2020 has been quite a learning experience. From social distancing to customers wearing face masks, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced us to new vocabulary and concepts never heard of in the restaurant industry: businesses had to sell grocery items and toilet paper during the quarantine, specialty menu items had to go due to supply chain issues and some indoor spaces had to be closed off to accommodate new safety measures.
This is now the new norm, and we know that some of these changes are here to stay. But now that you’ve learned everything the hard way, what can you do to plan ahead for the new year? Here are our best guesses for the business trends of 2021.
It’s a new era of drive-thrus. Part of its upsurge comes from off-premise dining becoming widely adopted due to the pandemic, but there’s been an overall uptick in digital sales that’s helped drive-thrus gain significant traction. Brands like Starbucks are increasing their drive-thru prevalence to accommodate the demand for contactless orders (1). Domino’s launched their “Carside Delivery” Service nationwide this June which would allow customers to receive their online order without ever leaving their car (2). Del Taco has also been expanding its takeout and delivery channels, allowing the chain to keep company dining rooms closed to streamline the service modes more relevant to today’s guests (3).
Meanwhile, Chipotle is testing out new restaurant designs, and now have more than a 100 “Chipotlanes,” drive-thru stores where customers can pick up their digital orders (4). These pick-up lanes are also more profitable, said Jack Hartung, Chipotle’s CFO, adding that the lanes help “drive our high-margin digital order-ahead transaction.” He also has the numbers to prove his point: Digital sales at Chipotle accounted for 19.6% of total sales at the chain pre-pandemic, but in the first quarter, digital sales grew 80.8%, reaching a record $372 million, while digital sales accounted for 26.3% of total sales (4).
Drive-thru spaces aren’t the only thing businesses have been renovating, however. Architectural Digest writer Laura Itzkowitz, New York restaurants have seen a major expansion in outdoor dining space thanks to the Open Streets plan that “gives restaurant owners permission to expand their footprint onto the sidewalks and streets on the weekends provided they meet certain criteria” (5). According to David Rockwell, the founder and president of the restaurant Melba’s in Harlem, we can expect to see “more restaurants redefining the boundary between indoors and out. In the long run, restaurants will have to be adaptable, with seating plans that expand and contract easily and quickly” (5).
This flexibility will key as the cold season approaches (6). According to Guy Bloch, CEO of Bringg, a delivery orchestration software company, “an increased emphasis and more strategy behind the delivery and curbside pick-up is a smart consideration for restaurants right now, especially if they want to remain resilient during the colder months and continue to serve off-premises customers who may become a larger part of their base in cold weather” (7). Which brings us to the next point on deliveries.
Food deliveries have soared in the past couple of months. Popular third-party delivery apps such as DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub have seen a stark increase in usage since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Seattle Times (8). For example, UberEats reported a 40% increase and GrubHub is up 24% from the same period the year prior (8)
Decreasing on-premise sales, social distancing and the new work-from-home lifestyle have all contributed to consumers opting to have their food delivered than dining in. Back in March, a survey by Statistica showed that 41.7% of consumers in the United States were likely to purchase restaurant food delivery online if confined at home due to the coronavirus (9), and yet when Zagat conducted a similar survey in May (“The Future of Dining Study”) the result was a staggering 90% of consumers (10).
Not surprisingly, we’re seeing more operators are making the shift from third-party delivery to self-delivery; a quick search of food delivery options on google and various name brand restaurants pop up now actively promoting their own delivery options. Businesses like Dig Inn, Modern Market, IHOP, Panda Express have all launched self-delivery as a way to increase sales and meet the increasing demand for delivery. And not just because of the high commission rate either. While it’s true that third-party delivery service fees can be as high as 30% commission (11), having an in-house delivery service means they have more control over their drivers, reduce transit time, as well as increase customer service.
“We understand that convenience and value are what our guests need right now, so we’ve quickly adapted our marketing and business approach,” said Andrea Cherng, Chief Brand Officer at Panda Restaurant Group (12). “In order to provide quality meals at a value for families in our communities, we’re creating more regular promotions and speeding up our delivery-as-a service launch by half a year.”
A detailed pro/con list of third-party vs self-delivery is found here on our previous blog (13).
Social distancing and contact-free technology will be indispensable in 2021, as sanitation and safety concerns around COVID-19 remain (14). Aside from automatic doors, motion-activated faucets, touchless soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers, more hands-free options are likely to become increasingly implemented in the kitchen area, from touchless trashcans, doors, glove dispensers, sauce, to beverage dispensers.
A big part of the trend of automation for customers will revolve around new payment and menu alternatives. Payment solutions will have to change as well from conventional payment models of cash and plastic credit cards to contactless solutions such as EMV, tap and pay, and mobile wallets (14). And as more customers become sensitive to the use of plastic menus (The National Restaurant Association and CDC both recommend restaurants to use paper menus and discard them after each customer use), more will turn to contactless menu options like QR powered digital menus to comply with both demand and safety recommendations (15, 16)
We also expect more businesses to embrace tech and AI to accommodate this upward trend of digitalization for customers (14). By more tech and AI we mean smart ordering via AI voice technology, self-order kiosks and tablets. AI-powered training, staff scheduling and smart inventory (via RFID tags) are also expected to grow and enhance all aspects of restaurant management.
