As coronavirus cases spread around the world, restaurant owners and employees are certainly going through the toughest of times. Even beyond the precipitous drop in sales, restaurant owners are additionally managing the safety of their workers and customers. As health experts advise people to stay indoors and practice social distancing, restaurants need a new source of cash flow. What are some new ways to to maintain restaurant operations amid the shutdown?
Because dining areas have emptied due to COVID-19, some restaurant owners are temporarily pivoting into selling grocery items and meal kits. Leading restaurant chains around the world have already set up “mini-marts” in their empty dining rooms in order to feed local populations on a temporary basis.
Dining establishments across the country have shuttered dine-in areas due to local as well as national restrictions. Well intentioned to prevent the spread of coronavirus, yes, but what to do with all that wasted space? Well, enterprising owners have shifted their attention toward something non-traditional: impromptu grocery and meal prep provisioning.
Farmers Restaurant Group, which has tragically been forced to temporarily suspend almost 1,000 workers, is nevertheless continuing the profitable operation of its bakeries. Despite the plunge in demand for its dine-in offerings, the restaurant chain has found steady demand for its bread as a grocery staple. In its new business model, customers reach out to the restaurant, placing an order either online or in-person, and bakers deliver orders. The group is also supplying baked goods to local farmer’s markets and grocery stores.
As the coronavirus has forced restaurants in Austin to close, Texan grocery stores have struggled to maintain inventory. Over the past two weeks, the number of restaurants in Austin that are selling grocery items has risen dramatically.
On March 24, 2020, Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott granted authority to local restaurants to supply bulk groceries for public groceries, including vegetables, fruits, packaged meat and dried foods. Even prior to his executive order, several restaurants in the region had transformed their dining areas into mini-markets to earn additional revenue and satisfy customer demands during the stockpiling crisis.
The pandemic is truly a global event. In the United Kingdom, where both Queen Elizabeth II and Boris Johnson have tested positive for COVID-19, fast-food chain Leon has decided to convert areas of its restaurants into pop-up markets. The national chain is helping to lighten overall food concerns that have led to bursts of panic-buying across the United Kingdom.
With COVID-19 reaching different parts of the world, instances of consumers stripping shelves bare of essentials have become common. The behavior persists despite rationing and government guidance to avoid overstocking.
Leon, which operates over 75 restaurants across the country, has also launched an e-commerce platform as a way for customers to order ahead and speed up in-store retrieval. Both the website as well as the mini-mart offer top-quality meats, ready-to-cook meals, and other essential food items. Leon opened its first grocery pop-up during the final week of March.
John Vincent, Leon’s Founder and CEO, commented on the initiative, “Currently, we are struggling with our restaurant business. While our staff is ready to provide food to the customers in one instance, the supermarket shelves are going empty on the other instance. The balance is simply not right. It is especially not justified for the consumers out there who might be losing their jobs or facing major business losses.”
Whether restaurateurs want to operate a mini-mart as a standalone initiative, or merely want to auction off excess food items, they should follow good restaurant management practices. For small-sized restaurant businesses, COVID-19 has significantly impacted the risk of food contamination. With thousands of new cases added daily, everyone must attend to CDC guidance.
Small business owners are taking the opportunity to check their resources and consider whether opening a pop-up grocery area makes sense for their establishment. No matter what, restaurateurs must ensure that they do not compromise the overall security of their premises, staff, food and customers.