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Take action today: planning ahead for the foodservice industry's "new normal"

Eventually, restaurants that have closed down or limited themselves to delivery and pickup orders will be reopening their dining rooms to the public. Those that are experiencing a slow period will also see business start to ramp up, and will need to plan accordingly. Until then, restaurant owners need to start thinking about how they will adjust their processes for the “new normal”.

To help guide your efforts, we’re sharing some advice from an expert in the field: Chris Beall is a certified chef, seasoned purchaser, and experienced supply chain manager with an extensive background in foodservice. Here are his tips for preparing your business for the changes ahead.

Make the most of your slow days

In a society that’s constantly rushing around, having too much time on your hands is a rare problem. Right now, we have more hours in the day than we have work to do, creating an opportunity to address less urgent tasks.

  • How many of these things have you been meaning to do for a while?
  • Break down all the equipment and clean everything from the inside out
  • Re-organize the walk-in cooler, label all the ingredients, and set it up with proper HACCP product placement
  • Clean and sanitize all storage areas
  • Take inventory of cookware, equipment, plates, glassware, etc. and sell anything you don’t need
  • Overhaul your point of sale system and remove old buttons and codes to speed up the process

Optimize your menu and keep it lean

Many restaurants have reduced the size of their menus to lower inventory, minimize prep lists, and streamline their operations. Now that you’ve trimmed down your offering, that doesn’t mean you will need to reintroduce complicated, expensive, or less popular items right away. Give yourself time to recover from the dip in demand and get back to your regular sales volume.

If you can, offer between 5 and 15 dishes max, and keep things simple so you can be as efficient as possible. Smaller menus are easier to sustain financially, and will help restaurants ease into their new normal. They also make it easier to keep ingredients fresh and reduce waste.

We suggest prioritizing menu items that:

  • Require minimal prep
  • Are inexpensive and/or have strong contribution margins
  • Can easily be executed by a single cook
  • Sell well and are customer favourites
  • Travel well in a take-out bag (pizza, burgers, etc.)
  • Do not require unique or exotic ingredients, which are more likely to go to waste due to lower sales volumes

Note about liquor, beer, and wine: Some provinces are allowing packaged alcoholic beverages to be sold if they are accompanying a meal. If you already have a permit, use this opportunity as an additional revenue stream.

Fine-tune your operations

Once dining rooms are able to reopen, expect that customers will be more cautious, rules will be stricter, and your sales approach may need to be updated. Set yourself up for success by following these suggestions:

  • Bring staff in 2-3 days before to reset and sanitize the restaurant
  • Give your staff a refresher: highlight what makes your brand unique and special, get them excited about being back on the job and focus on salesmanship
  • Consider setting up your dining room with a dedicated area for take-out: an increased focus on off-premises consumption may be a part of the new normal
  • You may want to arrange tables to be mindful of physical distancing, since government regulations are likely to mandate distancing inside of restaurants
  • Keep in touch with the local health authority: they may have specific directives for you to follow, and will likely want to inspect the facilities before you reopen
  • Make sure all your services fit your needs, and see if you can optimize any of them. Some services to look at are: knife sharpening, window washing, landscaping, TV sports and music packages, etc.
  • Plan a soft opening with family and friends to get a “test run” under your belt before you start serving the general public, so you can work out any last-minute snags.
Bounce back with confidence

It’s totally possible to adjust and streamline your internal processes while staying true to your brand! You don't need to completely change your identity or business model to succeed –stick to the simplest, most optimized version of your core identity so customers can enjoy what they know and love, and you can sustain your business for months and years to come.

For more helpful information regarding the current situation, you can visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre. If you want expert tips just like these sent to your inbox every month, subscribe to our newsletter, À la Carte!

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