If 2020 was about reacting to the pandemic and learning ways to deal with the new changes, 2021 is going to be about the responding, as well as applying the hard-learned lessons to our businesses. That said, maintaining safety is still going to be the most important trend that operators will have to maintain and evolve. It will take some time to earn back the consumer’s trust in this issue, but operators who can incorporate these safety measures into their business model will be the first to earn them.
The Benefits of Owning a Franchise Restaurant Business
We discussed in our earlier blogs why it is a great time to buy a food franchise in 2020 through 2021. Prospects continue to be bright for fast food and fast-casual franchises: Papa John’s Pizza just announced their plan to open 1,000 new stores over the next five years (1), and Whataburger hinted an offer of offering new franchising units for the first time in 20 years (2). The COVID-19 pandemic is helping boost franchise sales as unemployment grows in the restaurant industry and people are reassessing new career options. But you might be wondering, why buy a franchise business at all? What do you have to gain by buying a franchise versus running your own independent restaurant?
Here we share our thoughts on what makes franchise ownership so appealing.
When you start a restaurant from scratch, much time must go into doing market research, creating business models and developing a new menu. You also have to staff the right people and figure out who your target customers are even before you come up with your marketing plan. But that is a lot of work. It takes time to set up a decent restaurant, particularly if you plan to start amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the benefits of buying a franchise business is that you can skip many of these processes. With a franchise, you do not have to build the foundations from the ground up because there are a pre-established system and business plan. “With a franchise, you have the security of a proven concept,” says Don Daszkowski from the Forbes Business Council (3). “The franchisor already went through the pains of trial and error and the expense of branding, marketing and putting systems in place.” The less time you spend on starting, you can spend more on building your business. Buying a franchise allows you to take advantage of this speed.
Less Risk, More Support
According to Joel Libava, a franchise ownership adviser and author of Become a Franchise Owner!, revenue fluctuates much less in a food franchise setting (4). “As long as you have a steady stream of customers patronizing your restaurant or food store, revenue tends to be pretty high,” he wrote on sba.gov. Additionally, franchisors assist their franchisees with marketing, real estate, among other things. Popeyes, for example, offers support and expertise not only in the menu, operations and marketing, but also in development, and profitability (5).
There’s a less overall risk when there is more support. When you buy a franchise, this assistance package is included in the upfront and ongoing fees, including a Grand Opening (4). “Good franchisors know how to put on a strong Grand Opening,” said Libava, “and if yours goes well, you won’t have to wait long for customers to line up to try (and purchase) your food.”
Moreover, Franchisors will also connect you to a Real Estate person soon after your franchise agreement is signed. Franchisees can therefore leverage extra resources and connections to secure the best location possible for your new business. According to Libava, “that alone gives you a huge advantage over an independent businessperson (without Commercial Real Estate connections) who’s trying to secure a location for his restaurant” (4).
You know exactly what you are getting when you walk into a Chick-fil-A’s or a Subway’s. That is because both have massive brand recognition. While it takes most restaurant owners years to market and establish their brand, being a franchise owner allows to you reap the benefits of the brand’s name and trademark, giving you a competitive edge and making it easier for your store to attract customers.
This is also why financing is easier when you buy a franchise. You are more likely to get a loan from banks or organizations if the business is already well established. Also, there are quite many top-ranked, affordable franchises under $25,000 you can buy if you do your research right (5).
Good Balance of Independence and Dependence
Being a franchise owner allows you to be your own boss. If you classify yourself as a hands-on worker, a natural leader and communicator, result-driven and proactive, buying a franchise offers you the benefits of being a business owner while having the needed assistance from a strong support network.
A Better Opportunity for Long-Term Growth
There is also a better growth trajectory when you choose franchising. Once you start your franchise and acclimate yourself to your role as a franchisee, you can expand your portfolio long-term, buying other franchises in different locations or different concepts. Amyn Ali, a successful entrepreneur and owner of three Wing Zones, 10 Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins and one Papa John’s, shared his thoughts on Entrepreneur magazine (6). “I started in franchising eight years ago. I saw great potential in franchising and wanted to be my own boss, so I bought a Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin Donuts location, which turned out to be immensely successful. I wanted to diversify my franchise portfolio, so I signed a 14-unit deal with Wing Zone, which was also the first in the city of Chicago.”
Here’s his advice for future-franchisees: “So many people want to open up their own business but fail to look at all of the pros and cons of business ownership. The most important advice that I can give is to really do your due diligence and look into your competition, the longevity of the brand, how you’re going to manage it operationally” (6).
