It has officially hit the fan and restaurant owners are rightfully panicking. The general public has an unfair perception of restaurant owners: they think you’re printing cash. The reality is, with the increase in credit card usage, the increase in 3rd party online ordering and delivery platforms, restaurant owners are dealing with rapidly shrinking margins. Now factor in an unknown variable such as the Coronavirus, and, sadly, many of our favorite restaurants are not going to survive. Here are 10 Things Restaurant Owners Can do to Survive this Virus Storm:

1. Shut Your Doors: even if it hasn’t been mandated by your local or regional government, shut your doors anyway. It’s going to be hard enough to survive, the last thing you want is anybody attributing catching the virus from your establishment. That would close you for good.

2. Serve Bulk Only: Families aren’t worrying about their next meal, they’re worrying about their meals for the next 3-5 days, and probably longer. The desire for fancy entrees and quinoa specials are over. What they do want is good meals and in bulk; think army rations with your special touch. Get completely away from small orders. Ditch the 10 wing orders; you’re selling trays of 30 or more. People will order it because they want wings for today, tomorrow, and the next day out.

3. Serve Delivery Onlyhere’s why you don’t want people coming to your door for food, despite the temptation– you can’t control who’s coming to your door. Put a system in place where your deliver-only option is as safe as possible. You need to focus on cranking orders out.

4. Hammer Social Media: focus on overloading your social media with images and videos of your kitchen. Show the steps you are taking to keep it clean.  Put your staff in hairnets, gowns, gloves, and if you can find them- masks. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words…well guess what, images of aggressively sanitized kitchens are worth a million.

5. Your Delivery Driversif possible, put them in gowns as well. Have them place the delivered food on the doorsteps of homes and then call the customer before leaving, making sure the meal is retrieved.

6. Don’t Just “Write” PostsCustomers are getting hammered with written posts & emails from every business on the planet that has their email. They are rightfully tuning out. Again, hammer social media with images…but take it one step farther: speak to your guests. Video you and your staff in the kitchen, talk to your guests.  Put the face and the emotions of the small business owner front and center.

7. Offer Something, ANYTHING, for Freeit doesn’t have to be a meal, it could be easy recipes that family’s can make together. Share cooking tips & tricks. If possible, offer fresh baked bread with orders (for example).

8. Go BIG on Gift Card Offersoffer half the value of the order in gift cards to be used in 6 months time. For example, somebody orders $50 in food, give them a $25 dollar gift card to be used no earlier than 6 months from date of their order.

9. Incentive Social Media Sharing: tell your customers, “anybody that shares an image of their family enjoying one of our bulk meals gets 10% off their next order.” You need as much visibility of your products in the hands of consumers as possible.

10. Lastly, SURVIVE TOGETHERYour customers do not want to see their favorite establishments go out of business and they do want to support you…here’s the problem– they want to support all of you.  Make it easy on them, talk to the restaurant owner to your left and to your right, put together a bundled order of all your products for a special price and hammer your community.  ‘Wings from Joe’s, Burgers from Bob’s, & Soup from Cindy’s…all for the one-time price of X.’  Put a restaurant community bundle order together. Your peers are no longer your competition, everybody is now in the same boat and you all better start rowing.


Article written by Keith Christy | Keith.christy@fiserv.com

Keith is a life long restaurant consultant and active sales representative for Clover Point of Sale Systems and First Data Credit Card Processing. Keith’s background is in insurance, casino food & beverage management and restaurant consultation.