It’s no surprise that restaurants are fighting an uphill battle right now in the midst of COVID-19. And while there are new supports in place for them, such as government loans and wage subsidies, many operations need more.
In addition to the cash flow challenges that restaurants now face, there are many other factors fighting against the survival of restaurants as they struggle to keep business moving during the lockdown.
Massive declines in business, third-party delivery fees, and staffing complications are just some of the challenges that restaurants are currently battling.
Nevertheless, a history of resilience is allowing the foodservice industry to survive this pandemic, by devising innovative offerings and services. While COVID-19 will see many restaurants, unfortunately, close their doors permanently, it will also see incredible adaptability and imagination from this industry.
Working within delivery and takeout restrictions
At the initial closure of restaurants at the beginning of the outbreak, the foodservice industry sprung into action, converting their dine-in restaurants to full takeout and delivery operations.
However, this is only a minor fix for lost revenues, and in many cases, restaurants need to account for third-party delivery fees. With steep declines in profits, these can be difficult for businesses to cover.
Certain governments have introduced fee caps, and some restaurants have decided to opt-out of third-party delivery services altogether. Instead, they are offering pick-up and take-out only, or are taking delivery in-house and getting staff members to transport orders.
Pidgin Restaurant in Vancouver is part of a group of restaurants on FROM TO, a new delivery service launching on May 19th which has opted out of higher service fees.
Labour and staffing issues
Almost all restaurants have had to lay off a significant number of employees due to initial closures and the extraordinary decline in sales due to the shutdown. Restaurateurs now have to figure out how to function with a bare-bones staff, while also satisfying their guests’ needs.
Something that businesses are doing to help deal with this challenge is finding creative ways to streamline their menus and improve the efficiency of execution. This is an effective strategy for a couple of reasons; it allows staff to maintain efficiency with fewer items to prepare as well as easier execution during service periods – all while also simplifying inventory management and ordering procedures.
Retaining dwindling business
A memorable aspect of this time will surely be the creativity and innovation restaurants exhibited in order to retain business. The ease with which restaurants pivoted to meet customers’ needs has been incredible. There are many examples of restaurants offering standardized produce or menu item boxes and packing them in bulk. Many of our clients have adopted this initiative which is also a great way to combat short term food waste challenges, as restauranteurs can order food based on the contents of their boxes and demand.
Ascari in Toronto has gone beyond the traditional produce box, including homemade pasta, tomato sauce, and recipes. Vancouver eatery, Kokomo, has launched a similar initiative, offering grocery boxes with their restaurant staples, like broth, noodles, and hummus. Impact Kitchen has an initiative in support of its employees: all proceeds from their grocery boxes are going towards their ‘Employee Relief Fund’, with plans to develop a larger e-commerce platform going forward.
Some of our clients have also pivoted to offering DIY kits or frozen menu items for customers to stock up on and make at home. General Assembly Pizza has begun offering frozen versions of their popular pizzas, as well as DIY pizza kits – all made with 100% naturally leavened dough – that customers can assemble at home, along with beer and wine delivery offerings from the restaurant.
Mary Be Kitchen has also sprung into action to keep their business running and offering customers their favourite items. Their “Be Box” is packed full of premade meals from their menu, as well as their cookie dough and pancake mix to be cooked at home. Knowing the struggle of arranging a meaningful Mother’s Day this year, the restaurant arranged a Mother’s Day brunch box, complete with a french toast kit, fruit, bacon, flowers, and a card.
If there was any doubt before, the hospitality industry has proved its resilience through the trials of COVID-19. Though many challenges have been thrown their way, we have seen the creativity of our clients, and other businesses, help them through this time. And while the future of foodservice is uncertain, one thing is for sure: we will look back on this time as one of supreme innovation and strength from our restaurants.