Owning a franchise business is still hard work that comes with its own disadvantages. Success is not guaranteed, and you’ll have to invest in it long-term, just as you would with any other business ventures. That said, there are many benefits to owning a franchise as it offers you speed, support and great profits. The decision is yours.
About Goliath Consulting Group
Goliath Consulting Group with headquarters in Norcross, Georgia offers a dynamic array of business development solutions, tailored to meet the needs of each individual client – in addition to a full suite of knowledge and tools that help make restaurants more profitable, including strategic planning, menu development, project management, new restaurant development, branding, marketing, franchising, equipment, technology, evaluations, outsourcing, and more. The company also has a management division that manages full-service restaurants. Goliath Consulting enjoys a ten-year track record of creating client success among local, regional and multi-unit national restaurant chains.
Goliath Consulting Group is actively involved in the Foodservice Consultants Society International and is an allied partner of the Georgia Restaurant Association.
We previously discussed social distancing and contact-free technology that offered safety solutions during the pandemic. But there’s much more that tech has to offer, especially when it comes to AI being integrated into guest order systems, training, and restaurant operations. Here are some standout tech innovations that forward-thinking business owners are investing in today in restaurant technology:
Voice-based tech is fast growing and increasingly evolving the guest ordering experience. Prominent restaurants of the QSR space are integrating voice-ordering into their apps. For example, Denny’s customers can order through Amazon Echo (Alexa) (1); Dunkin’ and Domino’s Pizza have also deployed bot and voice-enabled ordering by Alexa, Siri or Google Home, and Chipotle Mexican Grill rolled out voice AI to power their mobile orders in 1,800 of their locations (2). Just last year, McDonald’s announced its plans to bring AI voice technology to its drive-thrus after they acquired the voice-recognition startup Apprente (3). These drive-thrus would allow customers to place their orders like any voice-assistant-enabled order taker, except that these systems would use machine-learning techniques to learn and continually improve based on actual orders and spoken language (4). According to Rob Carpenter, founder and CEO of Valyant AI, a Colorado-based artificial intelligence company focused on QSR customer service, “AI ultimately provides an intelligent, convenient and informed customer service experience by way of improved order speed and accuracy” (5). “Drive-thru chains are inaccurate more than 10 percent of the time, and the average speed-of-service times have slowed down significantly in the face of such high employee turnover.” Meanwhile, digital employees work to improve order accuracy and decrease wait times (5).
Self-order kiosks can now use a camera to recognize regular customers and make suggestions based on a customer’s previous order history. “Once you opt into facial recognition, you can reorder and pay for your favorite dish in less than 10 seconds,” said Christopher Sebes, President of Xenial, Inc., producer of such self-order kiosks (6). These facial recognition systems are gaining popularity, and already in use at places like modern Asian street food restaurant Wow Bao, as well as the fast-growing high-end burger chain, BurgerFi. “Self-serve kiosks and tablets are gaining favor as a way to speed up service without sacrificing the human touch,” said Sebes. It also “encourages higher check averages and results in healthier sales. Guests seem to appreciate the ability to spend time studying photos, ingredients, and nutritional information, as well as easily request more food or drinks as the meal progresses” (6).
Consistent Training and Optimal Scheduling
When it comes to running a successful business, operators understand how training plays a crucial role. But just as with people, training must evolve and continually be improved upon. According to Steven Yee, COO for EDUonGo, the creator of Kiwi LMS focus on restaurant employee training, an optimal training regimen requires quality data collection (7). “It is difficult to know what changes need to be made in the existing training,” said Yee. “With AI, however, restaurants are positioned to collect relevant data, thereby improving their customer service, creating a better training experience for employees, and fostering a safe workplace culture” (7). AI can now collect a wide variety of information ranging from the length of time an employee stays in the portal, how often they log on to review materials, the success rate of their quizzes, and the completion rate of certifications (7). One restaurant that has adopted AI-based employee training is Modern Market Eatery, a farm-to-table restaurant based in Denver (8). By embracing mobile training platforms, such as PlayerLync, and implementing training within the real-life workspace, the restaurant has access to a variety of integrated technology systems that notify staff of menu or recipe changes as they occur, contributing to employee success and efficiency.
Scheduling staff times is also made easier with AI. For example, AI can now predict labor demand, handle on-call shifts, and allow employees to swap shifts with minimal manager intervention (6). According to Sebes, it even “determines which of your staff tends to do the most up-selling, and give those team members priority for high-volume shifts.”
Up to Date Inventory
POS systems that manage inventory and purchasing capabilities are already well established by now, but we expect AI to optimize these capabilities with the use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags which use electromagnetic fields to identify and store information about the object the tag is affixed to. According to Nely Broad, author and regular contributor of a tech news company BitRebels.com, RFID will allow operators to collect and trace vital pieces of information such as type, quantity, and origin of a product through its life-cycle (9). For example, when an RFID tag is placed in specified containers for a particular product, anyone would be able to scan an RFID reader and learn about the product’s history. The RFID tag would allow for easy inventory management, as scanning RFID tags would send a message to your inventory management software letting you know that the item is in stock (9).
