The last few months have been difficult for everyone. And, as lockdown comes to an end and the government’s furlough scheme is phased out, the next few months promise to be just as difficult for food businesses.
The hospitality industry, which thrives on social mingling, seems set to struggle in a time of social distancing.
But, there is a way for us to pull together and survive the new normal – to reopen safely, and get back on our feet.
We’ll start with safety:
With coronavirus waiting in the wings to take advantage of any mistakes, following the government’s guidance on personal hygiene during the pandemic is more important than ever.
Take care of yourself, your employees and your customers by making it easy to:
- Wash hands frequently
Your staff should be washing their hands before and after handling food, cutlery, dishes, glasses, money and any surfaces which both they and customers are likely to come into contact with. Meanwhile, placing hand sanitizers at your doors for customers is certainly a good idea.
- Keep distanced
Outside your door, mark out 2 metre spaces for any queues which may form outside of your restaurant. Inside, try your best to space out your tables and mark this distance out on the floor.
- Slow down
Hospitality work can be fast paced. But with that fast pace comes a greater chance of making mistakes. Now more than ever, personal hygiene mistakes cannot be made. So, make it easier for your staff to take a little more time to be a little more careful as they work – you might want to think about restricting the number of orders which your kitchen can take at any one time.
- Go home (if unwell)
Be cautious: any symptoms should be cause for concern. As a minimum, ensure any coughs and sneezes are caught in elbows, rather than hands, and that any contaminated plates of food are discarded. Ideally, make it easy for your staff to report any symptoms and for you to send them home if they do.
Taking these simple steps, and reading the government’s guidance in full for your local area, may just save lives.
Now that you’re set up safely, let’s think about getting customers back through the doors.
How To Get Your Customers Back
Takeaway orders have been a lifeline for many since the very beginning of lockdown. Both for customers unwilling to put up with another night of home-cooking and for those lucky food businesses which were able to adapt to the sudden change in circumstances which meant sit-down meals became impossible overnight.
For many, adapting might have meant building on pre-existing food delivery capabilities or innovating in an entirely new direction – as a number of pubs did, to provide plastic-cupped pints in the park.
Takeaway orders have kept many out of the red – and, with a month or two of sunny weather to go, takeaway meals will continue to promise profits to those who can take advantage of the demand.
But not all restaurants are so lucky – as lockdown eases, many will rely on their customers…
Understandably, it will be difficult to persuade some people to venture into your restaurant.
A BBC survey has found that most Britons (80% of those asked) are uncomfortable about the idea of returning to sit-down dining.
The reasoning is clear: while we know very little about the coronavirus, we all know that transmission of the virus is more likely indoors than it is outdoors. While outdoor dining, for those where it is possible, has come into its own with many choosing the enjoy the great outdoors rather than venture inside restaurants this isn't a viable option for all premises.
But, with the furlough scheme coming to an end, we have no choice but to prove that indoor spaces can be made safe.
First off, food businesses will need to ensure that they are visibly following those safety guidelines outlined above – a nice visible bottle of hand sanitizer on the way in will certainly be a good omen for your would-be diners. Tables should be socially distanced and, although this will reduce the number of covers you can serve, it will keep guests safe.
Next, it will be essential to maintain a balance between the chatty lively atmosphere which makes eating out so tempting and the safely spaced out restaurant experience which you’ll need to provide if you want to keep the worries from your diner’s minds. Remember that balancing act when you set limits on the number of people you can let in.
When they do come in, encourage your customers to share their contact details with you – according to the government’s guidelines– to help your business support the NHS Track and Trace system.
If you find yourself struggling to fill your tables, be sure to:
Take Advantage of the Government’s Schemes
This month, the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme aims to incentivise sit-down dining by paying for up to £10 of each customer’s meal at participating restaurants on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Find out if you qualify, here.
Rediscover Your Variety
After months of home-cooked-meals, and restricted takeaway menus, your customers are likely to be yearning for a taste of the variety they were used to before lockdown. While many restaurants have had to cut their menus down during the pandemic, it is more than likely that those who are able to safely recover the variety of their pre-COVID menus soonest will reap rewards.
To survive the new normal, you may need to adapt your current business model or maybe even find your niche in a fast-changing market, and fill it – quick.
We Can Help
With budgets strained and profits shrunken, we know that it’s a difficult time to think about investing in brand new catering equipment.
But those investments have never been more necessary. Now is the time to replace those appliances which, inactive for so many months, have finally given up the ghost. And now is the time to innovate, to invest in new and exciting appliances which might just help you stretch your menus and tempt your customers back to taste your latest culinary offerings.
Is now the time to lease to buy:
Commercial leasing or lease to buy agreements allow you to get your hands on your catering equipment while avoiding the upfront costs of outright purchase – then, after a few monthly payments, the equipment will be yours.
Or, to find some quality graded equipment:
When catering equipment is sent back to the manufacturer, they can’t resell it as new. Instead, the manufacturer must check the appliance over for damage and give it a grade – from A and B+ (for the best quality) to B, C and D (for the lower qualities) – before selling it on, second-hand as graded catering equipment. This all means that you could have a chance to bag a bargain.
Together, we will pull through and the hospitality industry will come back stronger than ever.