowd stays a bit smaller with people continuing to work more from home than before. It might also mean that when you open up, you see a lot of return customers. After all, 84 percent of people in the study said they miss having a sit-down meal in a restaurant, and many of them said it would be not only to get their favorite foods, but they were also concerned about supporting local businesses and helping them to recover.

As we all move ahead together, you won’t be surprised to see how happy people are to eat great food and once again enjoy spending time with family and friends. Remember, though, that defying the odds and getting back to business is all about your dedication to safety first and making sure your customers know this.