It's an unprecedented time, with the outbreak of Coronavirus in Wuhan, China, and as the effect spreads far and wide, food and drink owners have to be alert to the impact the outbreak will have on their respective businesses. This virus isn't to be taken lightly, and it may well be that the respective governments of each country will take the decision making out of the restaurant owners hands, as we have seen in Italy and Spain, and soon to be France, by shutting down dining establishments literally overnight. In the meantime, where restaurants and businesses are lucky enough to not have to close, the impact on their footfall which establishments are experiencing is usually high, with reduced custom and ever growing costs in sight.

So what positive steps can be taken by restaurateurs in an effort to reduce the impact and keep trading buoyant?

Well nothing is full-proof and guaranteed but unless the restaurateur takes control, where possible of his/her own business then they are running at the hands of third parties which is never to be recommended. Here are a few suggestions that may help your business, and it could be the difference between success and failure or survival and closure.

  • Customers need to be reassured that you have this hygiene issue covered - it's your job to reassure them. Do it!
  • Consider reducing the number of covers allowable at any one time, and create a greater distance between occupied tables. It's wiser to have a half full restaurant of happy customers than it is to have an empty restaurant because people think your tables are too close and that they'll catch something from someone on the next table. 
  • Review your hygiene processes and double up on them. Be tighter on all areas of hygiene from the menus to the locks on the toilet doors. Leave no detail unattended. The greater the detail the greater the confidence in your establishment. Then tell your customers what you have done to address the issues.
  • Customers want a 'great dining experience' - that includes 'red-hot' customer service (in fairness you should always be offering 'red-hot' customer service - if you are not then you are doing your business an injustice). But at times like during this outbreak customers should be treated like gold dust. They want to know that you genuinely care for them, their welfare and maybe the steps you have taken to ensure their are safe. Engage with them. It's your duty! Anything less is negligent on your part! 
  • If you use delivery services through Deliveroo, Just Eat, and/or Uber Eats they are raping your business and your family! With 35% commissions this is unsustainable for your business and you have to wise up, work smarter and seriously consider an alternative. I often hear "but they are bringing us business and without them we wouldn't survive!" Really? Take a look at this link from within this site Why Am I Being Raped? - think about it - 10% discount to get people to order, 35% commission per order, plus you absorb VAT at 20% = 65% outgoings! Then you have just paid them handsomely to steal your customer data - your customer's name/address/telephone number/what they order/frequency of order...they have screwed you and you have paid them for the pleasure!  Deliveroo in particular are operating their own kitchens and will eventually cut out their takeaway outlet customers as their database grows. Consider switching to an alternative FREE (Zero commission/zero fees) Online Takeaway Ordering system - there's no catch it's designed for you, the independent restaurateur...and it's available through this website. One of my clients has a database of 3,000+ customers to whom she can write. It has cost her nothing. 
  • If you are using a paid table Booking system - reduce your costs by using a FREE Online Table Booking system and save yourself some money!
  • Review your buying policy, and maybe reduce the number of different dishes on your menu. Can you temporarily get away with a reduced menu? Pare it down to your best sellers with the highest margins. 
  • Tap up your Landlord (if appropriate) and explain your plight - some will delay or spread rent settlements over a period. Most reasonable landlords would sooner have a business survive and pay them bit by bit than go under.
  • Consider working on a skeleton staff, for a period of time, by reducing hours.
  • Alternatively open for food at what would be considered to be none busy periods - some people may prefer to visit when it is quiet so they don't expose themselves to large crowds....maybe if your policy is to be open from 12.00 to 22.00 then promote the quiet times, such as 16.00 hours. High tea?