How Restaurant, Bar, Catering, and Hospitality Companies have to adapt, build, and re-launch business during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rebekah Goldman of Taking the Wheel Consulting has created a four part workshop to help owners and managers of restaurants, bars, catering companies and anyone in the hospitality industry. This workshop was held in a free online resource for the food service industry, a Facebook Group called, Leadership Revolution.

This 4-part online workshop consisted of the following topics:

  1. How to connect with your community to garner business
  2. Working your restaurant’s numbers and relationships
  3. How to profitable adjust your restaurant, bar, or catering company
  4. Next steps for your restaurant or bar business

How to connect with your community to garner business for your restaurant

This workshop was created because we realize that right now our industry is suffering more than ever due to COVID-19 and coronavirus. We say down and decided that we needed to create a resource guide for our friends in the food service industry to help them get through all of this.

I know that right now we don’t know what to do and we feel that something that we have worked so hard for was taken from us. I truly believe 100% that each and every one of you is on the front line right now and you are the heroes for not giving up. People are terrified about how they are going to feed their families, the safest place to do this from. Moms are scared to go to the grocery stores with their kids. The elderly can’t leave their houses. Anyone at risk is scared to go outside. We have an opportunity right now to assist our community in a way that we never have before.

I want to start off by saying thank you to all of you who are out there on the front lines providing take out and delivering meals to doorsteps, because you are making a difference for people who can’t leave their homes. 

Communicating your safety procedures to your customers

The first thing we’re going to talk about is how to connect with your community. The first way is by communicating safety and what you are doing to do more than what they guidelines say to do. It is so important to stay safe more than ever. This could make or break your business right now. 

Gloves. I am such a stickler about gloves, even before this pandemic. It’s not just about washing your hands correctly, it also about wearing gloves and changing them anytime a new surface is being touched. You have to be paying attention to what your employees are touching especially when they are customer facing. Educating them on the highest standards of health and safety is a must right now. 

Let’s assume you are offering to-go and delivery. Do you have a process for what your customers are doing when they arrive. The process for delivery drivers? How is the food being handled when it leaves the kitchen? How are you ensuring guests that hands have not touched their food and even the containers it is in if you can? 

A safety plan for your restaurant during COVID-19

You have to create a thought out safety plan, sit down with your team members and set every step of the way for them to be safe for your community. You have to be the leader and have a clear direction for your team. Talking about cross contamination is extremely important. It is you and your employees responsibility to keep your customers safe. From door handles any surface that could be touched, you have to be sanitizing like crazy. 

Your next step is to communicate this safety plan with your customers. You also should be communicating directly with the customers that are supporting you during this time by just picking up the phone and letting them know how much you appreciate them ordering. Building that one-on-one relationship will create a true customer experience. This also give you a chance to let them know how your restaurant will be operating moving forward. “Hi, we’ll be taking your credit card over the phone to minimize contact. We can text you when our driver arrives and leave the food on something that you leave outside of your door, such as a chair so that your food isn’t placed on the floor.”

Updating your business information for the pandemic

How else can you connect with your customers? First things first, do you have all of your communications updated? Your website, online directories, Google My Business, your social media channels? Don’t make your customers search around for what you have available during this time. Make sure that your hours of operation are changed, that your most recent menu is online, taking down pictures that do not make sense right now, etc. 

Let’s talk about social media. Our society is addicted to being on their phones. Everyone is currently available right now in your community. Be sure that you are talking to them online and being available with information for them when they are searching for you. 

Changing Target Demographics for Restaurants

People have most likely lost their jobs and households may only have one or no incomes. Your mindset on your target market has to include these new factors. What are people going to be looking for now? Family meal deals. Pick-up over delivery discounts. Meals that they can make at home but get your ingredients and recipe information. Create social media ads that will help you to promote these new offerings. 

Customer Service during the Pandemic

When you do get the orders coming in, it is more important than ever to get these orders correct. You need these customers to order again because of the great experience that they had when things are so different and nothing is normal for restaurant food. Personally calling customers after they receive an order from you is a must. You need to make sure that they received what they ordered and that it tastes good. You have to make it right because right now is not a time to have bad reviews. 

Delivery is now a must to connect with the community

You may not have been doing delivery for your restaurant before this pandemic. Now it is a must to survive. Doing delivery does not necessarily mean that you have to sign up for Grubhub, Postmates, UberEats, or any of the other third party platforms. You can create your own delivery system and bring back more jobs into your business as the orders develop. The first thing that you have to do is get an online ordering system. Check with your POS provider if they offer this. This will create a seamless way for your customer to have another option on how they want to order from you. When you create this new way for customers to order, make sure that you are communicating it with them!

