SECTOR SERIES: Restaurants & Pub Trade Survival
March 30, 2020
There are so many survival options for restauranteurs
The stress and worry for owners of leisure businesses and their staff is unimaginable right now. Even before the last two week’s dramatic events, turnover at restaurants had plummeted in the first two weeks of March, then BANG, the Government does its best to destroy your business with two appallingly bad bits of communication mismanagement.
You may now have empty premises with ‘closed until further notice’ plastered all over them, but despite the shock you’re feeling there’s lots you can do to make sure your doors will re-open when this tragic crisis is finally over.
Government initiatives – loans, grants & schemes
There’s a whole raft now of Government initiatives, including loans for any size business, grants for small businesses and now the staff costs support scheme. It’s obvious you need to check out all of these and get busy applying, although a word of warning against taking out a loan that you won’t be able to repay and which will only be a future millstone round your business’s neck.
Unfortunately, there’s going to be a crucial delay until any of this help can turn into cash in your bank account, so you need to look at all sorts of other ways to generate funding.
Immediate help – cost saving initiatives
There are reports of restaurants launching crowd funding appeals to their regular customers and other local people. Maybe you can sell your wine stocks? Goodness knows, with reports of empty drinks departments in supermarkets there should be willing customers out there. Re-stocking when you re-open might be an issue, but maybe you can operate on a BYOB basis for a few weeks until cash starts to flow again. Do you have some art on your walls that can be sold?
The good news is you can ignore the dreaded business rates for the next year and hang on to any VAT you owe for a while. That leaves your rent, so it’s an adult conversation with your landlord along the lines of ‘please sir, I need a three month rent holiday’. Be firm, because, for goodness sake, what else are they going to do with the premises to generate income over the next few months?
Many restaurants are turning themselves into take away operations, which keeps the kitchens going and your customers enjoying your food. One small point: make sure your insurance policy covers this and get it sorted if it doesn’t.
All good restaurateurs know that however yummy their recipes, they owe their success to their staff, whether they’re behind the serving counter cooking it or front of house serving it. Diners will want to see familiar faces when you re-open. If you’ve laid off staff already, get them back, put them on furlough and take the Government’s 80% grant for their wages. Let’s face it, they’re not going to get a job anywhere else right now.
Keep in touch . . . digitally
But whatever happens, by far the most important thing over the next few months is to stay in touch with your customer base, either by email or on social media. People will be eager to support businesses who step up in this crisis. If you’re providing meals to people like NHS workers or vulnerable self-isolaters, for goodness sake, don’t be shy, tell the world.
Find reasons to talk to your customer base. Could you run virtual quizzes about food and cooking? Why don’t you share recipes? Maybe even post videos showing how to prepare some of your wonderful dishes. Not only will your customers love the fact that you’re staying in contact, but they’ll appreciate you keeping them amused during the acres of spare time they’re going to have while they can’t go out.
So, please hang on in there. There is a world beyond Coronavirus and you can be a successful part of it.