Restaurants have been among the most vulnerable and hardest-hit sectors during COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantines and business closures have led more than 16 million restaurant workers to file for unemployment. Business owners have been left with bills such as mortgages and rent but with little to no income to pay for them, and stimulus loans and grants have not always been easy to come buy. This means that restaurants may not simply want to keep costs low when reopening; they may have no choice in the matter.
In March alone, the restaurant industry lost billions in revenue. More than 50% of independent restaurants have incurred debts of more than $50,000 as a result of the virus and quarantine. While the need to reopen is great, it’s clear that there is also a need to reduce costs at all costs. Industry experts now predict that one in four restaurants nationwide won’t open because of the high cost to reopen and safely conduct business in a post-COVID world. Before opening their doors again, restaurants will need to craft a working budget in order to stage a successful reopening.
Examine Operating Costs
Many restaurant owners are well-versed in their weekly and monthly costs. To be successful and achieve positive profit margins, they have to know this information. But now, it’s time to reassess those operating costs and factor in new costs–the costs of safety supplies such as masks and gloves and the cost of reduced restaurant occupancy in order to promote social distancing among diners. And, here’s another concern: many food suppliers have been forced to increase the pricing for meat, seafood, and fresh produce. What are these increases going to look like state by state?
Food, insurance costs, additional supplies–these elements are going to change the typical restaurant costs that business owners have been used to paying. Gather all this information to paint a current financial picture of the expenses. Once you have the costs before you, you can set about attempting to reduce them.
Talk to Your Bank or Accountant
It may be worthwhile for restaurants to consult some experts about their financial outlook. Many businesses will need to rely on their banks for financial assistance in the form of loans. Even so, how much should be borrowed? What is the repayment plan? What does the accountant say? To be fiscally safe about reopening, it’s important to discuss your plans with some financial experts to ensure that you’re incurring the least amount of risk as possible in these uncertain times.
Limit Your Menu
Many restaurants that have gone to a carry-out-only model have already begun to limit their menu options. This is a smart way for restaurants to cut costs. Naturally, it’s important to keep fan favorites on the menu. Continue to serve options that are most popular with diners. Remove items that do not sell as well. In time, restaurants can add them back onto the menu or exchange them for other options. Ordering a less-expansive array of food and ingredients can help restaurants cut corners without sacrificing any of the quality of the meals they produce.
Reduce Hours of Operation
The cost to reopen at former business hours may be too costly for many restaurants. Some restaurants will struggle to pay their employees full-time wages. Restaurants can reopen on a part-time basis in order to keep costs down while earning some income. With success, they can certainly expand their hours again. Consider what hours of operation are busiest. Restaurants that are popular breakfasts spots may want to go to a breakfast and lunch only model. Conversely, restaurants that specialize in dinner may want to cut out both breakfast and lunch or close earlier after the dinner rush.
Hire an Essential Crew
Unfortunately, many restaurants will not be able to rehire all of their former employees. To cut down on costs, it may be necessary to hire a bare-bones crew. Naturally, chefs and cooks need to be brought on board, but restaurants may not need as many servers to wait on customers in the early weeks of reopening. Ideally, if the operation is a success and the virus is kept at bay, owners can reassess their staffing needs in time.
Once you have a reopening plan, share it with staff. They can help you keep costs down, too, by following your new rules and regulations closely. The better they are at maintaining social distancing practices among clientele, the more likely the restaurant can stay safe–and remain open. Staff may also have some ideas of their own to add about cutting costs that you can include in your reopening plan.
Accept Online Orders
If you have been accepting online orders, continue to do so. If you haven’t, now is the ideal time to start. Remember, not all diners will be returning to restaurants in droves after the quarantine period. Many people are still nervous about venturing into public with a pandemic still underway. A spike in cases could spell disaster for cities and the non-essential businesses operating in them. By featuring online ordering, restaurants can continue to do business and earn income even if the restaurant is forced to close again.
Online ordering is now an essential service and income generator for restaurants.