It’s tough times for everyone – in all industries – right now, but travel and hospitality in particular are suffering. Social distancing and lockdowns has led to mass business closures and a scramble for pivots to anything from take-home meal kits to grocery sales direct from suppliers. We recently read this excellent article in the Guardian about restaurants in a post-coronavirus world in the future, and it got us thinking. Should restaurants return as normal, or should we – both business owners and consumers – take the opportunity to bounce back a little differently than before?
We’re a team of editors and writers yes, but we’re also a team of former chefs, restaurant managers and servers. Hospitality is a real passion for the entire team at Big 7 Travel. So, we’re taking a look at some positive actions we’ve seen restaurants and bars take during the Covid-19 crisis, as well as some insights into how you can improve and grow when the time comes to throw back open the doors…
How Restaurants & Bars Can Bounce Back Post-Coronavirus
Focus on Your Local Community
If you take just one thing from the coronavirus lockdowns, let it be the essential ethos of community. Never before have we seen local communities rally together so much to support small businesses. People are making an effort to shop local as much as they can, and we believe that neighbourhood restaurants will be the first ones to get customers back – so hang in there, and focus on your loyal customers!
As we previously mentioned in a roundup of post-coronavirus hospitality trends, tourism is going to take a long time to rebound. Many restaurants depend on tourists in city centre locations, but that market just won’t be back anytime soon.
Large city centre locations with big rents might not fare as well as local community restaurants with loyal customers. Footfall isn’t going to come back in the big urban areas, as many people hope. Restaurants post-coronavirus are going to be more intimate and more community-based. Now is the time to start engaging with your local customers.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
This ties into the community aspect. If you’re worried about not being financially able to reopen when the time comes, don’t be afraid to share these concerns with your customers. We’re seeing a whole new level of honest conversations shared from restaurateurs around the world about how they are struggling right now. People really connect to this honesty. They will largely go out of their way to help in any way they can.
Maybe it’s working out rental payments with your leasing company, or talking brutally honestly to your bank. Maybe it’s teaming up with other small businesses to join forces for a temporary period to try and get back up and running. Or, maybe it’s explaining to customers the importance of buying vouchers now for cash flow purposes. All of these can help you to get on firm footing to come back with a bang.
Rethink Menus and Suppliers
One thing that we think customers will look for when dining out again is a focus on local produce, and ‘better’ value dishes. Consumers will look for restaurants and bars that they feel are part of the the true community, where their money will make a difference and where they will get bang for their buck. Take the time to research neighbourhood suppliers and local producers who you can champion. In turn, they will support your business as time goes on. Educate consumers now about why that fillet of grass-fed beef costs X or organic vegetables cost Y. Help them understand the thought process of pricing.
Sub-standard food, service or hospitality won’t be accepted in this new world. Consumers will vote with their feet, so highlight some exciting menu changes now for the future.
Keep Up Creative Initiatives
One thing we’re really loving right now? The incredible innovation and creative options that restaurants and bars are offering customers. Cocktails to go? We would still enjoy those on a Saturday morning at home post-coronavirus. Top restaurants serving take-home meal kits, or live videos of recipes and chef tips… Despite not being open, there is more of a love and appreciation for food – and how to make good food – than ever before.
Ask your customers what initiatives (that make financial sense for your business) that they would like to see you keep up long term. You might be surprised just how many positive answers you get!
Double Down on Social Media & Connections
Now is the perfect time to connect and engage with your local customers on social media. We’ve written a post on seven ways to build relationships with customers during quarantine here.
From behind-the-scenes snapshots of what’s going on in the kitchen to cookery demos, keep up the transparency and social updates even when social distancing eases off. It really helps for brand loyalty if you stay at the forefront of customer’s minds, and this is where social media comes into play. It can be time consuming to post regularly, but it’s worth it. Why not get a different staff member to ‘take over’ your social channels each week? Your audience can get a fun insight into all aspects of your business then, from the floor to the kitchen.