August 06, 2020 | Marlin Staff Writer

The restaurant industry faced a number of unique challenges due to COVID-19. Many restaurant owners and managers found themselves coming up with agile, creative solutions to overcome challenges in delivery, supply issues, staffing — not to mention financial quagmires.

While it’s unlikely restaurants will be able to make back the losses they experienced in the first half of 2020 due to COVID-19 (according to St. Louis Federal Reserve analysis, consumers simply won’t be able to dine out at a high enough rate to make up the difference), that doesn’t mean restaurant owners can’t find their feet again in the second half of 2020. It’s possible to make considerable strides toward steady future growth. With the right action steps, technology investments, and a dedication to transparency, you’ll put your restaurant on the right path toward recovery.

How to Move Toward Profitability After COVID-19

You might not feel like you have much control over the market or your customers, but there is a lot you can control. When it comes down to it, you can make it as easy as possible for your customers to choose to support your restaurant. Here are a few tips to ensure your restaurant is prepared to grow in the coming months:

1. Continue to offer seamless ordering and delivery.

The world has a new normal, and your customers’ fears might never fully go away. Offer them peace of mind with continued call-ahead, contactless ordering, and delivery options. People will be wondering about your hours, delivery, menu changes, price changes, and, of course, safety procedures. Make sure your website, social media, and delivery partners provide plenty of information and a seamless experience.

In reality, your restaurant is competing against the public’s ongoing worries and other restaurants in similarly desperate situations. Consider the perspective of a customer: They might be Googling local restaurants that offer delivery in their area, and they could be considering several burger joints. Is your Google My Business profile up-to-date with your delivery and menu options? Does the customer have to click through several photo albums on your Facebook page just to see your latest offerings? Chances are, you’ll lose that customer to a competitor within just a few short clicks. Think about what you can do to remove friction for customers. This might require additional investments in technology and marketing tools.

2. Follow local and federal guidelines.

It’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure you and your staff follow the appropriate safety procedures. Healthy and safety concerns aside, you risk violations, fines, and loss of consumer trust if you don’t. Make sure each shift manager is ServSafe Food Manager certified. In fact, consider training all staff in ServSafe procedures.

3. Be transparent about preventive measures.

The public wants to support local restaurants, but they also want to make safe choices for their families. Make their decisions easier by being as transparent as possible about the preventive safety measures you and your staff are taking. Use compelling digital content to prove you can be trusted with your customers’ safety, and include easy-to-find updates on your website, social media, and Google My Business profiles.

4. Communicate the human element.

The desire for human connection might be your strongest marketing ally right now. Consumers want to support locally owned businesses through this difficult period; we all need to celebrate victories together, so connect with your customers. Share your stories of triumph, struggle, and perseverance. Stand up to support other local businesses if you can. If your message is authentic, your community is sure to respond positively.

The restaurant industry has withstood unprecedented challenges. With careful planning and a dedication to transparency, it’s possible to start the path to new growth. If you need help along your journey, reach out to a Marlin representative today.