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Restaurants after the quarantine: prepare for opening!

When the government lifted the restrictions after the first quarantine, many catering establishments were not ready. The long-awaited permission to open came unexpectedly, resulting in a loss of more than one week of work due to negligence. “Since we don’t know when exactly this will happen, we need to be prepared!” urged Jurgita Viltrakienė and Ieva Vaičiūnaitė, specialists from the gastronomic consulting agency “Kitchen Rules”. They explained the most important opening steps and the sequence of tasks that need to be performed in preparation for re-opening.

Working on renovations to the kitchen or the seating arrangements can be an important part of the preparation, but it is not the only part. When visiting other countries we are often surprised by how little attention is paid to the interior, yet the restaurants and cafés are still full. Why is this? It’s because this line of work is more than catering. The longevity of the service business is based on a culture of hospitality.

In order for restaurant staff to master this culture, they need to be fully prepared. A purposefully prepared team will not only be able to perform the main functions — i.e. accepting orders or preparing meals — but will also create unique experiences that will encourage guests to visit the establishment more than once. That is why this quarantine time should be used for education: employee and manager service training, competence development and development planning to determine the company’s strategy regarding what will change after the quarantine.

The representatives of the gastronomic consulting agency “Kitchen Rules” share the main stages of action in preparing for the thoughtful and constructive opening of a restaurant facility after quarantine.

Important aspects to consider

- Decide on your sales goals. Assess your most profitable dishes and beverages. These should account for 70% of your total turnover. Important note: Don’t think about the price as the only tool in your business game.

- Review the old and prepare a new menu based on the sales goals that you have established. Don’t be too quick to give up exclusive dishes and drinks that, while they may not meet the level of your sales margins, add to your uniqueness.

- Gather a suitable team based on your sales plans and the required competencies of your staff.

- Inventory. Your inventory involves not only your kitchen, bar and storage area, but also your social networks. It is not only the café, restaurant or the bar itself, but also of the members of your staff who are the best advocates of your business image and who are most likely to share your news.

- Look around and identify your three main competitors. Analyse their strengths and weaknesses. Assign a responsible colleague to perform such an analysis every week, since the market is very dynamic and there is a need to adapt to the new habits of customers that were formed during quarantine.

- Define your business position as clearly as possible. Will you only provide catering services? What added value will you create for your loyal customers, and what will you offer to new customers? When taking this step, take the current context into account: it is likely that we have all experimented with cook during quarantine, so we will turn to cafés, restaurants and other gastronomic spaces for new experiences. If a customer leaves with a good impression, they will want to share it with others in their immediate environment and, of course, their followers on social networks.

- Participate in a hospitality training programme to explore topic of organisational culture and develop a unique approach. This will provide you with a circle of loyal guests and, in the long run, a profitable business. The training can be organised in a form that suits your employees. For example, an internal Facebook group can be used where it is convenient to watch video lessons, discuss and share your news, and thus create a solid foundation for your gastronomic project together.

Advice from the HORECA expert: focus on the needs of your customers

“Currently, the entire gastronomic sector in Europe is closed, but it is likely that it will not remain the case for much longer. We are looking forward to the day when the streets and the restaurants are full again and there are lines in front of the entrances. It will feel like a ‘ketchup effect’ where everyone wants to be in the same place at once,” shared Mike Hohnen, a long-time HORECA consultant. “Businesses will then need to make the most of their naturally increased turnover.” Is that a good thing? “In the short term, yes – the results are likely to exceed our expectations. However, in the long run, it will certainly not be a decisive factor that ensures a stable turnover or consistent profit growth.”

What should be done? According to M. Hohnen, who wrote the book “Best! No need to be cheap if you are”, it is important to stop and take some time to think everything over if you want to work profitably and develop your business. Answer the following questions: How will you greet your returning customers? How will you greet the new faces that are curious to try something different?

“We need to make sure that our planned actions will inspire every customer to return. When we open our doors after the pandemic, we will have a completely unique opportunity to create a special experience that can ensure customer loyalty. That is why now is the time to start working with your team and establish solutions for a clear service culture, by considering all your customers and understanding their needs and decision options,” said the service management expert and developer of the “Profit chain” system.