Now that the Coronavirus has reached pandemic levels, the way of life as we in this lifetime used to know, has radically and abruptly changed.
The proximity to other people poses such a significant risk of contagion.
As people choose their priorities in these challenging times, you and many business owners in the food industry are helplessly watching businesses slow down. Now, nearly every business is fearing a financial crisis.
We are facing a common enemy that we have little information about and it affects the protocols that we follow for each moment that we learn more about it. When I first drafted this blog post, the Australian government policy allows people to still go to pubs and restaurants as long as the venue spaces out the tables to comply with guidelines of social distancing. And then a few days later (and is still the policy as this blog post is released) restaurants and cafes will have to switch to takeaways only.
The health and wellbeing of every person is the main priority. Still, I understand that business owners are naturally worried about how to generate some cash flow to cover staff wages to avoid laying off as few people as possible.
To enable your restaurant or food business to survive while mitigating the spread of the deadly Covid-19 (Coronavirus), here are some measures that you can apply.
Many restaurants are shifting to takeout or delivery-only due to new city and state rules.
Takeaways are a practical option since the risk of getting the virus from a pickup/ takeaway window is smaller than being exposed from a myriad of potential sources when dining in. This option requires less staff and reduced operational costs since the dining area will not be in use.
According to the US Food & Drug Administration, although there is no evidence at this time that shows Coronavirus transfers through food or food packaging, they will continue to evaluate the virus. The greater risk of contamination involves the human factor – the people handing out the food. Although I would like to think that many delivery services are already working on best practices.
Remind your customers to pick up any takeout or delivery packages with gloves. Once they remove the food from the external packaging and adequately dispose of it, they can also dispose of the gloves. Then wash or sanitise hands before eating.
Check out this live list of Perth restaurants who are now offering exclusive takeaways due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus).
Offer online orders and delivery
Another option is to offer phone in or online orders with no-contact delivery. Customers can relay their preferred location of delivery and do cashless transactions. If ordering online, make sure that they have this option on your website before they check out. Customers can choose to have their order delivered at their door, porch or a designated place without any contact with the delivery person.
The food delivery services are expected to be more in demand due to city or nationwide lockdowns, self-quarantine and people working from home. Many restaurants make use of delivery companies to facilitate delivery. Do your research if getting these services will help your business in the long run or if their service will slash your profit margin to almost nothing since these services charge restaurants on each delivery sale (typically, 25% to 35%). Although some companies like Uber Eats (US), waive delivery fees for customers, restaurants will still have to pay the per-sale commission. Another situation is that delivery companies may waive sign-on fees but good only for 30 days.
If you choose to do the delivery service, do protect your delivery person. They are more exposed to various people which make their chances of contracting the virus higher than the average. You are not sure if orders are to be delivered to persons/ families who tested positive for an infection and are quarantined in their homes. Provide hand sanitizer and gloves if able. In some places, people have begun to hoard these items that supplies are now getting critical. If unable to source these items directly from suppliers, at least make sure that your staff is trained on how to protect themselves through safe handling and delivery of the order.
Make sure that your packaging is also tamper proof. Make them durable to prevent any tears and damage.
As many restaurants will ramp up this service to stay afloat, creativity will still have a role in making your service stand out. Take the Bistrotheque restaurant in London who offered a drag artist to deliver food on a bike.
Offer Meal Kits
One way to reinvent your business is to create an option for people to recreate your recipes at home. Meal kits may solve quality issues that result from the transport of cooked food from your kitchens to the customer. Your restaurant provides the pre-packed ingredients and your sauces for them to make the meals themselves. Your regular customers will see your brand in a new light.
Meal Kit delivery services have been around for some time. Check out this list of meal kit delivery services here in Australia for inspiration and ideas.
Offer gift cards / meal vouchers for future redemption
Most restaurants sell gift cards/ gift certificates and meal vouchers that people can buy now and redeem later – months or even years later. Get creative in enticing your customers. As surprise dinner dates for a loved one…etc. Though you have to be confident that you will be able to still operate your restaurants after this crisis in order to fulfill your promo.
Points to consider:
- Most restaurants are already practising diligent sanitation measures in their kitchens like washing hands every 30 mins or disposing of gloves in between tasks. But this viral scare amps the need to go beyond merely sanitising and focus on disinfecting kitchen tools and preparation surfaces. Refresh your staff’s training on health and sanitisation to make them confident in food handling with the Coronavirus in mind.
- Be prepared for absences or staff taking leave. We are living in strange times, and it is not surprising that your staff will prioritise their health and safety. To prevent putting a halt in your operation, connect with kitchen staffing agencies to assist you in your staffing problem. AnytimeChefs specialises in relief chefs, and we can provide professional chefs and kitchen staff for your urgent needs. We also support you in long term staffing, removing the guesswork in hiring the right kitchen staff and assembling the right kitchen team from your business.
- People tend to order food from restaurants that they trust. Hopefully, you have already gained the trust of your customers when it comes to food quality, cleanliness and consistency even before our current situation has happened.
Covid-19 (Coronavirus) is making us live in unprecedented and uncertain times. In addition to health concerns, you also worry about keeping your businesses afloat in these given situations. With the restrictions in place, you wonder how you can still earn for your personal needs and take care of your staff whose source of income will be significantly affected. Be flexible and creative within the safety measures mandated by our government. Once this crisis is over, you can then evaluate the changes in your system if they are still applicable or not. One thing is for sure; this pandemic has made business owners introspective, rediscover their strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re concerned about going out or suspect you may have contracted Covid-19, please consult the Western Australian state health department.
We will overcome this.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,