RFID tags can also help ensure the safety and quality of your products. Food industry workers can monitor the temperature of foods—for instance, on milk containers that would contain an expiration date, the temperature, and other pertinent information (9, 10). When suppliers track the temperature of the milk through the information collected from the tags, the milk’s temperature can be tracked from the source, during shipment, and when it is delivered to the store.
The potential for AI to enhance all aspects of food ordering, restaurant operations and staff management is practically endless. We’ve seen how AI saves time and money, increases productivity and efficiency while reducing human error and labor costs. As more businesses embrace AI, begin to change the customer experience and their expectations of what foodservice can be, we’ll surely see these new restaurant techs take over the industry.
With all the trouble the pandemic has given the restaurant industry these past couple months, you might be surprised to hear that restaurant franchising opportunities have never been stronger. There are brands that are outpacing the overall industry. From an interview with Restaurant Business Magazine, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream reported selling 18 franchise agreements this year and now has 56 stores under construction or in development out of their 200 units (1). Up-and-coming restaurants like Fajita Pete recently announced it will triple locations from their new franchise deals (2). The fast-casual brand Dave’s Hot Chicken has now more than 200 units committed despite its franchise initiative being just launched in October 2019 (3). “When the pandemic hit just a few short months after we launched the franchising initiative, we weren’t positive how it would affect our franchise growth, but we were pleasantly surprised,” said Shannon Swenson, Vice President of Franchising for Dave’s Hot Chicken (3).
According to Jonathan Maze, Restaurant Business Editor-in-Chief, what we’re seeing in the franchising side of the business is not altogether unexpected (1). “Nothing fuels franchise sales quite like a recession, as unemployed workers look for their next career and frequently take a stab at buying into a restaurant or other business to become their own boss,” he said in a recent Restaurant Business article (1). As COVID-19 has dramatically upended employment, more people are making big decisions and considering entrepreneurship as an option. But is mid-pandemic even a good time to buy a franchise? There are a couple of reasons why we can say yes, it is.
Whether you’ve just lost your job or in jeopardy of losing one, finding a new position can be a challenging task. According to Don Daszkowski of the Forbes Business Council, “the competition [for jobs] will likely be fierce” (4). The unemployment rate for the industry is at an all-time high. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 20.5 million people abruptly lost jobs in April alone. “Your employment may not be stable,” said Daszkowski. That’s why many people will be using this time to reassess their options.
There are good reasons why buying a franchise is better than starting a business from scratch. The latter is riskier and requires the owner to build the foundations from the ground up. “With a franchise, you have the security of a proven concept. The franchisor already went through the pains of trial and error and the expense of branding, marketing and putting systems in place,” says Daskowski (4). Of course, no success is guaranteed and your homework will be to do your research—it’ll go a long way to helping you make an educated decision about which concept will come out strong after the pandemic.
BETTER REAL ESTATE
According to a recent Yelp Report, permanent closures continue to increase across all industries—with the restaurant industry now reflecting the highest total business closures (5). The report shows that as of July 10, there have been 26,160 total restaurant closures, with 15,770 (60%) now permanently closed.
Moreover, other restaurants have shifted their operating models, converting to ghost kitchens, curbside pickup and online ordering, and as a result, there have been more sites available across the US—not only in retail strip malls, warehouses, but also office complex-type spaces (1). “Because restaurants are closing, there are locations we can go in,” said Jim Sahene, CEO of Bruster’s Ice Cream in an interview with RestaurantBusines.com. “End caps, drive-thru, freestanding building. More sites will become available” (1).
With more restaurants feeling increased pressure from further lockdowns and another wave of businesses expected to close in the coming months, the market has become favorable for brands that have been waiting to take advantage of a better real estate market. The same benefit would apply to new franchise buyers.
“Buyers are seeing this as a huge opportunity,” said Jackie Lobdell, VP of Franchise Development with Slim Chickens, a fast-casual restaurant chain that has greatly exceeded franchise growth since the pandemic (6). “Those who are able are taking advantage of the open real estate.”
Thanks to the Coronavirus Relief Funding options (such as the CARES Act), starting or expanding your business has become more feasible with loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (7). 2020 and 2021 will be optimal years to take advantage of low interest rates and better deals with the franchisors.
In addition to funding, Daszkowski says new types of resources have recently cropped up online for potential buyers to explore and educate themselves on franchising opportunities—virtual tradeshows, magazines and franchise portals, you name it (4). Franchising has become a popular subject in recent months, and there’s never been a time where so many people could connect and learn the ins and outs of franchising, all in the comfort of their homes.
There are blog posts like ours, too, that discuss trending topics and cover important factors that make concepts recession- and pandemic-resistant. That’s why we recommend you take some time to do research and figure out what kind of franchise would you like to own. Would you make a great franchisee? How much can you invest, or how you will finance the franchise? There are plenty of affordable franchises that you can start with, and if you need more assistance, hiring a consultant can help guide you to make a decision by pinpointing brands that interest you, as well as directing you to financing options you may not know about (6).
