Update as of 3/25/20 3:30pm PST: Many states are now waiving bans on alcohol delivery to help alleviate pressure and offer additional revenue streams to restaurant. This has not been formally announced well in many markets, so consider reaching out to your states respective liqour governing body and ask if this is available for your restaurant.
Things are tough for the restaurant industry, and as part of our ongoing commitment to our customers, we have compiled some tips, tricks, and business strategies to help make it through this time. While it is impossible to know when this will end, restaurants must be proactive in this moment.
You probably find yourself in this position or something very similar: You ran a successful sit-down restaurant that has been hit hard by Covid-19, much like many of your competitors. While it is not an easy time, opportunities are available and delivery and takeout is more relevant than ever before.
When looking to make this transition, consider the following items to best adapt.
First things first: Create a new menu, either by limiting what’s on your existing menu or creating new menu items altogether.
What considerations should go into this menu?
- Cost will be the most vital aspect to this. Find options that allow you to keep your margins high, while still delivering what seems like a great value. Smaller portions of protein and an increase in things like greens and starches can help a customer feel satisfied while maintaining a healthy margin for a low cost. Soups and fried rice dishes are great options, as they can be made in large quantities, keep well, and travel well for customers (with a secure lid of course!)
- Try to make sure you bring your special sauce, literally or figuratively, to the new menu. If you are known for high-quality steak entrees, consider how you can repurpose this to give customers a similar experience in a more to-go friendly setting. While it can be incredibly difficult to maintain your identity, it is absolutely critical that customers who already know and love you continue to find items they are familiar with, and potential new customers are exposed to the items that will one day return to the ‘normal’ menu.
- Make sure all items are easy to transport. Unlike your usual patrons who will be consuming the dish within moments of it leaving the kitchen, make sure to account for the fact that customers will have to transport these meals to their home. Consider leaving sauces on the side so items don’t get soggy, and make sure to package hot and cold items separately. For some items, remember to wrap them in foil even within the container to help maintain the temperature and prevent messes. Packaging costs can add up quickly so be sure to run the numbers and account for the packaging of each menu item.
Most of the major delivery services have chosen to waive fees completely or partially in order to help restaurants, so now is a great time to get started. This will not last forever of course, so it can be important to take advantage of these offers from companies like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grub Hub.
Toast is also offering their ‘Toast Now’ product for free for 3 months which gives restaurants a few really great tools including:
- Online ordering
- Access to the Toast TakeOut app which gives their customers access to their whole community of restaurants and allows for easy reordering.
- E-GiftCard sales online
- Some basic delivery functionality
Don’t forget! If you haven’t offered delivery before, make sure to post about it on social, reach out to the local press, and get the word out. Don’t rely simply on being found on these delivery sites, as they have a lot of new restaurants on board currently. It is up to you to help spread the word!
Here are a few examples of restaurants going the extra mile to help serve their communities.
Canlis, a VERY fine dining establishment created a drive-through menu that serves $14 burgers in an attempt to keep their staff busy and serve as much of the community as possible in these strange times. They took it several steps further, and offer a breakfast menu for pick up in the morning, and a fine dining family platter to be delivered in the evenings, even including a nice bottle of wine!
Chick N Max, a fast-casual chicken concept based in Wichita, Kan., created a Community Support Menu at an affordable price that makes it more accessible to consumers. Available all day, the menu includes a choice of a family meal of 12 signature chicken tenders, two sides and bread for $20, 20 wings for $20 or BOGO chicken sandwiches for $4.99.
Ba Sa is serving a Community Rice Bowl. This hearty rice bowl comes with pork belly, egg and greens for $5. It is available for takeout each day, until it runs out. These are great value purchases and are experiencing a hefty amount of orders due to the great deal.
Mulleady’s Pub, An upscale Irish bar in Seattle which sources all food locally, worked with their protein distributors to create a delivery service where they will package all the meats and sauces you need to cook an amazing meal, and deliver it on ice to your house. These meals are uncooked, and allow consumers to hold onto them until they are ready.
While this seems like the literal end of the world, it will pass and things will resume to some form of normal over the coming months. The goal during this period is not to make a profit, even with brilliant execution and the above tips you may still unfortunately be operating at a loss. The ultimate goal during this period is to keep inventory moving, keep up to date on rent and retain your employees. With so many closures, employees are in a particularly stressful situation, and employees that are laid off or furloughed may be tough to bring back. Competition for talented employees will be fierce due to the number of restaurant closures that will arise during this entire pandemic, and it is critical to try to keep them busy and employed, even if it is not up to their usual salary requirements. As this progresses, and a likely recession follows, employees will appreciate and work hard for the restaurants that keep them employed.
You can follow the above guidelines and should use them as inspiration to help you get through the tough times. Be creative, adapt where you can, and best of luck to everyone. From the entire TipHaus team, we are wishing you all the best and are always here as a resource to help you and your team.