Adjusting your offerings during COVID-19

A lot of states are allowing restaurants, bars, and catering companies to adjust their offerings for delivery and to-go. Many states are allowing alcohol offerings to-go to help adjust cash flow for the businesses that are still open. Creating a one-stop-shop is important because some people aren’t able to leave their homes to get supplies and grocery store deliveries are completely backed up. Be that option for people right now to include different items that can be added onto their orders. Do you have items that could be turned into meal kits or take-and-bake options? Giving several meal options to order once for throughout the week will help keep families safe. 

Creating Loyalty Programs

If you didn’t already have a loyalty program in place, now is the time to create one. You want the customers that are eating out to come back to you during this time to keep a steady cash flow. Use an online loyalty program that also collects the customers email address so that you are building up another marketing channel. 

Creating a Community Experience

People are stuck at home, so you have to think of how you can engage with the community during this time. Are you offering online cooking classes? What about a virtual happy hour where you share a fun cocktail recipe? People that are stir crazy are craving human interaction so let your business be ones of those resources for them.

Working your restaurant or bar business numbers to help you

Michigan is where I grew up and I worked at a restaurant called Leon’s. This restaurant serves a huge middle eastern community. The owner George really knew how to connect with his customers. He knew everything about them, and greeted everyone who came through the doors. Knowing them by name had them coming back 4 or 5 times a week. I worked there as a waitress and soon enough got regular myself who were very loyal. One day I asked George if I could start selling pies and brownies on the side at the registers. The brownies took off the most and I sold them everyday. I made a deal with the walmart stocker to call me when the brownies went on sale. By doing that I made a 32 dollar profit out of each batch of brownies I made. My regulars were asking me to make batches and batches for them to put in their freezers even though they came in 4 or 5 times a week. They all turned into family for me. People are really connecting with their families while in quarantine. They need to know that their safety is your number one priority.

5 ways to learn your business in-and-out

  1. Make yourself the prep cook as well as the executive chef. You need to know all the in’s and out’s of your business. 
  2. Do not be afraid of being the dishwasher 
  3. Being able to offer solutions for your business – cross training and knowing each department. So you are able to tell your employees how to be efficient. 
  4. Go back to the basics of it all
  5. Put your blood sweat and tears into it all

What is your brand, and what does it stand for?

What do you want people to enjoy about your business? What do you want them to say about it? If you have a marketing team, make sure that you are involved because you don’t want to lose sight of your brand. You have to have people that have the same vision as your and understand what you are trying to achieve with your brand. 

This is an opportunity if you allow it to be

People don’t know what to do right now and they are scared. Grocery stores are running out of things and many people can’t get the everyday things they need, but what they don’t have is suppliers or vendors like you. They don’t know how to get food to their homes let alone pay for it. You have the opt to be a hero in this. Be a leader that this community and industry needs. It’s time to come back stronger than ever. 

Right now we have to think like a Catering company

Catering in Arizona is very seasonal because it’s so hot here in the summers. In the summers most all employees get laid off, except for the core team that needs to keep the ship moving. When shutting down you have the opportunity to see what was working and what wasn’t, and really get your systems into check. It’s all about numbers and fixing insufficiencies, and or creating systems that you don’t have. You have to take action while business is slower. Now is your “summer” to look at how your business has been running and how you can make it more efficient. 

Tracking numbers 

Is your profit & loss statement tracked daily? Do you have all of your food and beverage costs up to date? What about your labor costs? Any products, disposables, chemicals, services, etc. should all be tracked with your numbers. Everything down to the penny is going to count right now and you need to decide what can be cut. 

This is the time to make the changes necessary to grow. All of these items listed above should be checked on the regular. You should know them like the back of your hand. You should be tracking all year round and compare them throughout the year. I tracking numbers I was able to keep an 18% food and 14% labor cost.

Can you get rid of services that aren’t necessary?

  1. Trash pick ups? Are you filling them as much as you used to? Can you go down to one instead of two?
  2. Do you have landscaping service? Cut it down if possible.
  3. Services you can cut that will allow you to keep employees working. Can your current employees do your landscaping?
  4.   Hiring ads? Have you canceled them if you don’t need them right now.
  5. Sit down and think of the things you don’t need and clean house.

Your new target market

Ask you customers what they are having a hard time finding. Get familiar with your target audience because it has now changed. Food and groceries delivered to their doorsteps. Check with the legal requirements for this.

