On Friday 20th March 2020 the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that pubs, restaurants, bars and many other public venues would be forced to close until further notice.
Across the pond, and despite previously suggesting that Americans may be able to return to some semblance of normality by Easter, President Trump recently announced that the country's social distancing guidelines would be extended to April 30th.
There are unprecedented times.
Of all the industries hit hardest by the outbreak of COVID-19, the restaurant sector ranks highly. It has forced both independent and chain businesses to temporarily close their doors and wait for whatever their respective governments can do for them financially.
Our hearts go out to every business that has been impacted by COVID-19. However, it has been very encouraging to see so many examples of restaurateurs refusing to completely shut up shop (figuratively, of course).
From local delivery services to support for one another via non-profit initiatives, the effort on behalf of this industry to remain operational has been Herculean and incredibly inspiring.
Here’s how the restaurant industry has so gallantly handled the pandemic.
4 ways restaurants are coping with COVID-19
1. Keeping staff communication going
If there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear in the restaurant industry during COVID-19, it’s the level of support on offer for teams.
Most restaurant staff have found themselves either sent home on furlough or consigned to strict social distancing working conditions while providing food delivery services. Some, unfortunately, have already lost their jobs.
It’s a scary, confusing time, but there are some wonderful examples of restaurants taking care of their teams while their establishments are temporarily closed.
One of the best ways to do this is to keep staff communication going. Thank goodness we live in a world that contains so many remote forms of keeping in touch, eh?
Take Hiša Franko in Slovenia, for instance, whose chef, Roš, is taking the time out to focus on generating positive ideas as a team. The goal is to look to the future by working on solutions to problems within the food system that aren’t related to coronavirus.
2. Not just banking on government support
At the time of writing, most governments across the world have offered some form of financial rescue package for businesses big and small. However, understandably, these are taking a while to set up due to the magnitude of support required and the fact it has never been offered before at this scale.
For lots of restaurants, the time for a financial injection or support for employees is now. This is why we’re seeing restaurateurs across the globe petitioning their governments for specific hospitality industry support.
Employee rescue plans and moratoriums to prevent them from losing their homes are some examples of what businesses in the industry desperately need. It can go further, too; in the US, restaurateurs including Alice Waters and Will Guidara are asking the government for a waive of payroll tax.
Thankfully, some of the big groups are starting to put their own deep pockets to use.
Take Whitbread, for instance - the UK group that owns Premier Inn hotels and a number of chain eateries. They’ve vowed to continue paying staff their full going rate until the government’s financial rescue packages are available. If you’re in a position to do that, now is the time to make clear your intention to keep paying staff, and keep them on-board, ready for the eventual re-opening.
3. Turning to delivery services
Despite some of the biggest chains such as McDonald’s completely shutting up shop including deliveries, many restaurateurs have reinvented themselves during the pandemic.
This is no small feat, given that many of the restaurants and pubs in question will never have offered such a service. But boy are they going for it - big time.
There’s a good reason for this. During January, food delivery services in China grew by 20% - a figure that must in part be attributable to the outbreak of the virus.
Across the world, pubs, fine dining restaurants, delicatessens and even ice cream vendors are turning to delivery options for their stay-at-home customers. In turn, the US arm of Uber Eats has waived delivery fees for over 100,000 independents and the calls for delivery services of that ilk to reduce their commission fees and sign-on costs are growing.
If you’re a restaurateur who has never considered offering delivery for customers, now really is the time to jump on one of the most important trends we’ve seen in the trade in recent memory.
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide: Growing Your Venue with Food Delivery Apps
4. Non-profit initiatives
There are some incredibly positive stories coming out of what is a dreadful situation for so many people.
The restaurant industry has always done its bit for good causes, but there seems to have been a surge of effort in that area since COVID-19 took hold.
For instance, Covid 19 Mutual Aid UK is a new organisation that is offering support in the form of food, odd jobs and counselling for anyone most affected by the outbreak.d
Fareshare is a network of charitable food redistribution services which can take surplus food and ensure it ends up at the frontline of community groups and charities. A similar global operation, The Real Junk Food Project, is currently using its volunteers to provide food for NHS workers and those self-isolating.
Coronavirus resources for restaurateurs
If there’s one thing every restaurateur can do during this period of downtime, it’s staying informed of the latest developments in the hospitality industry.
To help you do that, we’ve picked out a few key online resources that will ensure you know exactly what others are doing to stay operational and what support is on offer for you and your team.
COVID-19 restaurant resource 1: Coronavirus advice hub for hospitality operators and employees (The Caterer)
COVID-19 restaurant resource 2: British Institute of Innkeeping: Coronavirus Advice
COVID-19 restaurant resource 3: Coronavirus Information and Resources (National Restaurant Association)
COVID-19 restaurant resource 4: American Hotel and Lodging Association Coronavirus Resource Website
COVID-19 restaurant resource 5: Search for Help / Ways to Help (SpillTheDish)
COVID-19 restaurant resource 6: A List of Relief Funds for Restaurants, Bars, and Food Service Workers (Eater)
COVID-19 restaurant resource 7: Another Round Another Rally (US hospitality worker support)
The phrase “we’re all in this together”, has taken on a whole new meaning of late. It has brought together sworn restaurant business enemies and proven, yet again, that this sector will not go down without a fight.
We hope that the financial support being offered by governments across the world will help provide the vital ‘bridge’ both independent and chain restaurants so badly need to survive this period.
Once this over, there are going to be parties. Lots of parties - and your restaurant, cafe or pub will probably be the chosen venue for a great many of them. Together, we really are stronger, and as the stories above demonstrate that you’re in one of the most resilient, determined industries when it coms to taking on anything the world can throw at it.