The next 18 months are a great time to buy a franchise, but having said that, buying a franchise does not come with a guarantee of success. Like any business venture, becoming a franchisee is hard work, and you’ll need to invest your time, commitment and energy to make it successful. But if you’ve previously considered buying a franchise and have a vision for yourself to become your own boss while still belonging in a larger network, this is an optimal time to figure out your financials, do research, and invest in something new for yourself.
*Special thanks to Jackie Lobdell, Vice President of Franchise Development with Slim Chickens, for providing her expert insights
COVID-19 is redefining jobs (1). Social distancing has radically changed the way restaurants work, causing a spike in delivery and take-out orders, and employees are taking on different responsibilities to fit these new roles in the workplace (2). Another profound shift in the industry is the way staff is now expected to interact with their customers. Soft-skills, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people”(3), will be more important than ever, and managers with a long-term vision for their restaurant are using this time as an opportunity to build and strengthen their team. Here are some skill sets we think will help managers manage in today’s environment and how they can teach them.
Conflict Resolution (Guest Relations)
“Conflict Resolution” refers to the way one resolves an issue or problem between two or more people (4). According to the American Management Association, a non-profit educational membership organization and leader in professional development based in New York City, conflict resolution is a core skill for managers and supervisors, not only for handling disputes efficiently, but also for leveraging potential conflict situations as opportunities for critical conversations that enhance work relationships, increasing overall performance, and preventing conflicts from hindering employees’ professional growth (5).
This skillset will hold more significance now during the COVID-19 pandemic. People (guests and staff alike) are on edge, and more sensitive at this time of uncertainty. For example, a guest might refuse to wear a mask; a guest may file a complaint on a poorly handled order via third-party delivery. Conflicts, especially concerning the new regulations around safety and sanitation, are more likely to arise and staff should be aware and prepared so they can handle situations professionally.
You can visit a step by step guide to conflict resolution in the AMA article here (4, 5), but we recommend supervisors to first create opportunities for awareness and open dialogue with their staff. It is natural for people to react instinctively and not think through how they respond, but they can also prepare and practice handling these situations beforehand and practice stepping out of their comfort zone and putting conflicts into context (12). This is why we recommend role playing as part of the staff training—so that managers can first become comfortable with conflicts and practice resolving them in a controlled space. Practice will also help to build empathy for the guests and to handle difficult situations more quickly and readily.
Internal Conflict Resolution
Internal Conflict Resolution is focused more on building trust between staff (or between staff and managers) by addressing and resolving commonly encountered conflicts within the workplace. The same guidelines apply when teaching internal conflict resolution, except that supervisors should be prepared to play a mediator’s role. Open discussion, while it may be an opportunity for the team to open up, connect and clear up misunderstandings, may also stir up emotion and create tension. As with external conflict resolution, role playing and practicing situations will help build trust and credibility with team members, create team resiliency, and help team members gain confidence in holding difficult conversations calmly and assertively (5, 6).
Worksheets can come in handy. Choosing a particular conflict to discuss and dissect as a team can help staff reflect on ways emotions affect their perception of a particular problem. By considering both sides of an issue and feelings one may have experienced, they may be able to find ways to resolve conflicts logically, or else, find a good compromise that satisfies both parties.
We mentioned earlier how the pandemic has been redefining jobs. According to Arran Heal, the Managing Director of CMP Resolutions, the sudden shifts of workload and responsibility have been making it difficult to keep a grip on workplace relationships (7). There’s more potential for misunderstandings, silences, unconsidered messaging; existing interpersonal problems are coming under renewed pressure and new conflicts are being created between employees (7).
A flexible leadership style is crucial in this current environment. One model that we’ve been introducing to our GMs is “Situational Leadership,” a leadership theory that encourages leaders to take stock of their team members, weigh the many variables in their workplace and choose the leadership style that best fits their goals and circumstances (8).
The Blanchard and Hersey model of Situational Leadership is based on two dimensions: leadership style and development level of the employees (8). Directing leaders (S1) should use specific guidance and close supervision and best paired with employees who are of a low development level (D1: low competence and high commitment); Coaching leaders (S2) explain and persuade and best when working with employees of the D2 level (some competence, low commitment); Supporting leaders (S3) share and facilitate and should work with D3 employees (high competence, variable commitment); while a Delegating leadership style (S4) should be used with D4 employees (high competence and high commitment).
While situational leadership is not traditionally categorized as a soft-skill, this particular leadership model is an excellent tool for managers, helping them to modify their leadership styles based on their evaluation of a staff’s competency and commitment levels. No one size fits all, even in leadership, and managers who can understand and utilize different leadership styles will find it easier to effectively drive behavior change, accelerate employee development, as well as manage their employees in the COVID world, where roles are constantly shifting (9).
