Both independent restaurants and large corporate chains are facing their own unique challenges in order to emerge from COVID-19 in a strong position. A lot of that depends upon the owners’ future access to capital, as well as the flexibility of their vendors, landlords, and equipment leasing firms. At this point, with so much out of our control, here are a few points that we do have the ability to control:
Access to Capital – Create a Plan on How You Will Come Back Financially
How much capital will you need, and where will it come from? Think outside the box, in addition to communicating with your current sources of capital (banks, private investors and others). Hopefully, there will be a lot more publicly funded sources available, but know all of your options. This will take time, but be thorough — do not leave a stone unturned.
Prepare for Re-Mobilization of the Restaurants
Owners need to start crafting their reopening plans today. Yes, this starts with the areas related to finance, but operations is the backbone of the restaurant industry. There are plenty of stories out there of people opening restaurants with a shoestring budget, but those examples mostly had the benefit of a unique debut. Sometime soon, everyone will be debuting on the same night. Just getting to opening night will not be enough. In order to give yourself the best chance of long-term success, you will need a well-crafted approach to how you will deliver a high level of hospitality to your guests.
+ How are you going to reinvigorate your restaurant? Will your concept evolve? How will you handle hiring, staffing, marketing / PR plan, training, messaging to vendors/partners, and promotions? Building up to reopening and post-opening to generate the biggest revenues possible, are you more concerned about revenue, or profits when reopened?
+ Adapt to trends. Now is the time to change the model for the later adopters. Explore ecommerce, ghost kitchen delivery, catering and more. Study the way people’s dining habits have changed over the past 5-10 years, and consider how that could evolve your concept.
+ What will your reopening look like? Work on specific details. Create a roadmap and critical path. No one has a crystal ball to know when this will end, so try to plan as much as possible now that you might have time. The flood gates are going to open and you might not have the time when that happens. You need a detailed game plan. We have time now, so be sure to use it wisely. You will not have the luxury of a two- or three-week “pre-opening plan” — you might only have a day or two.
Develop a Post-Opening Plan for How to Come Back to Where You Once Were
Focus on what you can control: staffing and training, PR, marketing, and ultimately exceeding all of your guest’s expectations to ensure their continued support.
These are Big Decisions — Make Sure You Have a Trustworthy Sounding Board
Owners and operators in our industry are typically impatient, and everyone wants something done yesterday, but if owners can take a minute and think about the decision they are going to make, along with potentially discussing with one of us or an additional outside professional, there could potentially be unforeseen long term benefits. These decisions have tremendous future implications: from the technicalities of lay-offs to insurance payments, and more. There’s a lot of free advice and services during this time of need! Make sure you take advantage of it — don’t make these decisions lightly.
Know What Resources Are Available
Now is the time to get involved — resources are available on the local, state and federal level. If your area has a local restaurant trade association (RAMW in DC, NY Hospitality Alliance in NYC, CA Restaurant Association, California Hospitality Coalition as well as the National Restaurant Association), use them. They will know best how to take advantage of all the SBA programs, grants, loans and many more offerings that exist today and many more that will be coming.
The U.S. is home to 15 million restaurant workers. There are 26,000 restaurants in New York City alone doing more than $50 billion a year in revenue and approx. 4% of GDP in America is attributed to restaurants. The industry needs help. Every voice matters, now more than ever.
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