Adjusting your Hospitality Business to Meet the Needs of Customers During the CoronaVirus/Covid-19 Crisis (Part #1)

Adjusting your Hospitality Business to Meet the Needs of Customers During the CoronaVirus/Covid-19 Crisis

As all provinces and most territories have limited restaurants and cafes to drive-thru, delivery or take-out business only, foodservice establishments need to adjust quickly.  Third-party delivery services like Uber, Skip the dishes and DoorDash are responding with free or very inexpensive delivery and lower percentage fees for businesses to join.

By switching to curbside pickup and self-run delivery, restaurants and cafes can maintain a level of cash flow, and provide hours work and pay for key team members.  Doing this can also keep your connections with the local community, during these challenging times.  No-one knows when this will end, so those businesses that are nimble and ready to adjust and meet demand (almost on the daily) will be the ones most successful and that can survive long-term.

Ensure you start with staying up to date on your local bylaws and mandates from government.  As well the CDC is updating almost daily on what restaurants and cafes can remain doing to stay open during the crisis: Stay up to date here: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/employers-businesses/food-businesses

Step #1 ~ Stay Connected with your Community and Customers

The best approach during this difficult time is to show that you and your customers are all in this together, and let’s support and help each other.  With most of North America on lockdown and more of the population facing home confinement, a message of caring and honesty makes a genuine and lasting impact.

Some marketing and messaging suggestions include:

  • Post personal messages from your leadership team, and from team members connected to the community.
  • Be honest and transparent in your messages, keep your customers informed
  • Ask guests to post a review on Google or Yelp that describes the amazing experience they had in the past or currently with delivery, or take-out.
  • On social media, post photos of your team members wearing gloves or sanitizing the kitchen to emphasize cleanliness. If you are donating food to local charities, make sure to spread the social word.
  • Sell and offer Gift Certificates and/or bounceback coupons. You can include personalized messages to your customers when they purchase and offer a special.

No one knows what the next few days and weeks will look like for the hospitality industry, but being prepared will help minimize the impact to your team, customers and business.

Step #2 ~ Streamline your menu

A smaller and more focused takeout and delivery menu helps reduce waste and expenses.  It streamlines your offerings and avoids being too complex in this critical time.  Make it easy to be a customer as well by only offering your top dishes, drinks and menu items to customers who may be overwhelmed with everything.  In some cities they are allowing alcohol to be offered as well – ensure you team and customers are aware of this new updated menu.  Find a good balance on what to offer by looking at your product mix to identify top sellers as well as the most profitable items.  Also, think about minimizing inventory and orders – streamline products to avoid waste and carrying obsolete items should you be forced to close.  Try to cross-utilize a number of ingredients to keep inventory low.

Most important, select menu items that will look and taste great out of a to-go box.  Some items do not hold up well in to-go containers and after sitting for a while.

Step #3 ~ Offer meal and family kits

Beyond your standard menu items, consider adding family meals and meal kits to your to-go menu for a value-driven price for families on limited budgets.  If a café offer a special on multiple drink orders and family style orders to cater to children and parents.  Include re-heating instructions and label all sauces.  In today’s competitive prepared meal category be that restaurant or café that bundles items well and offers premium product offerings to meet any dietary need.  To encourage extra sales you may want to offer a special on multiple days worth of meals.  Ensure you have the right containers to serve all items as well.  Meeting your customers where they are at and supporting them during this difficult time can increase your brand image and show your commitment to adapting to meet their needs.

Step #4 ~ Pay Attention to Packaging

Your to-go packaging is just as important as the food inside, so make sure that team members who package to-go meals understand what packaging to use for each item.  Creating a checklist and step-by-step process for all to-go and delivery orders can help standardize and create a routine for order accuracy and efficiency.  To address customer concerns about food safety, sanitation and proper handling, use a special seal or sticker to alleviate any worries.  Ensure you have another team member check over the order before being sent, validating all items, sauces, napkins and utensils have been included for customer satisfaction.  When creating routines ensure you include detailed handling instructions for specific cleaning and sanitizing procedures, you’re following in the kitchen to reassure customers about your commitment to safe practices.

Continue to our next article for more steps to uncover more ways to adjust your Hospitality Business to Meet the Needs of Customers During the CoronaVirus/Covid-19 Crisis

During these challenging times as we navigate the pandemic around the world, providing a great customer experience and connection couldn’t be more important.  Encourage your guests to do business with you so you can provide them with freshly prepared foods brought directly to them.  Offering your products and their favorite beverage, or food item can help customers feel more ‘normal’ during these unpredictable and unprecedented times.

None of us knows what is next for the foodservice industry.  By putting these strategies in place, restaurants can work to weather the coronavirus storm and ultimately come through with a stronger brand identity in their communities and a more efficient business overall.

 

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