More information and teaching materials can be found here on the main site (9). We found that situational leadership is a valuable addition to managerial training, particularly if used in conjunction with exercises to help identify leadership styles, worksheets to help define development levels, and role playing.
Good communication is the foundation of good leadership, and the need for this soft skill has become more significant with the pandemic. According to Nicole Dehler, vice president of StayNTouch, a mobile hotel property management system (PMS) company based in Bethesda, Maryland, restaurant staff, especially those in front of house, literally compose the “front lines” when interacting with guests and implementing hygiene and social distancing measures (10). “If [staff] aren’t informed of your brand’s messaging on sanitation guidelines and response strategies, management will be more difficult and people could be put at risk,” she said. “It is absolutely vital that you communicate with your employees early and often, and are as upfront and transparent as possible, even if it means having difficult conversations or conveying bad news” (10).
Just as with conflict resolution and leadership skills, supervisors can teach effective communication by initiating hands-on practice, role-playing and introspection (11). To measure the effectiveness of communication, supervisors can collect qualitative information by studying employees and asking them for feedback. Long term measurements could also be taken by considering turnover rates, productivity and employee satisfaction (11).
Many of the soft skills overlap in that they aim to reduce friction between relationships through building emotional intelligence and flexibility. Conflict resolution (external and internal), situational leadership and effective communication will all be critical to harmonizing workplace relationships until the return to normality post-pandemic, and supervisors should consider training their team these crucial skills to improve team building and solidarity.
Goliath Consulting Group offers management training and a host of other services for independent, chain and franchised restaurants. Learn more at http://www.goliathconsulting.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Bora Kang and Colin Kopel
Despite your best efforts to adhere to CDC’s safety guidelines and to make your guests feel safe and comfortable dining in your restaurant, you may face an unavoidable situation where your employee tests positive for the novel coronavirus. According to Will Eadie, Global VP of alliances, WorkJam, foodservice workers are essentially on the front lines and at high risk of getting sick (1). Workers may also be exposed to the virus elsewhere and may be in a situation where a family member contracts COVID-19. So, what can do you when your staff tests positive? Here are resources and advice on what to do when it happens.
First things first. The CDC is your best source for guidelines regarding COVID prevention, intervention and control, and you should consult the website for instructions on what to do when you are faced with a sick employee. Here is a brief overview of the CDC’s content (see website for more details https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/business-employers/bars-restaurants.html ).
1. Advise Sick Employees of Home Isolation Criteria
2. Isolate and Transport Those Who are Sick
3. Clean and Disinfect
4. Notify Health Officials and Close Contacts
Once you have followed these steps you can proceed to damage control. While it is recommended that restaurants temporarily close so that the business has time to clean and disinfect the restaurant, as well as having the rest of their staff tested, the rules regarding closures vary from state and region. For example, the State of Massachusetts now lawfully requires restaurants to immediate shut down for 24 hours (3). Some restaurants opt for closures voluntarily, even though they are not bound by law to close. A running list of restaurants and bars that are temporarily closed in Atlanta, GA, are listed here (4).
Unfortunately, not all restaurants can afford to shut down operations. Most restaurants do not have any form of a safety net left and closing can be devastating. Many operators will close for a few hours to disinfect the restaurant. There are third party companies that will come in and spray the entire facility with bio-friendly solutions. If they do close, restaurateurs leverage programs like Unemployment Insurance to hold their staff over on wages.
Overall, being flexible and prepared to act quickly and take necessary steps to sanitize the workplace will help operators expedite this process.
Notifying the Public
Transparency may be a difficult decision to make as an operator, especially given the financial loss that comes from temporary closures and the possible negative profiling of restaurants that report cases of COVID-19. First consider your number of staff and where their exposure came from. For example, if you have a small number of employees you may be able to narrow down the path of contact, isolating the cases so that you can prevent further exposure; if you discover that one of your staff has had close contact with someone who contracted the virus recently while outside of the workplace, you may be able to manage and contain the situation by asking the employee to stay at home until they fully recover.
Many experts have expressed a more positive outlook for restaurants that have chosen transparency. According to a social media survey by Taylor Adams, “Would You Eat Where Someone Tested Positive?” some diners showed support for restaurants who were honest with their customers (6). One commented: “There are most definitely restaurants that have remained open despite employees testing positive. I am thankful for those that have been transparent and are clearly taking this issue seriously. I hope that we collectively support them” (6). Meanwhile, one prominent restaurant in Colorado faced scrutiny when they failed to report their first COVID positive case to their guests (7).
The topic of transparency can be a difficult issue, and what works for one restaurant is not always going to work for another. Communicating a commitment to sanitation and promoting any vendors that are hired to sanitize the building or additional programs the restaurant is undertaking such as ServSafe Covid-19 Training is key. A restaurant’s commitment to extra safety precautions is a cornerstone to showing guests you are providing as safe as possible dining experience.
