With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading from China to all over the world, we’re now in a worldwide crisis like nothing most of us will have ever seen or will ever see again in our lifetimes. And in the UK, the announcement of a second lockdown set to begin in November and last through to the beginning of December at the very least is just another blow for the restaurant and hospitality industry. Already hard-hit from the last lockdown, restaurant and bar owners are once again facing further weeks of complete closure due to another coronavirus lockdown.
With Christmas just around the corner, this may not be the most ideal time – not that there ever is an ideal time – for this to happen, but the good news is that by acting now and acting quickly, you can ensure that your business is able to come out the other side fighting. Here’s what savvy restaurant owners did during the first lockdown in the UK to keep their business afloat.
Claim Business Support
Support is available for restaurants and other hospitality businesses that need it during the current crisis. You may be eligible for a government grant and you should certainly take advantage of the extension to the furlough scheme designed to cover 80% of your employees’ wages while they are unable to work.
Goodman Jones are Chartered Accountants & Business Advisors in London who can offer support and advice to restaurant and hospitality business owners in need of financial help during the COVID-19 crisis. Check out the Hospitality & Leisure section on the Goodman Jones blog to learn more about issues such as getting financing to rebuild your business and how they can offer support to you remotely during these challenging times.
Now is an ideal time to contact an expert business advisor who can help you determine what you are eligible for and ensure that your hospitality business is getting as much support as possible.
Offer a Home Delivery Service
Home delivery services kept many restaurants afloat during the last lockdown, with many people missing the experience at their favourite restaurant and looking to recreate it at home. Offering a home delivery service is an ideal way to minimise the financial loss of a second lockdown. New rules and guidelines for the second UK lockdown state that while restaurants must close, they are allowed to open for delivery and takeaway services.
If you haven’t already, getting online and contacting your customers to let them know that they can still order their favourite dishes to collect or have them delivered straight to their door can make all the difference. Bear in mind that certain people, especially those who are extremely clinically vulnerable, might want to avoid all contact, so offer a no-contact delivery option such as accepting an online payment rather than cash and leaving the package in front of their door for them to collect.
Sell Perishable Ingredients
If the second lockdown announcement took your business by surprise with a huge amount of perishable stock that’s going to go back unless you cook it quickly, don’t let it all go to waste. Right now, there are several people who have been financially hard-hit by the coronavirus who would be more than happy to take your surplus stock off your hands at a cheaper rate than they would pay at the supermarkets. You could even make your stock into family food packages that can be sold on to people who want to donate them to friends and family or use them in their own household.
Make and Sell Recipes
If this lockdown is anything like the last one, people might want to get a little experimental in the kitchen again. After all, with all the restaurants closed, home cooking becomes a staple for many and eating the same foods over and over again can get a bit boring. With people spending more time at home, meaning that they have more time to learn to cook more dishes, it’s no surprise that recipe books were flying off the shelves – or Amazon, should we say.
Writing up some recipes for the best-sellers in your restaurant that your customers can buy to try and make their own at home could be a great way to recover some of your business’s lost sales during the lockdown. Save money on printing and binding by offering the book in an eBook form that customers can easily download to their smartphone or tablet.
Start Planning an Opening Event
This lockdown is not going to last forever, and neither will the pandemic, even if it doesn’t feel like that right now. Chances are that once restaurants are safe to visit again with friends and family, most people are going to want to come and visit – just look at how well the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme fared in August when we had a drop in COVID-19 infections and restrictions were relaxed. People are always going to need something to look forward to, especially in times like these, and your customers will certainly appreciate you doing something for them to get excited about when things get back to normal. Planning a re-opening night for in a few months’ time when things are predicted to be a lot better for everybody is a great way to generate some excitement from your customers and pre-selling tickets allows you to get some quick money right now.
Engage with Customers on Social Media
Just because it’s another lockdown, doesn’t mean that your restaurant should drop off the face of the planet. You might be closed and not serving meals to customers at the moment – unless you’re offering home delivery – but don’t give your customers the chance to forget that you exist. Engaging with your customers on social media throughout the lockdown not only makes sure that they don’t forget about your restaurant, but it also shows that you care about them and how they are doing right now. Ask questions, post information that your customers can use, or make videos to show them how to cook delicious recipes from home using simple ingredients that most people can get access to. Remember that this is a great time to make real connections with your customers, so offer acts of kindness to your followers and check in with them to see how they’re doing in these tough times.
Start Email Marketing
Along with using social media to connect and engage with your customers, it can also be a great way to encourage them to give you their email addresses so that you can create a mailing list and send them useful information that will encourage them to continue buying home delivery from you during the lockdown and return to your restaurant as soon as it’s open again.
Some great options for getting people to sign up to your email mailing list include offering discounts for home delivery, offering free food items in their next order, or even offering them a discount on their meal when they can safely return to your restaurant during the lockdown. Once you’ve got their email and permission, you can send them a range of informational content in your newsletters including recipe ideas, tips on staying safe during the pandemic, invitations to post-pandemic events and much more.
Restaurants have been some of the most hard-hit businesses by the pandemic, and with the UK ready for a second national lockdown, it’s time to put some strategies in place to ensure that your restaurant can survive.