Restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic. From total closures that stopped all revenue in its tracks to staffing issues and everything in between, operating a restaurant today is difficult. This, of course, is not indicative of how long a restaurant has been operating; long-lived favorites have just as many problems as brand new businesses.
“Will the restaurant business ever be the same?” you ask. Well, the short answer is no. Many of the changes that have happened are here to stay.
“Will restaurants ever recover?” We think they definitely will, but certain issues need to be addressed in order for it to happen.
Finding and keeping staff is hard. People are hesitant to work in the hospitality industry for various reasons. Some are concerned for health reasons. Others are worried about low-paying jobs. And what’s more, almost all restaurants are looking for help, so it’s an uphill battle, trying to lure people in amid steep competition.
Solution: Try to offer competitive salaries and make your restaurant a pleasant place to work. Employee culture goes a long way toward improving employee morale and attitude plus developing loyalty that might make people want to stay. In the end, sometimes companies that have larger budgets will still win out, but do your best and be understanding. We also recommend outsourcing or automating things that don’t have to be done by a current staff member to ease the burdens they’re already facing.
Problem: Supply Chain Issues
Everyone is having trouble getting supplies these days, but it’s very obvious in the foodservice industry. Quality, quantity, and availability are all limited, and there isn’t a lot owners can do about it.
Solution: Try to source local food. In addition to the fact that it’s more reliable, it’s also a good way to improve the entire local economy. Of course, often the supply chain is limited even locally, and if that’s the case for you, it might be time to consider changing up the menu a bit to reflect what’s available. If you can’t get your hands on grains and beef, you may want to try dishes based on what you can get – vegetables, fruits, and a different type of meat. Work with what you have, even if it’s only temporary.
Eating out has decreased greatly since the onset of the pandemic. Even people who, for whatever reason, can’t make their own food don’t eat out as often. They do often order food and have it delivered or pick it up. Restaurants that don’t already deliver have scrambled to find a solution, often from third-party delivery services. These can be very costly to a restaurant, as margins are usually already quite low long before a chunk of each order is being sent off to a delivery company.
Solution: There aren’t many ways around this issue at the moment, unfortunately. You can raise prices to offset the delivery costs, try to provide a delivery service in-house, or stop offering delivery altogether and hope patrons will understand.
Problem: Getting Out of Survival Mode
Demand for eating out has statistically decreased over the last 18 months. During closures from the pandemic and beyond, many people stopped eating out. Restaurant owners slimmed up, let some employees go, and did everything they could to trim costs.
As long as the pandemic, its variants, and general day-to-day disruptions exist – and there is reason to assume they always will, going forward – the “new normal” will present these kinds of issues. However, staying in survival mode is not a recipe for success.
Solution: Once your restaurant is fully back open and things are running again, switch to a mindset that is a combination of pre-pandemic and “new normal.” This means you need to remember that while the entire landscape of eating out has shifted, you still need to focus on what you did before, too. Create a new dish, have live entertainment, figure out how to spread to new locations … whatever you did before, do it again, to a lesser extent, while respecting social distancing and other safety measures. It’s important to give customers a sense of normalcy, which will encourage them to make normal a priority for themselves, too.
There are, of course, other issues that creep up across the nation, many of which are specific to a food, location, or restaurant type. We’ve just addressed the most common here. It’s an outlook none of us have ever faced before, so the best advice we have is to do your best, learn from mistakes, and keep moving forward!