Reinforcing Safety Protocols
A staff testing positive can be a much-needed wake-up call for businesses. Operators should use this opportunity to remind your staff about safety and re-training them so that they adhere to the sanitation policies in place, most importantly—masks, gloves, hand-washing and social distancing, such as one provided by the CDC (2). Some operators have added regular temperature checks and deep cleaning into their routines because of growing concern among their employees (8). The Centrolina Restaurant in DC, for example, are enforcing stricter safety policies such as hand washing every 30 minutes, hourly cleaning, and twice-daily temperature checks for staff, after reopening after a positive COVID-19 case (8). Managers should accept staff call-outs due to medical reasons, allowing them to be excused from work if they are not feeling well. who express concerns they may have been exposed should be taken at their word. Many states require wellness contracts that outline symptoms such as fever that require them to stay home until they have recovered.
Collaborating with your employees is the key to effectively communicating important COVID-19 information, according to the CDC (9). We recommend operators to communicate with their employees about planned changes and, most importantly, seek their input. It may be difficult at first to balance an appropriate level of communication, to decide whether you tell your staff if an employee was exposed or tested positive, even after getting the employee’s written consent to share their personal results. Communication transparency is important for good company culture. While restaurants are open during the pandemic there is already an unease among staff and, coupled with another negative industry history of undervaluing hourly employees, there is a certain amount of skepticism towards management.
If someone tests positive, remind them of the environment we are in and that vigilance is their best tool to protect themselves. Let them know all the additional safety measures the restaurant is taking and, most importantly, listen to them. Ask them what would make them feel safer and, when feasible, accommodate the staff. They are the ones on the front line, and you cannot run a successful business without well-trained staff. They need to feel safe and know that the restaurant is here to support them.
Returning to Work
Individuals who have tested positive can return to work when they have fully recovered. There are certain tests individuals can take to determine whether an employee can safely return to work, but go-to resource should be this CDC website where a “Return to Work Criteria” is listed for businesses (10).
Exposure to the COVID-19 virus is possibly unavoidable given the spread of the pandemic, and there is no one right strategy to prepare for its impact on businesses. Overall, operators who can act quickly to employees testing positive, as well as possible closures, will benefit by avoiding further confusion and panic (1). Our recommendation to operators is to keep your staff informed about updates, ensuring that the communication lines are open and streamlined so that staff can be up to date on new safety policies, scheduling, as well as hours and staffing.
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Every bar manager experiences recurring nightmares of that one delivery day. We all know the one. It is the middle of the lunch rush and trucks keep showing up at the loading dock during times the restaurant has deemed inappropriate for deliveries. The cases of product continue piling up and floor management responsibilities are preventing the bar manager from vigilantly checking in each order. When the dust clears and a proper inventory of each order is finally manageable, the frustration of back ordered product sets in. How can the restaurant operate without a domestic light beer on tap? Does the bar just 86 top shelf tequila for the weekend? Reopening restaurants with current supply chain issues makes this once rare scenario seem to be a weekly occurrence.
With the increasingly frustrating variables in the current restaurant industry, beverage supply chain does not need to be the straw that breaks the camels back. With modified inventory procedures, increased communication and planning, and appropriate training, bar managers can rein in the uncertainty and provide their guests and staff with a consistent product.
Start with the basics of operating a bar. How often are you counting a detailed inventory? Most bar managers will cite a monthly inventory and order each week off either a product mix or visual count. The thought of increasing inventory to a weekly process is daunting and time consuming. The dilemma of limiting inventory counts is outweighed by necessity of knowing what the bar always has on hand and the inventory of comparable product in the event the restaurant runs out of a customer favorite. With the current supply snags, the concept of inventory can readjust to consider like products as a single count. For example, if you carry the same domestic light beer on tap as in a bottle, count them together and reconcile the number with your average weekly combined sales. Compartmentalize top shelf spirits into one count. The restaurant can use a strategy of guaranteeing an equivalent product is always in stock in the event a popular item is back ordered. Consider adding platforms like BevSpot or Barkeep to decrease the amount of time spent counting. Most modern POS systems such as Toast and Revel have built in Inventory options for operators looking to consolidate their programs.
With an inventory consolidated, look for holes in product areas. What products does the restaurant lack a comparable alternative? Are you able to stock up on inventory or bring on an additional alternative to prevent a menu hole? Do your sales reps have any feedback on short-term availability of the product?
Sales representatives from distributors are one of the most under-utilized resources in times of supply shortages. Distributors possess the ability to maneuver delivery days and are more than willing to provide restaurants with weekly warehouse inventories of kegs, wines, and other products. They are also in tune with estimated inventory shortages at the beginning of the week and can advise customers on alternate products. Keep in mind if a distributor is out of a popular product, the restaurant may need to seek a product from a different distributor. My recommendation to our clients is to order product on Mondays and move delivery days to Tuesdays. This provides an additional three days to work with distributors on off-day deliveries for any products that are out of stock and keep the restaurant well-prepared for volume weekends.
