Food Businesses and COVID-19: Getting Creative

Food businesses and COVID-19: How you can be creative during these crazy ups and downs in the industry.

If you’re a small family-owned food business or a food establishment with only a handful of locations, times have just gotten a little crazy. With the forced shut-down of dining rooms due to COVID-19 aka Coronavirus, we’re sure you’re wondering how you can be flexible during this time. Some of you have never offered delivery or carry-out but are now finding yourself having to provide these options, just to remain in business. Others have extensive menus that are just not realistic for costing purposes. With all of this change happening at an alarming rate, how should restaurant owners respond during this time? There’s an old saying that goes something like: “What doesn’t bend, breaks”. We hope that the tips below allow you to bend a little easier during this COVID-19 outbreak and as we face the unexpected.

Lowering Costs While Keeping Your Menu Versatile

Many smaller businesses tend to offer an array of food items as far as the mind can stretch. And while this versatility is wonderful under normal circumstances, it could be difficult to maintain during a time where everyone is trying to stretch a dollar– including the restaurants themselves. Here’s a few tips on how to navigate around the craziness of the COVID-19 quarantine while still maintaining a delicious menu:

Stick with what works. While variety is great when customer traffic is plentiful, choosing the best-sellers to carry your menu will keep your ordering costs low with your suppliers.

1. Offer Your Proven Best-Sellers

Customers tend to order in patterns, and when you have a culinary “hit” if you will, you can rely on these menu-staples to continue selling your menu items.

2. Pare Down Your Menu

This option hinges on the first suggestion. If you are relying on your staple-sellers, remove menu items that don’t fare as well and that may incurring an extra cost just to keep stocked.

3. Stretch Your Ingredients

Look for common ingredients amongst your current menu offerings to determine how to keep your menu versatile while keeping your costs low. Create recipes that support your best sellers that have common ingredients. From seasonings to low-cost staple items like potatoes, choosing menu offerings that share ingredients will make ordering simpler and costs low while providing a menu that you already know is in-demand based on your best-sellers.

Promote Your Business Through Free Outlets

While everyone is home and on social media during the COVID-19 quarantine, use your existing accounts to educate your customer base on any and all changes. If you have never offered delivery but have opted to offer this options, use this free opportunity to communicate your changes. Since so many people are stuck at home, it’s less-likely that they’ll be able to read a sign in your physical front window of your establishment and way more probably that they’ll be scrolling through social media and see that you have delivery options available.

Keep Interacting with Your Customers

As a smaller establishment grounded in a neighborhood who has come to know your business well, chances are you have built rapport with repeat customers. The benefit of a family-owned restaurant is that they are small enough to remain engaged in the community and many people are happy to support small business.

Get creative! Post a recipe and offer incentives for people who complete it, post it and tag your restaurant. Fun engagement and free promotion.

Take the time to engage with your customers through social media

1. Challenge them to re-create a beloved menu item and offer a discount to those who accept the challenge if they post a picture and tag your restaurant.

2. Post a drawing of your restaurant on your social media in PDF form so parents can print off for their children to color indoors. Have them post their artwork while tagging your restaurant. Offer a promotion for the top 10 drawings.

There’s nothing more comforting as a kid than going to your favorite family restaurant and coloring a picture. Offer discounted kids meals for children who complete your posted drawing and have their parents tag your restaurant.

3. Post recipes with staple ingredients that are easy to follow and fun to make. Encourage customers to tag your restaurant if they complete the recipe.

By continuing engagement with your customer base, this shows your sensitivity to their needs while securing some free promotion of your restaurant through tags and shares. Although we are in a temporary holding-state throughout our country, we can take this opportunity to be creative in business while we support one another.

From all of us here at MenuCalc, we hope you stay safe, healthy and flexible while we navigate the unexpected times ahead. 

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