You have the opportunity to be the one stop shop for people right now. What price point do they need? Remember to make cost appropriate items because everyone is on a budget more than ever now from a lot of people losing their jobs. 

Create a Subscription style service. Kits for families to make it fun and keep kids busy. Super easy and helpful to families right now and even after this is over. 

Relationships 

Right now you need to be checking in with your vendors and suppliers. Have your expectations and make sure they meet them. Keep track of the prices that you are getting from them and begin negotiating. Pair up with programs with someone with a bigger buying power. Have respect for them and a relationship with them. Be able to ask questions and hold them accountable. Have meetings with them – talk with them about trends and what’s happening with the markets. Think about having multiple. suppliers or vendors so that you can offer your customers what they want.  Go local – think of local farms and create partnerships with them.

 Experts

Surround yourself with two types of people: Experts and people who want to be experts.

Think about what types of teams you want behind your brand. Who do you want behind you? Start small with the areas of the business that you are not good at and build from there as your become stronger. 

Taking into consideration, who you were lacking on your team before this happened? True success lies in the success of your teams.

How to adjust and make profits for your restaurant, bar, or catering company

Profitable execution of your business

Connecting with your community to be the one stop shop that they need every day. People need food delivered to their doorsteps. Going out to eat was a luxury. Be a hero to your community.

Everyone’s situation is different in where you are right now. Preparing for the worst that is yet to come.

Addressing safety measures: this should be your number one priority

  1. How do you keep your employees safe? Delivery, curbside pick up, take out should all be planned out. Social distancing is there for a reason. Create schedules for your employees to come in at different times so not a lot of people are there together. Could you turn your dining room into a prep area? Spread people out. Think about the space you could use so all of your employees aren’t together at the same time. Can you have a team of people there cleaning, then some there prepping, some there packing and then the delivery drivers coming later. 
  2. Take the temperature of your employees. Remind your employees that if they aren’t feeling 100% to just stay home. You are the business owner, manager, leader of this business and you need to stress safety to everyone. Make sure you take care of your employees. When they are calling in sick make sure it won’t affect them feeding their families, because that’s what it comes down to. I remember so many times working through sickness because I had to work to support myself. Now is not that time and you need to stress that. This is serious and stressing that is going to be number one. 
  3. Night drops: we were on a program with a lot of our vendors. They would come in and drop at night in our walk-ins and it was so easy. You don’t have to worry about them coming into a bunch of employees running around and being in their way. You would just come in, and put everything away in the morning and go on with your day. Negotiate with your vendors so they know your expectations. If something comes in and it’s not up to par, you have to hold them accountable. I didn’t have to worry because my vendors knew my expectations. They would never drop anything off that I wouldn’t accept.
  4. Delivery drivers: create a grab and go station so they won’t have to walk through where everyone else is prepping. Having everything ready for them so they can just grab and walk out. I would set up at least 3 hand wash stations along the way throughout your establishment. In my resource guide for COVID-19, I showed an example of a gravity flow hand wash. We would take to our off premise catering events. We had 5 gallon beverage cambros we would fill with hot water and another 5 gallon bucket underneath – it has to be able to hold everything that comes out of the beverage cambro. Have 1 before the delivery driver enters, have one before they grab the food and have another nearby. 
  5. Communicate with customers about being safe. Right now people want to know their safety is number 1. The fastest and the easiest way is to know that you are practicing safety first. People keep asking how they can know how to trust an establishment and how do they know they are safe? Communication. Address their fears. “Hi customer, thank you for your business, just so you know we will only be accepting credit cards over the phone and to let you know when my driver has arrived they will give you a call and let you know that they are there to drop off food. We ask that you don’t open the door when they are there. Once they leave you can go outside and grab your food. To make sure they aren’t just putting food on the floor why don’t you put something outside so they can set the food on there. If there are any issues with your order please call and we will take care of it. By the way how are you doing?Is there anything else we can help you with?” Having a script will be helpful right now so that everyone can be saying the same things to your customers. Be consistent
  6. Systems and accountability: holding everyone accountable and informing them if they did make a wrong decision and how to correct it and stopping them from doing it again. I took it seriously because I realized how important it was. Three bucket system, just like a three compartment sink, We had that system for all of our surfaces. A green bucket for hot soapy water, a squeegee and a sponge. A white bucket for rinse water and a towel, and a red bucket with fresh and tested sanitizer and a sanitizer towel. We ordered specific sanitizer towels from our disposable company. We would do this with every surface every single time. We would wash, rinse and sanitize and the health inspector would tell us they never saw anyone else do this. It takes safety to the next level. Just hold your employee accountable and become a leader your team needs so that you can support your community the way they need it right now. 

