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  • Writer's pictureanemonehb

Restaurant strategies to survive the Corona shut-down

After the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, restaurants were mandated to limit their operations to delivery and take-out. If an employee tested positive for COVID-19, the restaurant or store had to be shut down, the food discarded, colleagues from the same shift had to self-quarantine and the store deep cleaned.

But restaurants with no infected employees were equally affected in various ways; shorter opening hours, layoffs, decreasing revenues and the uncertainty about the duration of this pandemic created a sense of panic among hourly employees and small business owners.

News about the shut-down of the restaurant industry triggered a wave of panic shopping in supermarkets, which was largely due to a lack of clear communication about whether supermarkets would stay open throughout the pandemic.

Americans eat an average of 6 meals per week at the restaurant or ordered food for delivery. This was food, they didn’t have to get from the supermarket.

Because of the fear that supermarkets and restaurants could soon be completely closed, everyone who usually eats out 6 times a week, went to buy much more groceries at the supermarket than they usually would. This left supermarket shelves empty and showed the need for restaurants to remain open, even if only for take-away and delivery.

Like that, restaurants are able to keep their staff employed and take some of that added pressure off the supermarkets.

Creative Initiatives

The Great American Take-Out Day:

Initiated by a coalition of restaurants including Panera Bread, The Habit Burger Grill and California Pizza Kitchen, The Great American Take-Out Day is a social media initiative to support the restaurant industry during these trying times. The clever title encourages a feeling of unity and patriotism that inspires consumers to keep spending money in order to lighten the blow to the economy.

The promotion is simple: Order take-out or delivery from a restaurant, post about it on social media with the hash-tag "TheGreatAmericanTakeout" and encourage your friends to do the same!

Wine and cocktails to go:

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) announced it would temporarily relax regulations and allow restaurants to sell wine, beer and cocktails to go, with delivery orders and at the drive thru window (because of the open container law, open beverages still have to be transported in the trunk).

Uber Eats:

To support independent restaurants during the pandemic, Uber Eats was the first delivery platform that announced free delivery from all independent restaurants, as long as they were mandated to shut down dine-in operations.

Help from the community:

Local neighborhood restaurants reach out to their community and ask them for help to keep their business afloat until they are allowed to resume normal service. Regulars order retail items such as coffee beans or merchandise online, or buy gift cards that can redeemed in the future. Sight Glass, a San Francisco coffee roastery has seen a significant increase of packaged coffee sales since they have reached out to their locals, which helps the small business stay afloat.

The Wine & Cheese Hotline:

All Together Now in Chicago created a wine & cheese hotline for their customers where they provide personalized recommendations and put together a customized package for delivery.

Because of the COVID-19 shut down, they adapted their menu, offering a Family Meal for take-out that feeds the whole family and can be pre-ordered. This helps kitchen employees stay employed while the wine & cheese hotline provide sales of high margin items.

Become a market:

Because their supply chain was not interrupted, many independent restaurants started selling their raw goods to customers, and as such acted as little markets within neighborhoods. Even though most products were sold at around a 25% markup compared to the supermarket, customers appreciate the convenience of shopping in their community, not having to wait in line at the supermarket and being able to pick up a pre-made meal at the same time.

City and County leaderships however disagree on whether they want to keep allowing restaurants to act as local markets because of hygiene reasons.

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