Restaurants have always been some of the most dynamic businesses in the world as tastes and trends constantly change. Keeping up with the latest is necessary so you can always offer something new and exciting to your patrons.
This is possibly one of the top reasons why the restaurant industry was able to come up with a lot of great ideas to adapt during the pandemic. While the major challenge of having to close down dining rooms still rages on as a large problem, lots of them came up with good ways to reach more customers, deal with supply issues, make sales, and even provide solutions to new problems that consumers face.
How Restaurants Survive The Pandemic
Restaurants as Purveyors of Basic Pantry Items
The biggest and most notable move lots of restaurants made during the pandemic is to open their pantries to consumers. So aside from offering takeouts or pickups and deliveries, many like Panera, Denny’s, Subway, Frisch’s Big Boy, Tavern at Cheval, Épicerie, California Pizza Kitchen, and Potbelly Sandwich Shop also sold a wide range of grocery essentials.
Shortages in basic grocery items like flour, cooking oil, and other ingredients for making different kinds of food were experienced by many supermarkets due to issues with logistics, manufacturers, and suppliers caused by the lockdowns. Other areas may not have experienced issues with restocking shelves but had issues with long lines at the supermarket. With fewer folks allowed to go inside establishments to maintain ample social distancing, the once fuss-free errand has become quite an undertaking for many.
Restaurants, on the other hand, are left with a copious supply of ingredients now that they don’t get as much business as they did before the lockdowns. Even with takeouts and deliveries, restaurants experienced great losses during the pandemic as lots of them relied on walk-in diners. As their supplies are carefully measured to meet demands adequately, the decrease in guests left lots of restaurants up to their necks with an overabundance of supplies that can spoil and go to waste.
By offering them to their customers, they get to move their inventory even if they’re not serving as many diners as they did before. They also get to provide quick and safer solutions to the general public.
A notable thing about the restaurants that took on this measure is that they are not just one kind of foodservice player. Some are fast-food chains and upscale restaurants, many are fast casuals, but there are also lots of independent eateries. Many are dedicated to helping out the communities that they are in.
Alongside their menu items, restaurants created areas on their websites and ordering portals for grocery items. They offered it alongside their pickup and delivery services, so it did not necessitate a huge change in their services. It was an innovative idea that was beneficial for all parties involved but did not need a major change to pull off.
Others, like the Texas Roadhouse and Flights in Los Gatos, CA, employed a farm-to-car technique by utilizing a drive-thru method in selling groceries and fresh produce. Workers drop off the items straight into the customer’s car trunk to avoid any contact and shared touchpoints.
The Rise of “Home-Cooked Restaurant Meals”
With home cooking on the rise as people are stuck at home, restaurants are also coming up with ways to tap into the trend. By offering diners a chance to recreate their dishes in their own kitchens, they can still keep their customers entertained and stay relevant. By taking an extra step, they can cash in on the trend.
Aside from selling ingredients from their pantries, many eateries shared recipes of select menu items during the lockdown. Lots of home cooks have always tried recreating restaurant recipes but an official recipe will feel more reliable and accurate. So this major move makes things more exciting for those who love to go out to eat but now can’t because of the pandemic.
Of course, the recipes are also often combined with promotions for grocery items. Panera has been doing this even before the lockdowns as they have pantry products available in many supermarkets nationwide. Many have followed suit, especially those who now sell ingredients from their own kitchens. By combining the official recipes and the ingredients from the restaurant, the odds of getting the exact taste and texture are higher.
Other restaurants took things up a notch by offering meal kits. Different restaurants have different ways of putting together one, however, so there’s no one way to define this offering.
California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), for example, offers meal kits that vary in format. Some are practically bundled sets for other restaurants where different dishes consisting of an appetizer, side, and main entree are included. They, however, also have build-your-0wn tacos, wraps, and pizzas which are more similar to other eateries’ meal kits.
Other restaurants deconstruct their dishes and include instructions for customers on how to put them together. This helps ensure that dishes can survive the travel time from the restaurant to the home of the diner without losing their intended texture, quality, and taste.
Restaurants are Providing Unique Solutions for Unique Problems
As they say, adversity brings out the creativity in a lot of people. And this pandemic is definitely one of the worst adversities to ever take place in this generation. Luckily, the restaurant industry has a lot of creativity to offer, proving that there are things that can be done to make things a bit better. They might not be enough for some but they’re still worth a try.
If you’re a restaurant owner who is looking for ways to boost your enterprise’s chances of surviving the current global crisis, the methods above are definitely worth looking into. Offering basic grocery items might not be necessary for most areas anymore but offering meal kits and other ways to sell ingredients can still be worth exploring. It’s a matter of your market’s interests and demands.
Reaching out and listening to the needs and wants of your customers will help you determine what kinds of additional services you should offer. You can conduct surveys or run a limited-time offer that features the service you’re thinking of providing. These will help you determine if your target market will appreciate and take advantage of what you want to add to your roster of services.
Flexibility and creativity are needed for restaurants to get through these unprecedented times. Having the courage to give new things a go will also be necessary so don’t hesitate to give it a shot. If your idea happens to provide solutions to what the public needs, you’re sure to get patronage and customers through it.