While the pandemic continues to exact a devastating toll on our industry, there remains a glimmer of hope inspired by the creativity and flexibility of operators and owners. Foodservice offerings are changing daily as restaurants, caterers, bars, and others create products and packages that would never have been considered practical a mere six months ago.
As the unwelcome news of closures and layoffs creates headlines, the stories of owners discovering new revenue streams barely get attention. From meal boxes and cocktail kits to online cooking classes and grab-and-go packaged meals, operators are embracing the challenge to create opportunity out of chaos. Ideas that once seemed outlandish are now normal. Some of these ideas will succeed. Others may not. Ours is a business of incremental gains and small successes. Measure risk carefully and invest cash sparingly.
More than ever now is a time to move quickly as opportunities arise. Ever-changing phases, LCB regulations, and municipal ordinances supply both challenges and opportunities that must be embraced rapidly. Cocktails to go and street-side dining happened quickly. Dining rooms were adjusted in a matter of days. The next steps of evolution are hard to predict but rest assured that success will come to those who move swiftly.
Take a moment to challenge the assumptions that have become entrenched in your business. Consider everything from menu selections and hours of operations to marketing and promotional efforts. Even post-Covid changes that you made a few months ago should be revisited and confirmed. Involve your crew and any other trusted advisors. You are not alone.
The connection with the customer remains critical. Your patrons want you to be successful. Find good news to share. A recipe, a story about a team member, or a picture from the past. Reinforce the sense of community that makes your place special. Realize that the food, drink, and service that you provide (in whatever form that takes) provides a small joy to a customer’s day. A mask-covered smile means a lot to a parent struggling to homeschool their young children.
The unique experience of sharing a meal or a drink with friends and family becomes even more important during challenging times. The noise of a busy restaurant or bar is uplifting. Sharing a meal to celebrate means sharing joy and laughter, creating indelible memories. The food service business may be changing, but aggressive operators will adapt and succeed.
Ken Batali, President of Batali Associates, has spent more than 25 years in the restaurant industry. During his career, Ken has contributed to the success of numerous organizations. As the Senior Operations Executive at Restaurants Unlimited, he led a diverse group of high-end, full-service restaurants to peak performance levels of service and profitability. At Taco Del Mar, a quick-serve franchise organization, Ken created the training programs and quality-control systems. In addition, he has consulted with a broad range of foodservice businesses, including coffee shops, casinos, private clubs, and independent restaurants.
Ken uses his experience to guide his clients toward improved sales and service. His key areas of expertise include:
- Service: Increasing the top line through outstanding execution.
- Management Training: Making the leap from crewmember to manager; developing multi-units, growing a number of businesses at the same time.
- Sales: Implementing crewmember education on service techniques and menu organization for sales and profits.
- Cost Controls: Getting the most for clients’ labor dollar; effectively managing the product from the back door to the guest’s plate.