For the last month, I have made it a point to connect with as many of our clients, industry colleagues, and friends as possible in an attempt to understand what everyone is thinking and planning for. Most of our clients are working on a range of contingency plans for how they will reopen in the New Normal, and others are taking a “wait and see” attitude as there are still so many unknowns.
It should be no surprise that many operators have tremendous anxiety, are nervous about their finances, and are fearful about their ability to make their current business model work in this new business environment. With limited takeout and delivery sales, many operators had no choice but to furlough many of their key hourly people, and there is no guarantee that their staff will be returning. Moreover, there is a serious concern that operators will be forced to thin down management teams and learn to work with less in order to survive.
The operators that I am talking to are exploring all of their options, which include making tough decisions about their brand, and are asking themselves if it is still relevant. Also, they are reevaluating their menu selections, innovation strategy, portioning, packaging, and pricing to remain competitive. Moreover, smart operators are beginning to put new food safety procedures in place to address consumer fears and build confidence.
For the last two decades, we would talk about the dining experience and Eatertainment. We would look to add value at the table via simple techniques with tableside finishes and presentations to create a “show” in the dining room. Now I believe the new term will be cleaner-tainment. Guests will want to see how serious you are about sanitizing the tables, chairs, and all points of consumer contact. Servers and bartenders will be wearing gloves,greeters will be sanitizing all door handles, and don’t be surprised to see hourly staff wearing face masks and providing disposable menus. Cleaner-tainment will play a big role in how people talk about restaurants via social media. Guests that patronize your restaurants will expect and demand that you take this seriously as this can directly impact their health and safety.
We realize there is tremendous uncertainty throughout the industry, and everyone is suffering and dealing with issues that we were not prepared for. In this New Normal, we would like to extend our hand and try to provide some guidance on how to think about reopening your restaurants and what you can do now to better prepare yourself, so you are not caught struggling to try to figure this out on the fly.
With so many operators laying off critical people in roles like Concept Refinement, Menu Innovation, Operations, Marketing, Catering/Off-Premise Sales, Technology, HR, Finance, and Training, we want you to know the Synergy Team can come to the rescue, supporting you in a fractional role. Moreover, we have come up with some very creative ways to make our services affordable where we have skin in the game, and a portion of our compensation is tied to your improved financial performance.
Now is the time to pivot so that you remain relevant and competitive. Use this downtime wisely to reevaluate your business and focus on the things that matter to your guests. If you fail to use this downtime to reevaluate your business you will get outmaneuvered.
Synergy Restaurant Consultants has survived four recessions, and they were all painful, often scary, and with real financial hardships felt by all. I am confident as an industry that most operators are hardworking, resourceful and scrappy, meaning we will persevere and get through this uncertain time. We genuinely want to help you survive this turbulent time, so I would encourage you to reach out, and see how we can help you thrive.