While people all over the world are stocking up on essentials, working from home more, and washing their hands like never before, the one plus million restaurants throughout America are facing uncertainty and dining room closures during the evolving outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Originating in China, COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that spreads through droplets when a person sneezes or coughs to those who are in close contact with each other (about 6 feet). The most effective way to eliminate contact with the virus include washing your hands, not touching your face, disinfecting surfaces, and practicing social distancing.
We’re already seeing many state officials closing all on-site seating for all restaurants and bars. However, as most grocery store shelves are barren, some restaurants are immediately altering operations while closely monitoring the health concern, rolling out new best practices, and meeting the needs of their community and employees.
Navigating through this time is a growing challenge to suppliers, local producers, chefs, foodservice buyers, and those food insecure in the community. There is a great need for foodservice to implement strategies that meet shifting needs. While unfortunately not everyone’s door can stay open, if yours are, here are a few trends that some restaurants are finding great success in right now.
Release Safety Policies
The first thing you’ve hopefully already done is reduce risk in your kitchen by placing new safety procedures, precautions, and sick leave practices. Some of these include:
- Asking employees to stay home if they are not feeling well
- Practicing social distancing
- Regular handwashing and disinfection routines
- Hand sanitizer available for guests coming in for take out
Make sure you publicly post these new procedures so potential customers can be confident in your service. Here are some more great resources from the James Beard Foundation and National Restaurant Association for current safety information.
Lower Food Costs
With tight margins, we know that every penny counts right now. One way you can reduce food costs by working with FoodMaven. By selling high quality oversupply, local, and out-of-spec products that would have otherwise been wasted, we can offer you low prices to be conscious of your food buying costs so you can focus on providing food to your community. Every purchase helps support our hardworking suppliers and local growers move high quality product during this time.
Another way you can save is by bulk purchasing. Right now, it is unclear how the supply chain will be affected. We are already starting to see shortages in other industries affected by COVID-19. By purchasing in bulk now, it will ensure you have the product you need at a great price before labor and product shortages affect price increases.
Additionally, limiting your menu is a great way of cutting food costs. This ensures that you are not purchasing more than you end up using and you can base your menu around ingredients that you can get a deal on. Flexibility in your menu will allow you to be creative with the changing needs of consumers while tightening up buying costs.
Offer Take-Out and Delivery Options
Chances are your in-restaurant dining service is currently closed, but do you know all your options for take-out and delivery? Companies like Postmates, Door Dash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, Seamless, and more are continuing to help restaurants meet the needs of their communities. Many have updated their delivery options to eliminate human interaction and have seen a huge jump in users. By signing up for multiple delivery options, you can reach a larger audience.
Though in-restaurant dining might be put to a halt, you can still offer take-out. This might require some creativity if your restaurant isn’t currently set up to do so. Need some inspiration? Mark Canlis, owner of Canlis, a fine dining restaurant in Seattle, is redefining traditional take-out by offering their community three unique options while practicing social distancing. Their Bagel Shed concept is based off a pop-up stand being held in their garden and parking lot during breakfast time. For lunch they designed a parking lot drive-thru where customers can pay for a to-go meal without getting out of their car. Additionally, they created their own delivery service, where customers can order online through Tock then Canlis employees deliver meals and wine to the customer’s house with their personal vehicles. Learn more about the strategies Canlis is taking to create safe opportunities for their employees while feeding their community.
Another great way your customers can continue to support you during this time is by offering online giftcards. Squareup can be a great tool to do this and allows buyers to pick a date in the future to send the giftcard, so you can earn their business now and they can benefit from it at a later date.
In response to the impact COVID-19 has had on the restaurant industry, a group of industry leaders designed a Dining Bond program. Like selling giftcards, the idea behind this initiative is to help restaurants receive funds now, even if their doors are temporarily shut. Any restaurant, bar, or eatery can participate.
Whether your business uses social media faithfully or not, this is an extremely powerful tool you can take advantage of to connect to your customers. We suggest sharing your safety procedures, take-out and delivery options, links to buy giftcards, and meal options on Facebook and Instagram. It’s also a great platform to hear directly from your community and their needs, engage with your customers to remain relevant, and to expand your reach.
If you’re located in Colorado, use the hashtags #ColoradoCurbside, #WeGotThisDenver, and #TheDenverEar with your delivery, pickup, and giftcard options to reach a larger audience and for the chance to be featured.
How Can We Help You?
At FoodMaven, we are monitoring the situation closely and our doing our best to support our customers and the community in every way possible. This includes not only being a distributor, but your friend during this time. Our team is staying up to date on the health concerns, industry news, and solutions. We are available to all of our customers for support and to help you find success.