Industry Notes: How restaurants can survive
Nancy Hampton
Chief of Business Development of Trabon

These days are truly like none other. When Waffle House, notorious for its record of staying open during natural disasters, closes nearly one-fifth of its restaurants, you know it’s not good. But that’s precisely what’s happened amid the coronavirus pandemic.

So what IS a restaurant to do right now to survive? RMS has been talking to various industry insiders to hear what advice they had for operators during these incredibly stressful and unprecedented times.

Nancy Hampton is Chief of Business Development at Trabon, a restaurant industry technology solutions and services company, with more than 40 years of menu and marketing content management expertise. Established in 1975, the company has supported its partners through many disruptions, and while none have been on par with the current global pandemic, she has some practical advice.

Think back to the beginning of March, says Hampton. The restaurant you run today is likely much different than the one you ran then. “It doesn’t matter if you’re carryout and QSR-focused or casual dining, everyone’s business is changing,” she says. “In just two weeks, we’ve already seen restaurants move from dine-in to only carryout to contactless pickup and delivery.”

And the changes will keep coming. While restaurants have a million and one things to think about right now, don’t overlook any of the channels you already have at your disposal, Hampton urges. Here is her advice:

  • Start with your parking lot. “Guests are going to pull into parking lots to see if you are open,” she says. Make it obvious that you are. Trabon printed more than a thousand banners over the past week (at cost) for that very reason.
  • Your customers will search online for open restaurants. While you might have a third-party company handling delivery for you, be mindful not to get lost in their messaging. Specifically, says Hampton, make sure your website menu accurately reflects current menu offerings and is search-optimized with structured data to drive traffic.  Update changes to your operating hours and direct online traffic to your most profitable manner of serving guests. Guests are keen to support their communities during this time, so make sure your brand doesn’t get lost.
  • Adjust your menu online and in print. If you can evolve your menu to be more family-meal oriented, do so. Trabon’s website widget makes it easy for brands to easily implement and communicate reduced and limited-item menus.
  • Control the content guests see. For example, now that alcohol restrictions have been lifted for to-go orders, if you’re able to offer that, communicate it: on your site, social media, signage and modified menus. Are you taking phone orders? Let customers know that, too. Do whatever you can to drive traffic and sales.
  • Don’t lead with “we are closed.” Yes, your dining room is closed. But if you are still open for carryout, delivery or pick up, tell your customers and tell them FIRST. 

For more ideas, follow Trabon on LinkedIn, where the company posts “Daily Pivots,” highlighting restaurant operators that are getting creative.