The coronavirus (or Covid-19) is now a global pandemic of epic proportions. Entire countries are on lockdown. Air travel is grinding to an almost halt. Working from home is the new norm. Over half a billion children are out of school. Financial markets are crashing like they haven’t in decades. Businesses are STRUGGLING badly. And of the many struggling businesses, food service (restaurants, cafes, etc) are among the worst hit with empty dining rooms, unavoidable staff layouts, wasted ingredients and so much more. According to data compiled by OpenTable based on 60,000 restaurants, seated diners are down by 89% globally and 91% in the United States compared to just one year ago.
While many industries can transition to a virtual model, we are not robots yet. We still need to food #IRL. And restaurants need people to source the food, make the food and serve the food. They can’t do that if they don’t sell the food. It’s no secret that Green Queen is obsessed with eating and cooking. And while these days our focus is on plant-based food, we have a soft-spot for everyone in F&B. So the entire team decided to get together and brainstorm on ideas to help our friends and comrades who are doing everything they can to continue to prepare delicious, healthy food as safely as possible.
Below, we’ve listed out all our suggestions and tips in no particular order. We hope they will prove useful and helpful. Before we get started, we wanted to share one overarching message to all you operators out there: the most important thing you can do right now is to COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR COMMUNITY! Your customers want to be reassured by you so make sure to keep the communication floodgates open by email, web, mobile, social, phone or whatever channel that makes the most sense to you.
Lastly, when you do communicate, be open, be honest, be real and be authentic. Share your troubles, be upfront about the challenges, this is the time for some serious #RealTalk.
One thing you should absolutely NOT do: exploit the fear and anxiety surrounding the virus. People are worried and overwhelmed enough as it is. Offer positivity and solutions to your community. Also, avoid forwarding/re-sharing unverified information, as there is a lot of #FakeCoronaNews going around. Another thing worth remembering: leave the health advice to health workers.
Note: The list below was created for the F&B industry but many of the suggestions would be applicable to other industries including the retail sector so feel free to forward to anyone who needs some inspiration.
32 Ideas For Struggling Restaurants / F&B Operators During Coronavirus
- Communicate your hygiene plan: clearly tell your customers how you are protecting their health and keeping hygiene standards at an all time high.
- Accept reservations so people don’t have to queue up.
- Space out your tables so people are not seated so close to each other.
- Make sure the person handling money (cashier) is separate from the person handling food (server/cook).
- Transition to a food delivery model – make sure it’s easy for people to order online/via an app – see how upscale Seattle restaurant Canlis has redesigned its business model to cope with coronavirus.
- Partner with delivery platforms like Deliveroo to create an adapted delivery-friendly concept based on your menu and sourcing strengths- their “Kitchen Editions” allow you to test out new concepts without actually opening a new restaurant.
- Start sourcing from local farms & producers, especially organic – this is a great time to become more sustainable in your way of doing things.
- Look into getting hydroponic produce or growing your own food – give Rooftop Republic a call to start producing what you need.
- Offer a takeaway buffet option for people who don’t want to dine in, allow people to bring their own container and serve themselves (perhaps with gloves) to minimise packaging but also to minimise handling.
- Transition 50% of your menu to plant-based so it’s fresher (meat/seafood requires a lot of expensive storage and harder to import depending on where you are) – contact Green Common, they can supply you with a range of options.
- Adapt your menu based on what’s available – thanks to cancelled travel across the globe, ingredients are harder to come by.
- Shorten/lessen your menu to what’s available and also to make your menu easier to handle (you probably have employee shortages) and more profitable (ditch high-margin items).
- Offer candlelight dinners that save energy (especially with Earth Hour & Earth Day coming up).
- Make alliances with other restaurants and offer deals for your patrons to visit all your establishments.
- Join collaborative initiatives – in Hong Kong the UnitedWeDine campaign is a really positive one.
- Let kids eat for free – families are struggling, losing jobs and pay cheques, give them an incentive to eat with you.
- If you don’t have a kids menu, now’s the time to create one! People have reduced childcare options and need solutions for their little ones.
- Do giveaways across all social media channels to keep momentum going.
- Offer gift cards that people can buy now and use later- this helps keep cash flow going.
- Cross-sell with other community businesses! As a restaurant you can make an offer with a bakery or a wine shop whereby customers get a deal if they order from both.
- Partner with media platform to offer their audiences discounts, perks and privileges – all plant-forward partners – get in touch with us at Green Queen!
- Offer unsold items or excess food for a discounted price every evening – this helps to divert food waste and helps people who are struggling financially.
- Partner with co-working spaces to offer food for their members – give one of Hong Kong’s most eco spaces a call!
- Partner with local artists to help them showcase their art on your walls. They can promote your restaurant among their clientele and followers.
- Connect with local musicians (many of who are really struggling with gigs/concerts are totally canceled)
- Introduce a rewards system for loyal clients with the local artists and business owners providing discounts for their products and services.
- Invest in your email audience by sharing useful resources from verified partners (maybe a local doctor’s office) about #corona or great content from local media platforms (here’s all our Coronavirus coverage for inspiration).
- Consider creating food products in your kitchen such as condiments, dressings, granolas- anything that keeps so you can diversify your revenue stream and ease the pressure for your customers who are stuck at home and need convenient solutions to feed their households.
- Think about transitioning some of your kitchen and front-line staff to delivery positions temporarily so you can keep your business going and reduce layoffs.
- Partner with NGOs, hunger charities, food banks, homeless shelters- these people by allocating a portion of sales to them or by cooking staff meals for the charity staff.
- Some corporates/office workers are still working on location and they need food- consider developing a group delivery package and getting on-boarded to platforms like CaterSpot.
- Get your chef to start offering private dining services for your most loyal clients! Perhaps a Date Night option for couples looking to get romantic at home?
Read our earlier coverage of Covid-19 and tips on prevention here.
And to all you F&B customers out there, here’s how you can support your favourite eateries during this global crisis:
- Show them some serious social love! Like and share their Facebook/Instagram/Other posts so they can benefit from some algorithm love and increased visibility.
- If you can afford it and feel comfortable then by all means visit your favourite trusted local restaurants.
- If you prefer to stay in, enquire about their delivery/takeaway options- most restaurants are more than willing to accommodate your requests even if they previously didn’t deliver.
- Help them financially by buying gift-cards that you can use later or gift to friends and loved ones.
- Get in touch and say hi! Even if you can’t support them in person, they would love to hear from you and receive your virtual support.
- Be a responsible customer: if you feel ill or have any flu-like symptoms, refrain from patronising public places.
SHARING IS CARING: Liked our list? Please SHARE far and wide to help as many chefs, operators and restaurant owners as possible!
Lead image designed by Green Queen Media courtesy of Vector Stock Images / Free PNG.