COVID-19 hit the hospitality industry hard.

Restaurants grappled with significant decreases in profits resulting from lockdowns, travel restrictions, and drastically reduced customer numbers.

Besides avoiding restaurants in fear of catching the dreaded disease, customers reduced discretionary spending surrounded by mounting job losses due to the pandemic in Australia.

Restaurant shutdowns soon followed as part of the government’s pandemic control measures – and businesses drew to a halt.

Australia’s Restaurant & Catering 2020 Industry Benchmarking Report indicates that one out of three restaurants earned zero profits between 2019 and 2020 and predicts higher closure rates in 2021.

However, despite the gloomy outlook, some restaurant businesses pivoted. Others arose, like Providoor, an online platform that creates at-home dining experiences, taking advantage of new opportunities created by the pandemic.

As the world moves to normality, restaurant businesses have also begun making adjustments to recoup losses and move forward. Let’s look at some key lessons restaurant owners have learnt in the unprecedented year we won’t forget so quickly – the year 2020.

1.    Agility Is Key To Business Success

With the skyrocketing fatalities reported daily, consumers’ needs and expectations have shifted drastically. They now demand enhanced safety. What’s more, most are willing to pay more for this.

To diminish their fears, restaurants needed to develop new systems such as contactless payments, replace traditional menus with QR codes and promote take-outs over eat-ins.  Additionally, they learned that they have to be prepared to adapt to changing situations – quickly. They can do this by diversifying into home or office deliveries and using digital technology to create new offerings, such as the home dining experience mentioned earlier.

2.    Customers need consistency

Building connections with customers is crucial. Engage with them to earn their loyalty and trust. This calls for investing in branding and creating a story that resonates with the clientele.

Restaurant owners also need to be where their customers are. For instance, if they have a youthful audience, shifting their marketing efforts to platforms like TikTok, where there’s a tremendous opportunity to tap into the younger generation – could be a winning strategy.

Also, they have to be consistent in delivering a feel-good experience that will keep customers coming back, whether through your deliveries or restaurant dining. Remember, the dining experience should be consistent with the brand – even with takeout meals.

For instance, offer the same menu customers have grown to love for both in-dining and takeouts. Alternatively, you could add personalised notes to your takeouts or use loyalty programs to help maintain brand identity.

3.    Downsizing can benefit your business

With Covid-19, most customers don’t feel safe in public spaces anymore. Many have shifted to online shopping, hence the surge in online fitness and online apps offering take-outs and home deliveries.

As a result, restaurant owners need to consider downsizing their indoor sitting areas, focusing on take-outs, or moving to locations offering more extensive terraces.

Downsizing is win-win, as it will help you cut costs while meeting customer expectations. But what do you do with your extra furniture and related stuff? You can keep them in a secure storage location until when you might need them next.

Conclusion

The unprecedented year 2020 has been challenging for the industry, but not for smart restaurant owners who have learnt to adapt to the changing business environment.

Despite extended hospitality restrictions, you too can protect your business from future disruptions by being creative, starting additional revenue streams, and adopting lessons like the ones outlined here.

While the complete recovery might be long in coming, you can still set the foundation for long-term growth today.