Restaurant Operations After COVID-19

It’s been six weeks since the states shut down restaurants and other hospitality outlets. Our rules of business changed. And if you've been following me, you've seen me go from an extremely somber, depressed mood, just like you as operators, to upbeat and positive. At this point, I’m seeing this all as a real opportunity for us. Those restaurants that are still open and have learned to pivot, to change their business, have figured out a way to run leaner. You're in a position to really crush it. Why?

You can throw away all the bad operating practices that were so comfortable. If you think you can go back to the way things were six weeks ago, seven weeks ago, and operate tomorrow the same way, you're crazy. There is no going back to normal, so now is your chance to start doing things the right way and maximize your opportunity for profits. 

Here's the deal. I've been talking to restaurant owners all week long. Every week I have on my website the ability to have a 30-minute free coaching call with me, and I can't tell you the countless operators who have taken me up on it. At the end of the call, I also tell them about what I have to offer and what I do as a restaurant coach, and one of the things that that I hear a lot is, “Dude, I need you. I want to work with you, and I can't wait to talk to you again. But I've got to wait until after this COVID-19 thing is over.”

Is there an after? I don't care which news channel you follow, all the experts –­ the medical people, the scientists ­– are telling us until we have a vaccine, this is not going away. And we could very well see this fall having a double-edge sword with the flu and COVID-19.

We want to get out of our houses. We want to make money. There have been many, many businesses, mine included, that have been very hurt by this. And unfortunately, many have closed and will never reopen. And although the President’s task force laid out a phased plan for how businesses could reopen with social distancing practices in place, it is not a quick return to 100% capacity or revenue. Not even close. 

I look at this time as a gift for you and for me. You’ve found a way to operate leaner with lower sales and few employees. You have an opportunity to examine what’s working and what to fix. It’s an opportunity to run efficiently. It’s an opportunity to say goodbye to the bad employees and hello to the good employees.

You get to ask tough questions, such as “Do I need to run more efficiently and leaner? Do I reduce my menu so I can run fewer cooks in the kitchen? Do I reduce the number of tables I have not only for social distancing, but the fewer numbers of servers I have? Do I build a wall to make my dining room smaller? Do I convert from a full-service restaurant to quick-serve? Is my makeshift drive through window something I can do long term?”

Our culture is changing, and you've got to find ways to put butts in seats that don't exist. And this is not even addressing that other arm of hospitality, catering events. When do those come back? When we get to 50 people in a gathering, maybe so. But are any 300, 400-people weddings going to happen in the next year or two? When are arenas and sporting events going to open and how does that affect all those restaurants that are by arenas? This is really, really an unprecedented time.

Those of us who are slow to react, it will be too late because when you can come out of COVID-19 is 18 months from now. But if we talk about the new reality in one, two, three, four weeks from now, when states start to reopen our industry, you have got to be on your game. You will have had to figure out how to pivot and keep the restaurant operating. You will have to figure out how to become more efficient. You will have to buy better, schedule better and control things better. You need systems for everything in your business.

Somebody asked me the other day if I would like to come speak to a group of restaurant owners to teach them what they need to do today. How it's different. Well, first of all, nothing I teach in light of COVID-19 is different. What every restaurant owner needs to do now is everything I've been teaching since 2003.

Systems are a process, a way to doing anything and everything in your business. They allow you to impose your will without being there. Systems are what the chains use to be so successful. You can have systems and love your guests, love your employees, make every penny of profit you can on every dollar that comes in the door and not run a 65 percent prime cost. You have to be at 55 percent or lower. My message and lessons are more relevant today than ever.

If you've been running systems, then you should work on doing them better. If you stopped using systems or only got a few put in place, get back to working on them.

Here are some examples you can pursue right now:

  • Recipe costing cards
  • Shelf-to-sheet inventory
  • Budget
  • Sales forecasts
  • Automatic par levels
  • Key item report
  • Waste sheet 

Are you on dollars per labor hour worked? Are you using automatic par levels? Are you re-engineering your menu every single quarter with accurate up-to-date recipe costing cards and your sales mix? Are we doing these things on a routine basis? Do we actually use the key item report? And the waste sheet to prevent theft and stop doing dumb ass things in our kitchen that rob you blind of profits? Are you budgeting going into the week for food and labor, or are you just praying you’re busy enough to afford the labor or not too busy that you’re overwhelmed. 

I don't care if you're working 80 hours a week on the line because you threw on an apron to survive. Then you've got to find 20 more hours a week to start working on these things, to involve other employees, because now is the time for you to lead. 

Now the restaurant prosperity formula. Right. If you've read my book, if you've watched any of my videos, you know that’s the number one thing. The number one piece of that formula where we started is leadership and now is your time to lead. Not only lead your team but lead in your community to be the best restaurant you can possibly be to be around. Because I’ll tell you right now. If you don't jump on it right now, and you are slow to come to the party, then you’re going to get that PPP money and then bleed it faster than you ever bled money before. Because you have to have a plan and systems to support the plan.

Make getting through this pandemic worth it. If I can shake you right now and say, “When is the time to change?”

It is now.

Look, if you don't know what I mean by systems, make sure you watch videos like this on my YouTube channel. If you don't know what systems you need to have in place, click on my free restaurant evaluation offer on Spend 10 to 15 minutes, no strings attached, no phone call coming your way, and get a 25-page detailed report on what your restaurant is doing well and what it’s not doing well.

There is no post-COVID-19. Don't let anybody tell you that. It's around for the next 18 months until we have a vaccination. So, what can we do to not only survive, but thrive? You are supposed to make money. And now's the time to figure out how to make it work. 

Look, if you have any questions, take me up on the free restaurant evaluation, or request a free half-hour consult with me. I'd be happy to talk to you.

Go out there, fight the fight. I'm proud of you!

Take this free restaurant evaluation. It takes about 10-15 minutes to fill out and when you're done, you’ll have a 20-25-page customized report based on your answers about your restaurant. It will show you where your gaps are in the 23 stages. There are no strings attached. Just look at it for where your gaps are and what you should be working on now.

I teach systems in my book, Restaurant Prosperity Formula: What Successful Restaurateurs Do, which you can order here.


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