The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered the world into unprecedented times. The length of the outbreak and indeed the breadth of its economic repercussions are indeterminate. Around the world, including here in Toronto, drastic measures have now been implemented in an attempt to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. The restaurant industry has been particularly affected by the crisis, as publish health officials now advise that dining areas be closed to the public in an effort to mitigate the spread. Yet, yesterday was Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and now more than ever that wise Persian adage rings true – “This too shall pass”. During this challenging period, restaurant operators must be proactive, creative, and utilize exceptional restaurant design and marketing services to flourish in the future. In this article, we will discuss 5 tips for restaurants to thrive in a post Coronavirus landscape.
In a post Coronavirus landscape, it will be crucial for restaurants to build and market their brands. Everything from exceptional website design to social media management is imperative for restaurants to thrive in today’s marketplace. Once the pandemic blessedly dissipates, success in the foodservice industry will correlate highly with both an effective online presence and marketing strategy.
Renowned Toronto chef and entrepreneur, Matt Basile of Fidel Gastro’s had a background in advertising, before becoming a fixture in the city’s food scene. He understood that making an excellent first impression online, maintaining a great online experience, and audience engagement was essential to the success of any restaurant, to set itself apart from the competition.
“This may be my advertising experience talking, but it’s definitely our online presence. I make sure to curate great opportunities to present ourselves online, and we’re super active on Instagram. Our digital presence is an integrated part of the business – it’s not separate,” Basile said in an interview.
In addition, the mobile-responsiveness of a restaurant’s website will be critical in a post Coronavirus landscape.
For the time being, establishments across Ontario including restaurants are now legally required to close, unless they can provide takeout and delivery to customers. For restaurants to truly thrive in a post Coronavirus landscape, owners should think about emphasizing takeout and delivery models for their establishments. Once the outbreak dissipates, undoubtedly people will still have residual concerns surrounding coronavirus. A perfect example of this was the post-SARS landscape in Toronto. Once the epidemic blessedly ended, it was an arduous journey for Toronto to rebuild its reputation as a safe destination on the world stage.
The COVID-19 outbreak is of pandemic proportions, but akin to SARS, it too shall pass and life will return to a semblance of normalcy. As the notion of social distancing gradually begins to dissipate, many people will certainly none-the-less be apprehensive of gathering in large groups. By offering customers the option of takeout and delivery, those restaurants will benefit the most in a post Coronavirus landscape.
Now that Spring is upon us, during normal times food trucks would typically be firing up in preparation for the clement weather. Yet, more so than ever, restaurants should consider the benefits of expanding with a food truck. According to data compiled by The Economist, the food truck space grew 7.9% annually over a five-year period.
Toronto is no exception to the thriving food truck scene. On any given warm day in the city, there are numerous food trucks dotting the downtown core. In a post Coronavirus landscape, restaurants who expand with food trucks are increasing their likelihood of success by joining an already flourishing scene.
Renowned Toronto chef and entrepreneur, Matt Basile of Fidel Gastro’s started out with a food truck.
“I started Fidel Gastro’s because I wanted to get into food, and I wanted to do it my way. I didn’t want to work as a line cook in someone else’s kitchen – I wanted to be an entrepreneur in the food industry, and starting with a food truck was my way in.
But also – my experience in advertising really helped with establishing a brand. So I used a lot of transferable skills there,” explained Basile in an interview.
Basile is in the enviable position of owning one of the most recognizable foodservice brands in Toronto, so he certainly knows of what he speaks.
“Your food truck allows your brand to be mobile – so think through how it can still be an extension of your business,” he further explained.
By expanding with a food truck, restaurants can utilize the tremendous mobile advertising opportunity, which they provide.
Moreover, a food truck offers a testing ground for new recipes. There are far fewer items on a food truck menu than a restaurant menu, making it easier to alter from day to day. You can experiment with what items work at the food truck, before adding them permanently to your restaurant menu. Also, in the post Coronavirus landscape keep in mind the importance of restaurant menu design, so ensure that you hire a great graphic design service.
Additionally, expanding your restaurant with a food truck offers greater opportunities for catering. Because they are essentially mobile kitchens on wheels, logistically food trucks offer a simple solution to transporting supplies and equipment to events.
“We just fell in love with the scene and the lifestyle. There is so much room for creativity to create fun dishes. After seeing the food truck scene become more popular in Toronto we had to give it a shot,” said Amanda Louie in an interview, co-owner of the catering company Fully-Loaded, Toronto’s first fried chicken food truck.
In an attempt to assist people with plans towards a return to normalcy in the post Coronavirus landscape, offer gift cards or vouchers on your website for dining in the future. This simple gesture further emphasizes the notion of “This too shall pass”, and moreover, in the interim will provide some needed cash flow for restaurants.
“In the event you are afraid to go out, one of the best ways to support your favourite local restaurant is to buy gift cards online. It’s an easy way to support small operators, to help them get through the next few months. I’m afraid we’re going to see a lot of closures over the spring, and gift cards could give them the boost they need,” reiterated Calgary-based food writer Julie van Rosendaal.
Suffice it to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is an incredibly fluid situation – one which shifts day by day. In addition to the obvious public health and safety ramifications, Canadian small business owners (in particular, restaurant owners) are grappling with the economic repercussions of this crisis. As a restaurant owner, it is crucial that you are aware of the relief measures that have now been implemented by the federal government with the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. By being aware of the economic support now available to small businesses, this will better enable restaurants to weather the effects of the pandemic, so they can thrive in a post Coronavirus landscape.
Restaurants Canada, the country’s largest national organization representing the restaurant industry, has compiled details of the plan specifically pertinent to those in the foodservice industry.
“Flexibility for businesses filing and paying taxes. The Canada Revenue Agency will allow all businesses to defer, until after Aug. 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18, 2020 and before Sept. 2020.
Help with paying workers to avoid layoffs. Eligible small businesses facing revenue losses will receive a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months. The subsidy will be equal to 10 per cent of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.
Support for individuals not working due to COVID-19, including those who do not qualify for employment insurance or paid sick leave. An Emergency Care Benefit will provide up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks, to workers, including the self-employed, who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19.
Help ensuring financial market liquidity and credit availability. Under the new Insured Mortgage Purchase Program, the government will purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This will provide stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders so that they can continue providing lending options to Canadian businesses and consumers.”
At present, the world is in the midst of challenging, uncertain, surreal times. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic will be a defining moment of our modern age. However, we will prevail over this global crisis, and collectively, will be all the better for it. In the interim, stay safe, stay connected to family, friends, and neighbours, and remember – This too shall pass.
Sarah Bauder is a senior content specialist at Little Dragon Media. Sarah has a degree in journalism and has a decade of experience writing content at numerous renowned publications. She enjoys writing about digital marketing, business, entrepreneurship and more.