Getting familiar with your brand and what does it stand for?

What do you want people to feel when they experience your services? How do you want people to remember you? Making sure you look really professional. I knew that I wanted people to associate me with being a professional and my old business card didn’t provide that. It looked cheap and it was cheap, so I invested in a web designer and hired a marketing team who could really get my logo over the top and the quality that I wanted my business to be. They helped me make sure my brand was shown the way I needed it to be. Decide how you want people to experience you. It’s going to be hard to explain that to your community if you don’t know yourself. My marketing team understands me like the back of their hand, they are so intimate in my business its insane. Sometimes they speak better for me than I do, because I was able to explain it to them, I poured my heart and soul out to my business.

Serving your communities

Become the one stop shop. Knowing in advance what you need to prepare allows you to order exactly what you need when you need it. It allows you to break up what you are doing everyday. 

Offe some sort of subscription service. Which is recurring orders, like catering. Offer paper towels, yogurt cups, BYO pizza kits. The goal is to get people to order from you all the time. What I like about it is that it’s gonna be huge for your bottom line. Be convenient for your customers. What’s going to happen is you are gonna know what people want or need opposed to just guessing. This is how I was able to run an 14-18% food cost at certain parts of the year. Sometimes even running 9% on bigger parties. Not because i was skimping on quality but because I knew down by the ounce how much I needed to order and prep. Think costco convenience. It’s an experience for everyone. They are the one stop shop that offers an experience.Thats where you need to be and how you need to connect with your community.

How to become the one stop shop

Marketing. Letting everyone know you are available. Giving them what they want. Introduce some sort of sales person or anyone who has the ability to connect to people. A server? Someone who can work with any customer that came in. That person knew how to connect, serve them, and be able to upsell. You need someone who needs to tell them what they need. Hit them with an experience. We have to assume it’s not gonna go back to normal. What does our new normal look like? Virtual? Online only? People still need the experience and the connection with one another. Create something: virtual cooking classes, put together a recipe book – if you are worried about people stealing your recipes, no one will make it like you do. Offer them all of the ingredients already portioned and we can send you everything and offer them time with their families. Offer them a deal so they can take care of everything at once. Ask what items are missing in their pantry. People have a tendency to hold back, let them know they don’t need to because you have them. 

Adapt your business during COVID-19

Move your business according to what is allowed and what is needed. As it changes you will change too. Be involved in every aspect of every single meal.

Production wise think about why you are making certain things every single day? Split your days up, Monday’s make dressings for the week – as long as they are vinegar based. Pay attention to dates. Grill your proteins one day and stick them in the freezer. If that’s the type of product you are trying to give to people. Batch your products: think about what days you can make things without getting people sick. That’s how we got through with catering. So that every single day you are being as efficient as possible. 

Eliminating steps: go through your assembly lines. Eliminate steps to make things easier for you and more efficient. Ultimately saving money. 

Deliver: split delivery days based on areas you are selling to. Rent reefer trucks for delivery. Being safe with the items and products you are selling your customers. 

Maintain reputation: your team. Surround yourself with teams that can execute your vision. Teams that feel it in their hearts and every ounce of their being. Make sure they share your vision. That’s how you can make sure your reputation stays where it is and grows. 

Next Steps For Your Restaurant, Bar, or Catering Company

Let’s take a look at a business that we know is struggling: Cheesecake Factory – they just announced that they won’t be able to pay their rent in April or pay their employees. So let’s take a look to figure out why.

Take a look at their menu, there’s 250+ menu items and 22 pages long. They limited their menu but not enough in my opinion. On their “limited menu” they have:

  • 22 apps
  • 5 small plates and snacks
  • 6 app salads
  • 7 different types of pizza
  • 2 superfoods
  • 18 different burgers/sandwiches
  • 20 speciality items
  • 19 pastas
  • 9 fish/seafood options
  • 6 factory combos – two items married
  • 4 options of steaks and chop section
  • 9 sides
  • 7 full side salads
  • 10 breakfast items
  • 25 desserts and cheesecakes and a ton of whole cheesecakes
  • 22 skinnylicious menu items and
  • 14 kids menu items

Plus lunch portions and an entire brunch menu. 

They went from 250+ to 205+ items. I looked it up and it says that each chef on the line is in charge of 30 menu items themselves. The concept is fun but right now it’s too over the top. 

