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8 Ways Your Restaurant Can Stay Profitable During COVID-19

July 15, 2020
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2020 has been a challenging year for restaurants, to say the least. Many aren’t sure if they will survive the pandemic. As states slowly reopen, restaurants must explore new ways to generate revenue to stay afloat and serve their customers from a safe, social distance. Here are eight tips to help your bottom line and attract new business.

1. Offer pick-up and delivery
If your restaurant has always offered takeout or delivery, lean into this essential service for customers who aren’t able, or willing, to dine in-house. If your restaurant doesn’t offer pick-up or delivery, pivot to offer this service to retain loyal customers and invite new business.

Pick-up and delivery is no longer reserved for casual or chain eateries. Fine dining establishments are offering carry-out specials for a fraction of their usual menu price. Connect your restaurant with popular third-party meal delivery apps such as GrubHub, Uber Eats, Postmates and DoorDash to drum-up new business.

Or, invite your front-of-house staff to work as delivery drivers. Many would appreciate the opportunity to recoup lost wages and earn extra cash through delivery tips.

2. Simplify your menu
According to a survey, 75 percent of restaurants said it’s unlikely their operation would be profitable within the next six months. One cost-cutting measure you can take is to simplify your menu.

Condensing your menu helps move inventory and reduces how much food you have to buy and store. It also reduces labor costs for food management and preparation.

When crafting your reduced menu, be sure to include your popular, best-selling dishes, or the items your restaurant is known for. Then, update your menu based on seasonal ingredients you have on hand, or new specials.

A leaner menu also helps your kitchen work more efficiently, which facilitates fast and accurate takeout and delivery.

3. Offer gift cards
At the beginning of the pandemic, many customers showed support to their favorite restaurants by buying gift cards to use later. Continue to offer gift cards, but expand available purchase options.

Sell e-gift cards or allow mobile purchasing to reach a broader audience. Or, take an idea from one independent restaurant who played “takeout roulette.” The restaurant put complimentary gift cards in random takeout orders to thank them for their business. The promotion incentivized new customers to place an order, and guaranteed future business from the lucky winners.

4. Provide single day service
Many restaurateurs say they don’t have enough customers to justify reopening during the pandemic. If your operation is interested in reopening, but is concerned with order volume, experiment with reduced hours or single-day service.

Rather than opening every day from 4 to 10 p.m., use purchase data to learn your busiest days/times. Then, open on that day, or during that time, only. Adjust as needed.

5. Sell groceries
Restaurants have a different supply chain than grocery stores. So when panic-buying left shoppers strapped to find kitchen staples like flour, rice, beans and bread, restaurants remained fully stocked.

Take advantage of this new revenue stream by selling groceries and pantry items to customers who dine-in, take out or order delivery. Some restaurants have taken this a step further by selling take-and-cook meal kits, as well.

Your customers will appreciate being able to save a trip to a crowded and picked-over grocery store.

6. Engage with your at-home audience
Nationwide shutdowns reduced the “discoverability” of your restaurant to foot traffic and tourists. Now, you must meet your customers and prospects where they are: at home.

Engage with your audience on social media in creative ways through chef demonstrations and food preparation tutorials. This will keep your brand top-of-mind for loyal patrons and broaden your reach with new diners.

7. Create merchandising and promotions
Experiment with promotions like “buy one hot meal, get one for tomorrow.” Or, free delivery. There is no template for surviving the pandemic as a restauranteur. Try different incentives to engage your customers and invite new business. Some restaurants are doing this with merchandise so their fans can support their brand in ways beyond food.

8. Offer outside dining
If your eatery already offers outside dining, you are ahead of the game. If not, it’s time to think al fresco. Outdoor seating satisfies social distancing recommendations and provides a way for guests to dine at your restaurant in a more healthful way.

If you don’t have a patio or garden, create outdoor dining space in your restaurant’s parking lot. Or, bring tables to the front entrance on the sidewalk. Some restaurants are even converting front parking spaces into outdoor seating.

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