The year 2020 is almost over and many businesses are left hanging in the balance. Following the challenges and uncertainties this year has brought upon the restaurant industry, business owners can’t help but wonder: What’s next? Is this the end or a new beginning for my restaurant? It’s difficult not to fixate on what the future holds, but focusing on actionable tasks can keep your business alive during COVID-19 no matter what.

By no means should you ever stop thinking about the future when it comes to your business. Long-term strategic planning is a key element in the success of a restaurant. However, relying on external conditions to predetermine your business’s future is a waste of time and resources—and shifting your focus can yield amazing results.

How can you use time and resources successfully to help keep your business alive during COVID-19?

It’s important to know that you’re not alone as a business owner navigating these difficult circumstances. For example, there is a possibility that you, just like many other restaurant owners, had to lay off employees. You might have been closed for dine-in, too, and that likely lost you some much needed customers in the process. Although it doesn’t make your situation easier, you may find some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Many others are dealing with the same challenges, and that they are likely also trying to find ways to keep their businesses alive.

Piggy bank

Our advice? Try to utilize your current resources to your advantagewe’re happy to help you navigate this precarious terrain. Effective time and resource management is a proactive approach to keeping your business alive. Whether your operations have slowed down or put on hold for the foreseeable future, ask yourself the following questions: What can I do with the free time that comes from having no customers/orders? What can my staff do during this time? 

Use this list of helpful tips to leverage time, maximize resources, keep your business alive, and ultimately, come back stronger.

1. Digitize your business

Digitization is now regarded as an essential move for most businesses. Digital solutions help businesses thrive by improving operational processes, eliminating errors and inefficiencies, and reducing operating costs. 

Despite this, many restaurant owners are reluctant to incorporate technology into their operations. The move to digital may seem intimidating, but finding the right digital applications offers major advantages. For instance, our employee scheduling software helps reduce overtime costs and saves you 5-10 hours each week with automated timesheets that are integrated into a payroll system. 

Managing a restaurant is by no means an easy job. Finding the time to fully weigh the pros and cons of different software solutions can be a challenge. Slow periods are a great time to explore how you can digitize your operations. Try free demos or free trials during this time. With your operations being less hectic, you can seamlessly incorporate technology into your business.

2. Consider a rebrand 

Should I stick with my current brand or revamp it? This is a decision many business owners are contemplating right now. Rebranding can signal to your customers that you are a flexible, relevant, and modern company. That’s always good! On the other hand, customers may believe in the power of tradition, loyalty, and nostalgia—which can be solidified through maintaining a signature brand. 

When weighing the options, we suggest involving your team in the discussion! Feeling unified as a company will ease the decision-making process. If you’re an established business, a partial rebrand may be the answer to staying true to your existing customers while modernizing your aesthetic. Consider updating your logo, changing your slogan, or even modifying your brand name for a fresh perspective.

Neon brand sign

If the foundation of your business is in flux, however, and the core mission and values need to change, a total rebrand might be the best choice. In this case, you’ll want to reestablish your brand’s customer base by conducting research, and focus on redefining the vision and goals of your business. After this comes the fun part, like picking out your brand’s new colour palette and typefaces!

3. Fill slow periods with team learning activities

While the phrase “humans are the most valuable business resource” may be overused in the field of HR, there is no denying the truth behind the statement. Your employees are equally as important as your customers, if not more. They are the ones that impact your customers’ experience on a daily basis, and bring your dream of running a business to fruition. Without them, your company wouldn’t be able to provide the service you once aspired to bring to the world! From wait staff to cooks, every staff member is equally as important and influential in running your business successfully. 

Despite an increase in layoffs due to COVID-19, the majority of restaurant owners have kept on some of their team to help with deliveries, take out orders, and other daily tasks. That said, we know some managers struggle with dead periods during the day. What should your staff be doing when no orders are being placed? You can reallot this period to running small training sessions or educational activities related to your industry. This ensures your most valuable business resource improves along with you. 

Writing learning materials

Training sessions are especially helpful for staff who have the potential to get promoted to a more senior role, such as a head wait or manager. This will save you time when things ramp up and you get busy again. It’s also a great opportunity to learn more about your team, build trust, and make better decisions regarding task management and resource planning.

4. Brainstorm a new strategic plan

Successful business owners spend time examining how different events affect their industry. They then use this information to create actionable goals and achieve them with a strategic plan. This can be you!

Engage your team and brainstorm ideas to revise your mission, vision, and value statements. This will inform how you approach accomplishing your strategic goals, tackling operating plans, and building budgeting forecasts. Entering a new year with a fresh mindset and a more relevant summary of your business will help you and your team prioritize what you’re aiming to accomplish. 

Team brainstorming a strategic plan

5. Produce quality content to increase engagement 

Now is a great time to use the power of the internet to promote your brand. Market yourself by producing engaging and helpful content. Cooking videos, short recipe how-to’s, or behind-the-scenes clips from your kitchen are a few safe and effective ways to get impressions on social media and increase customer engagement without face-to-face interactions.

Some business owners may find it takes extra effort to identify and execute their brand’s creative voice. If you don’t have the help of a marketing team and are finding this difficult, use this time to experiment and eventually unleash your inner blogger, YouTuber, or Instagram influencer. Don’t be too hard on yourself! Although producing lengthy in-depth content may lead to positive impressions, establishing a genuine relationship with your readers/viewers through short tidbits can be equally as effective—and will keep your audience excited for more to come.

In order to optimally allocate time and resources, hone in on your time management skills and employ a bit of creativity. With the right mindset, the tips in this article can help you keep your business alive—and even thrive—during COVID-19. Consider these tips when brainstorming how to level-up your business. 

We hope you enjoyed part three of the Survival of the Fittest Restaurants series. If you’re interested in reading more, part two is a great resource on reducing operating costs during COVID-19. Check out part one to learn helpful customer engagement hacks and how to increase sales.

How have you kept your business afloat during these challenging times? We’d love to hear your strategies in the comments below. 

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