Yes, their food is delicious but personally every time I go there I get the same 5 items. I would take down the menu tremendously. I went through and I cut it down to:

  • 4 apps
  • get rid of small plates completely 
  • keep 2 pizza options 
  • keep the superfoods 
  • 3 different sandwich/burger options
  • 5 speciality items – a couple chickens, 1 beef, 1 fish
  • 4 different pastas
  • two seafood options
  • 2 steak and chops
  • 3 sides 

I took it down to 46 options. If I were them and because of their brand and because they are so well known, I would be in everyone’s home. I would turn it into a subscription menu today. Each location can be manufacturers. If it didn’t already have the brand and name 46 would be too much. Can you imagine keeping all those items under control and they are a scratch kitchen!

Re-work your menu

Right now take your menu and shrink it because that’s the only way you are going to be able to keep up. I’ve said every single day that this is an opportunity. Everything we do right now is necessary. People don’t know what to do right now. Think about people who are financially stable right now, they don’t want to take their families out to the grocery stores. Take a look at some states, they aren’t allowing people to go to the grocery stores, they are only doing online shopping, and that’s about a 3-day turn around. 

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to start thinking of everything that you can possibly be doing to serve your community I can promise you your competition is doing it already. You can sit back and hope this blows over in a few weeks or you can stand up and take the opportunity now so that you can generate cash flow now. 

Navigate your next steps:

  1. Get into the mindset that you are going to take control of this situation and you aren’t going to let it take control of you.
  2. Write it down because then it becomes real. What are your goals for the next couple weeks, months, years. My goals for the next year are to turn Leadership Revolution to be a non-profit. 
  3. Write it down. Go after it. Don’t give up! 

This industry needed a makeover, we needed people to rise up and fix this industry, and you can be a part of that. One person can make a difference but an army of leaders can change the world. I truly believe that and that’s why I created Leadership Revolution. We can change the world.

Your next steps

I talked about marketing, marketing is so huge. It really is everything you need. People can’t know you have a service if they don’t know you. You can’t provide a service to them if they don’t know who you are. Ask yourselves this:

  1. What do you need on your website
  2. What do you need on your social media
  3. How do you communicate effectively with your community
  4. How many posts should you do a week to stay relevant. 

Marketing is key, and I promise you if you put work into it, it will pay for itself. If you are looking for marketing we provide marketing services for our clients. They just need to understand your brand and help get the word out for you. 

Putting together your teams

I’ve said this before, I would be nothing without my teams. Even when I was executive chef I’ve had amazing teams that have stood by me. Think about it for a second, when it was quite hard to find someone that truly cared about this industry before, most of them just lost their jobs. There are rockstars out there hungry for a new project. Recruiting people, like I said your competition is already ahead of you. You have to be able to keep up with that, and what are you going to need to keep up? Teams that can help you make your vision a reality. Now if you can’t really hire this week, next week or a month from now, what do you need to do now to prepare for rehiring? Job descriptions on paper. Create those for that team member so your business is covered, line item by line item. What are your expectations from them? Start interviewing now. Explain to them the situation and let them know you want them on board with you. That means so much to people to feel wanted, especially right now when most of them are feeling lost. Start forming relationships with people. Be ahead of the game because I promise you your competition is. A lot of our industry folks have gotten laid off, who put their blood, sweat and tears into it. They neglected themselves and sacrificed time with their family members. They didn’t go on that vacation because it was just too busy. They were the first person to be there when someone called in sick, they gave everything to this industry and it just chewed them up and spit them out. They said thank you for everything you’ve done but you are now laid off. I understand what people had to do for their business, but what I’m trying to say is when people are looking to go back into the workplace you need to make sure you have benefits to offer them, because they are scared. They don’t want to be in that situation again, so what are your benefits going to be? 401k, insurance, etc now you don’t have to have everything but make sure to take care of your employees. Just like marketing you need to invest in your teams. Let them know that you are just as much invested in them as you are expecting them to be in you. Create your expectations for your team. Right now as you’re planning that team and building your next steps, getting everything down on paper and getting your systems that’s what I recommend you do right now. Navigating your next steps is all about preparing yourselves for what’s to come. 

A lot of restaurants are closing and getting rid of all their equipment because they aren’t coming back from this. If you can invest in some equipment now is the time. Let’s assume in a few months that we have an opportunity to open our doors, how about maybe right now taking a look at fixing that wobbly table or small items that can be fixed right now. Those small things that are going to make a difference for your customers. The biggest and most important thing we can be doing in navigating our next steps is deciding if we are going to do something or just stand still. If you need someone to remind you of that, I am your girl. I know this industry takes, takes takes, but it’s not. You need to get in that mindset. 

If you are ready to start taking your business from crisis to cash flow, let our team of experts help you get there. Click here for a free consultation!