More Covid Closures Are Closer Than You Think, Is Your Restaurant Ready?
The winter is here with some unpleasant surprises. COVID-19 cases are rising again, and it looks like we’re on track to meet March 2021, much like last spring, armed with a lot more information but still unprepared to take mass measures that would protect our most vulnerable.
As the winter settles over us all, state regulations force more and more businesses to shut down on-premise dining until the worst of it passes again. Restaurants are shifting back en masse to those off-premise ordering streams that got them through the summer, or else closing their doors entirely to prepare for this virus to get worse before it (hopefully, this time) gets better.
Restaurants Close Doors
Whether you rely on financial assistance or are making arrangements to shift focus back to takeout and delivery, either way, dining rooms are shutting down all around the U.S. just when they figured out alternatives to outdoor seating in the winter and met the demand for curbside services. Now restaurants are finding viable alternative revenue streams like many did over the summer.
If you’re new to delivery, you might be tempted to join up with third-party services that can open up a broader market right off the bat and hook you up with couriers who make offering delivery quick and affordable. However, many restaurants have turned away from third parties in recent months or years because of their high commission fees. With eatOS, we set you up with a branded merchant app and online ordering platform without taking a cut. All you need to do is pare down your menu so ingredients can travel without compromising the integrity of the food; also, consider including reheating instructions, so customers enjoy each dish’s full potential no matter how long it takes to finish. At eatOS, we work hard to make your job easy.
Here are other tips you’ll need to consider when you shutter all or part of your usual operations.
In the summer months, restaurants shifted en masse toward outdoor seating arrangements, an endeavor assisted by emergency government legislation that allowed food service establishments to arrange tables six feet apart on sidewalks, in their parking lots, and even on city streets.
New shutdowns will see this trend continue in places where the weather permits. Still, restaurants will have to change their indoor seating areas when reduced capacity restrictions replace orders to close and need fewer tables a greater distance apart. Some restaurants changed their service floor completely: Now guests only come in to buy to-go charges, inventory as grocery items or branded merchandise.
You might be wary of spending money right now. Still, it’s great to invest in experimental business ideas when traffic is slower, and you can focus on creative solutions without simultaneously having to satisfy a rush.
Restaurants are segmenting their brands to make them more discoverable on search engines like Google, where many customers find new places to eat. If you sell different types of dishes—say you have a uniquely popular burger menu and make great pasta plates—then you can segment these categories into two distinctive brands that advertise to different markets.
You might want to try a new delivery-only menu, for example. Personalize each order with a special thank-you note or give away free merchandise to show your loyal customers you appreciate their continued patronage. Since some states relaxed the rules surrounding alcohol sales, some restaurants are delivering beer, wine, and cocktails and their usual dinner menu, which naturally increases overall sales. It’s even popular to sell gift cards as a holiday present that guests can redeem once normal operations resume—whenever they finally come.
Keep Up Appearances
Whether you keep some vestiges of dine-in services preserved over the coming months or change operations and rearrange your service floor to boot, foot traffic is still going to pass by on the street as regularly as ever. Your business should look presentable from the outside, notably if you’re somewhere, that offers outdoor seating options throughout the winter.
If you close completely, prepare for reopening ahead of time so you can hit the ground running when it’s safe. Flip your chairs onto the tables and get dust covers for added protection. Consider covering your windows, too: It’s been a tumultuous political year for the U.S., and businesses in every city have spent the past few months considering how tensions exploding on the street might affect their stores. If you’re shutting down dine-in operations, you might consider boarding up your windows until customers come through again anyway.
If you do close, make sure to sanitize the premises thoroughly before reopening again, so all the long months of sheltering in place don’t go to waste.
Communicate and Promote
When you’ve decided on some appropriate changes, it’s time to blast the news far and wide. Update your social media, websites, and Google My Business with new hours, promotions, and more so you can instantly start to draw in customers who search the right parameters. Add signs to your storefront to notify foot traffic of the deals and specials you’ve spent so long concocting to save your business and promote these new revenue streams, delivery-only menus, and merchandise. If you write a regular newsletter, it might be a good time to churn out a special holiday edition that highlights the changes you’ve made too.
Ready for Anything
Looking back on this rollercoaster of a year, it’s difficult to predict what will come next as we collectively battle a deadly pandemic and try to maintain some semblance of normalcy at the same time. Whether you find new ways to change up in-person dining so it remains a safe option or your restaurant pivots entirely to off-premise solutions like takeout, delivery, and curbside services, you should post about the changes you’re making all across the internet. Take this time to optimize your space, deep-clean in preparation for when your doors open again, experiment with new ideas, and prepare other solutions to kick off the new year with a bang and a brave face.
eatOS technology is the answer. We’ve developed a cutting-edge Point of Sale system and online ordering platform that makes it easy to shift gears to off-premise dining solutions—and the best part is that you keep all the profits. Schedule a demo today and learn how eatOS makes restaurant management simple, no matter what 2021 throws our way.