The pandemic saw the restaurant industry face challenges like never before, with most being forced to close for a substantial period and, when allowed to re-open once more, having to operate under new restrictions, ensuring social distancing was being maintained for example.
The crisis forced many restaurants and bars out of business; those that survived often did so by deploying innovative and inventive new systems and ideas to stay afloat.
For the restaurants that made it through the pandemic, things will likely never be the same again. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The out-of-the-box thinking that the restrictions of Covid-19 necessitated delivered – and continue to deliver – many benefits to the businesses that made the most of them.
We take a look below at just how the restaurant industry adapted to the pandemic and why these changes are likely to be here to stay.
Cash flow became, for many businesses, critical during the pandemic, especially throughout the periods of lockdown when the ability to generate revenue was, it seemed, utterly stymied. To this end, many businesses needed to cut back their expenses to the bone in order to make it through.
The result of this was, often, a turning to technology to automate processes to save money and staff time. Point of sale (POS) systems were increasingly incorporated into standard business practices to this end.
For example, the best POS for bars can automate much of the booking, food ordering, and inventory management systems. Many POS systems also incorporate Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, which have allowed restaurants to optimize their marketing and provide groups of customers, for example, with targeted special offers.
Restaurants that, pre-Covid, may never have considered offering a take-out or delivery menu understood that to survive, this was the most powerful change they could make – delivering food meant that not only was revenue generated but that the business had a better chance of staying in the public consciousness.
And it wasn’t just delivery menus that began to proliferate; some of the more innovative restaurants created at-home gourmet meal kits: these chef-prepared parcels of ingredients were pre-assembled, marinated, etc., by the restaurant’s chefs, and just needed cooking at home. This allowed for fans of a particular establishment to still feel as if they were experiencing a meal out from their own dining rooms – or sofas.
For eateries that were already offering delivery, menus widened, helping to expand their reach and keep them afloat through the pandemic. Vegan dishes, gluten-free choices, and low-fat or low carb options began appearing on menus, alongside a wider choice of extras, such as drinks, sides, and additional luxury toppings.
Linked to this is the way that many restaurants realized that, to stay in the game, they’d need to up their game to get through Covid 19. This led to owners thinking more about providing their guests with a unique experience, a beautiful aesthetic in terms of dining space, or a menu that reflected, for example, seasonality and ethical practices.
The requirement to meet the needs of the customers became more important than ever before in order to keep existing customers and find new ones to protect the livelihood of the business.
This was reflected in both the leveling of guest experience and also in systems and processes, such as ensuring that customers had multiple ways to place an order and pay and had clear access to information about the ingredients used in dishes and their provenance.
Once restaurants could reopen, owners faced the new challenge of being limited in terms of their former capacity. Social distancing meant that, for many, they could only seat half of the number of guests as previously to stay on the right side of the restrictions.
Tying in with the advice about ensuring a supply of fresh air led many restaurant owners to extend or open new outdoor spaces. As the pandemic receded and things got back to normal, these lovely new dining areas have largely remained in place and serve as an extra attraction, drawing in customers on warm days to eat al fresco.
For businesses that didn’t have access to an outdoor space to place tables and chairs, some blue-sky thinking was required. To this end, the pandemic saw a rise in restaurants transforming their roof spaces to create tempting city-view terraces or turning a quiet inner courtyard into a tiny oasis for diners to enjoy.
Pizza on Demand
And finally, innovating new ways to get products to hungry customers was one of the silver linings of the pandemic, with some restaurants going above and beyond to come up with the means to continue to feed their fan bases.
The award for this goes to a pizza restaurant in the US that created a vending machine that stocked two choices of its chef-prepared pizzas. The machine could hold about fifteen of each pizza and was replenished daily. It was a huge hit, regularly selling out of pizza, and helped to keep the cash coming into the business that allowed it to survive the pandemic.
The future of the restaurant industry is one more looking bright. With the dining-out public keen to get back to patronizing their favorite restaurants in person, and regularly availing themselves of establishments’ new home-delivery options, too, those eateries that survived the pandemic are well positioned to see revenue grow over the coming years.
Restaurant industry article and permission to publish here provided by Alina Smith. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on June 17, 2022.
Alina Smith, the link provider and content developer, can be reached at [email protected].