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Planning for your restaurant’s future in a cash-strapped environment

So what do we do now?

That’s the question many restaurant owners and managers are asking. As restaurants across the country continue to reopen their doors and welcome back employees, management’s focus is naturally not only on the present but on the future as well. What will the future look like for the restaurant industry?

This, of course, is a mammoth question with no real answers, but the tips provided in our blog today may help your business prepare for many unforeseen outcomes in the road ahead.*

Reach out to guests

In this new market you can’t afford to wait for guests to come to you. Many would-be customers, after all, have adopted new habits of ordering online or cooking more meals from home, and while nostalgia will bring some of them back to you, making contact with other would-be customers is essential.

You can begin this proactive approach by reaching out to those in your email drip campaign — if you have one — and by increasing the frequency of your social media efforts. You want customers to not only know that your restaurant is open once again, but to understand the guidelines surrounding masks, hours and reservations. This is also a good time to showcase all the ways in which your staff is working to make the venue safe for your guests. And don’t be afraid to showcase a little of your team’s personality in these posts. Everyone can use a lighter moment these days.

From there it’s time to reach out to customers who may not fall into the groups we listed above. These are customers you’re going to need to convince to try your restaurant — maybe for the first time — and price promotions and unique offers may be your ticket to stand out.

Don’t abandon your delivery business

If your restaurant adopted a food delivery or enhanced takeout service during the pandemic, now is not the time to abandon this practice. Remember that many guests may still not feel comfortable dining inside a restaurant and others could have come to appreciate the flexibility delivery offers. Understand your market. If your competitors are offering this service, removing it from your own portfolio gives them an advantage over you.

Reinvent your menu

Another way you can stand out and draw notice from past and new customers alike is to reinvent your menu. Food trends are ever changing — even during a pandemic — and reinventing your menu to address modern trends such as paleo, “clean” food and plant-based proteins can give you a leg up on your competition.

Rethink the design of your restaurant

This is about more than keeping tables six feet apart. In the current market many restaurants will need to change permanently and it’s time to decide if yours will be one of them.

For example, if your take-out service has been booming, it might be time to add a permanent drive-through window or set aside another area for this task that feels more permanent and can safely accommodate increased traffic and use.

This is also a good time to think about adding additional automated solutions to your restaurant. Automated payment and cleaning solutions do more than just increase efficiency in your restaurant, they can also minimize interactions between employees and customers and employees with other employees. If you haven’t done so already, now may be the perfect time to invest in automated payment solutions to remove these employee/customer interactions.

In your kitchen you can reduce staff time by investing in automated cooking solutions to automate your oil management and the removal of grease buildup. This allows you to send employees home more quickly and reduce their potential exposure to COVID-19.

Garner additional revenue in unconventional ways

For many people, the way they use restaurants is apt to change. Dining out may move from a convenience benefit or desired change to an event. As such, customers adopting this mentality will likely go out less often but be interested in spending more. For restaurants, this means potential success parameters lie in selling desserts, bottles of wine, appetizers and other mark-up items to raise the overall ticket price while delivering the event-like experience guests are seeking.

Another way to gain additional revenue is to consider selling recipe boxes for some of your business’s most popular menu items. Tie these menu boxes to a gift voucher purchase and you’re giving customers a reason to come back and see you even as they’re enjoying your food from home.

Moving forward in the new era

While the future is uncertain in every market, the restaurant industry certainly faces some of the largest questions. Navigating these paths will require restaurant owners to manage conservative cost protections against aggressive strategies to bring in new customers. But as the industry looks to the future, there are benefits to looking to the past. The strategies that have supported your business since it reopened still hold true, and there’s no reason to abandon them until the path forward is clearer than it is today.

*Nothing herein constitutes legal advice or other formal direction or guidance of any kind. The information herein is offered for general information purposes only.

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