How to Protect Your Restaurants in the Age of Coronavirus

In normal times, we avoid talking about safety.

After all, why would we want to take guests’ mindset away from the positivity of their experience in our restaurants?

But now, with no basketball games? No flights to Europe? And your college kid learning online because classrooms are closed?

These are not normal times – and not being in control of the situation might make us feel completely helpless.

And that’s not ideal: In the restaurant business, we like to be in action.

It’s just in our nature.

That is how we succeed.

So how do we take action in a situation like this?

Simple: We accept that these are not normal times, and we talk with our guests about safety.

Your guests really have no idea how much time, effort, and energy you already put into their safety.

So you should tell them – through e-mail marketing, social media, PR, your Website, and your conversations and managers’ conversations at table visits and with residential and commercial neighbors in your community.

By talking about safety, your guests will have more positive experiences in your restaurants.

And for the community at large, offer to be a spokesperson for the industry when you ask your local restaurant association what they are doing to promote restaurant revenue during this time of uncertainty. 

Tell Your Guest about Their Safety

Act now to make your restaurants a sanctuary in a difficult time where people will come together and have some normalcy in their lives.

Your guests now have learned that you can’t contract the COVID-19 virus from food.

But they might forget, so remind them.

They know you comply with health inspections, but they have no idea about ServSafe, the American National Standards Institute, or the Conference for Food Protection that accredits it.

So tell them.

They don’t know about the registered Food Service Manager who must serve in each of your units.

Tell them.

They don’t know about HACCP.

Tell them.

The level of care you take with their food every day? Extend that care toward a practical defense against this virus throughout your facilities.

And tell them about that, too. 

Sick Leave, Seriously

Think about paid sick leave.

I understand the resistance: No one wants to take on a new expense that may be administered unfairly.

But your policy to stop sick people working – however you may have strengthened it during this crisis – is not enough.

As a first exploratory step, divide the annual cost of paid sick leave by your annual revenue and see what it would take to raise menu prices so you can provide sick leave.

The only person who pays for the running of your restaurant? Your guest.

No one else.

I just did a quick calculation with one of my clients’ restaurants and found that they could pay a week of sick leave for their entire staff by raising prices less than three quarters of a percentage point.

It came to .0063%.      

The government might soon help you with sick leave (or force you into sick leave).

Better to take your own initiative, like Darden did last week, than wait to be told.

And tell your guests about that, too. 

This Is Not a Permanent Condition

Clichés are clichés for a reason.

When all this passes, you will be stronger than ever.

When I talk with operators about safety, I look up and realize I have never seen more serious and solemn looks on their faces.

They take it very seriously because they care deeply about their guests, employees, and business.

If you want to talk about how the COVID-19 virus may impact your business, please schedule a free call with me and I will help you.