Training is the component that brings the tumultuous supply chain together. Staff appreciate transparency and frequent updates that prevent them from feeling the fool when they are unaware of lack of inventory. Maintain an 86 board that is easily available to all staff. A dry erase board in a well-traveled area works great. While it is tempting to scribble the 86’d item on the board, take the time to write out an alternative item. Secure time during lineups to cover the out of stock items and educate on the alternate options. Keep management proactive in updating the restaurant’s point of sale to reflect current inventory levels. Management will find consistent staff training and communication appreciated and reflected in staff morale. Bartenders and servers thrive on consistency and minimizing variables.
Implementing a solid bar strategy can reduce one of the larger headaches of reopening a restaurant during a pandemic. While most of management’s effort and focus is on sanitizing and maintaining a safe environment, it is common to neglect operational concepts such as supply chains. Curious about the state of your inventory or looking for assistance adjusting menu content/pricing to maximize your brand during these fluid times? Goliath Consulting Group can assess your current food and beverage menus/inventories and make recommendations to set your restaurant up for success. Contact us at GetResults@GoliathConsulting.com
The restaurant industry had to adapt to changes in consumer behavior during the COVID19 pandemic, testing out operational innovations and relying on technological solutions that allowed for social distancing and ensuring sanitation (1, 2). But even after the pandemic, sanitation and safety concerns are expected to remain, and the restaurant business model may have to evolve in a way that utilizes more tech-driven service systems. Here are some upcoming tech trends below:
Social Distancing Tech
With widespread concerns of a pandemic rebound, customers will now be more cautious of eating out in crowded places after the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Restolabs, a restaurant management software that offers online ordering systems, continued social distancing measures are expected to bring about an upward trend of automation for customers (3). New delivery systems are likely to be implemented so that food can be delivered in a faster, more convenient and more hygienic way, like drones and autonomous vehicles launched in some restaurants in California (4). Improved AI could even bring about cashier-less drive thrus—much like Amazon’s cashier-less automated checkout systems (3). According to Technomic, even the automat has returned with renewed interest for restaurants now turning to tech-driven service systems (1).
And clearly, online delivery will start to become an indispensable part of the dining culture as customers dine-in less. More restaurants may pivot to self-delivery instead of third party delivery to mitigate fees and have more control over the safety of their food (5).
Tech for Touchless, Contact-Free Dining
According to Toby Malbec, Managing Director of ConStrata Technology Consulting featured in Hospitality Tech Magazine, higher level of protection and assurance of safety measures are necessary to alleviate customers of their health concerns and persuade them back to dining in (6). Contactless-dining is expected to trend as a result. “Germs can exist on plastic surfaces for several days, and the newly educated customer base will be sensitive to the notion of being handed a menu that could easily be cycled a dozen or so times during this period,” says Malbec (6). “Restaurants should look to providing an option for a guest to pull up the menu on their own device as well as look to leverage digital menu board technology wherever possible.” Anti-Microbial POS Screens and other device surfaces may be another component of using digital menus (3).
Payment solutions will have to change as well. Conventional payment models of cash and plastic credit cards carry a high risk of person-to-person transfer of contagions, and the mitigation of this transfer, according to Malbec, can be greatly reduced when restaurants change to contactless solutions such as EMV, tap and pay, and mobile wallets (6).
A growing demand for hands-free, no-touch equipment will result from the COVID-19 pandemic (7). Automatic doors, motion-activated faucets, touchless soap dispensers, automatic paper towel dispensers have been around for a while in the restrooms, but these touchless options have only been “grudgingly” adopted elsewhere (6). More hands-free options are likely to become increasingly implemented in the kitchen area, from touchless trashcans, doors, glove dispensers, sauce, to beverage dispensers.
While hands-free equipment and systems may certainly alleviate consumer concerns about the safety of their food and dining environment, operators may find themselves more invested in the health of their employees. Hygiene and sanitizing apps may start to appear in the workplace, as sanitation becomes priority for most restaurant operators. For instance, artificially intelligent cameras will soon make it possible for operators to monitor safe practices and verify whether employees or customers are following critical safety measures, including all front of house, back of house and delivery processes (8). Similarly, time clocks may have come with the ability to conduct a temperature check on employees, either through some biometric means as part of the clocking in process (6). And, though not yet proven to work against COVID-19, some restaurateurs, as those in Atlanta (9), may install high-tech air filtration and sanitation systems such as UV lights to purify and filter the air for the health of their customers and employees.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed consumer behavior as we know it and it has changed the status quo of what is expected out of restaurants—sanitation, automation or otherwise. “The only way for us in the industry to keep pace is to digitize, modernize and monetize the guest experience,” says Christopher Siefken, the head of technology for Xenial, a Global Payments company that serves over 135,000 restaurant and retail locations in the U.S.(2). By embracing the shift in consumer behavior and implementing technology that consumers demand, operators can reap the benefits of staying ahead of the game while keeping people safe.
(5) “Future of Food Delivery” https://www.goliathconsulting.com/blog/