Part of ideation is dealing with the challenges faced today as well as those to come. We may not be able to predict the future, but effective managers are always sifting through the “what if” scenarios and building a strategy for dealing with them. As we are seeing so vividly right now – when we fail to plan for the possibilities we will always wind up chasing the problems rather than moving past them. I have always been a believer in the reality of Murphy’s Law: “If something is left to go wrong – it will.” Assuming that it can’t happen to you is at best naïve, and at worst – tragic.
As you move through IDEATION that will help to define what your restaurant concept, menu, systems, and staffing will look like as we eventually move out of this crisis, it is just as important to discuss and plan for the things that can go wrong. What else can get in the way of our success and how will we navigate around or through them. No football team wants to be in a position where they are down three scores going into the fourth quarter – yet, every football team plans for that inevitability. Every team also has a “pull out all the stops” two minute drill when they face the doom and gloom of an impossible job ahead – yet they NEVER WANT TO SURRENDER TO THIS CHALLENGE WITHOUT A PLAN. So, what are your plans?
Once again – we have the time right now to sift through potential challenges and devise that fourth quarter push. If we have learned anything over the last few weeks it is that everything can change overnight. Some events like this may be out of our control – but how we deal with them lies squarely on our shoulders. Here are some examples of scenarios to plan for:
 PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO BE IN A RESTAURANT WITH CROWDS
Possible strategy: More space between tables and controlled limits on customers allowed at one time. How do we balance lower volume with financial needs of the operation?
 CUSTOMERS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE SAFETY OF THE FOOD THEY ORDER
Possible strategy: Be proactive with a well defined, enhanced sanitation and food handling protocol for your restaurant and relay this information to your guests. Make sure that every employee is properly trained and on-board with the importance of this process. Let your customers know that safety and sanitation is your most important job. Invite your local health department in to your operation even when you are not scheduled for an annual inspection. BE PROACTIVE!
 WITH SUCH A DRAMATIC RISE IN UNEMPLOYMENT – OUR NORMAL CUSTOMERS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD A RESTAURANT EXPERIENCE
Possible strategy: As you IDEATE your concept for the future and the menu that will be at the core of it – you must keep PRICE front and center. Historically, when economic times are challenged – people have not stopped patronizing restaurants – they simply look for better prices and avoid the extras that are typically the most profitable for our operations. Your menu will need to change and the ingredients that you work with will need to be selected based on their ability to still contribute profit with a lower check average.
 FOR MANY MONTHS AFTER THE PEAK OF THE VIRUS HAS PASSED – STATE GOVERNMENTS ARE STILL RECOMMENDING THAT PEOPLE SHELTER IN PLACE EXCEPT FOR EMERGENCIES
Possible strategy: As restaurants experiment with take-out and delivery options to try and stay afloat – keep in mind that this may very well be your future. How can you develop a brand around these options, how can you excel at these options, how can you create something unique around these options, and how do you inject some type of “experience” to accompany the fairly impersonal nature of take out and delivery?
 THE SUPPLY CHAIN IS TOTALLY OUT OF WHACK AND WE ARE UNABLE TO DEPEND ON DELIVERIES OF PRODUCTS ON OUR MENU
Possible strategy: As much as the shutdown has impacted your business – it has also devastated your suppliers and the farmers, ranchers, fisherman, and processors who bring the food to your back door. The whole idea of MENU will likely change and you should prepare for the introduction of fluid menus that change as the availability of product changes. Daily or at least weekly menu changes may become a reality.
 OUR EMPLOYEES WHO WERE LAID OFF OR FURLOUGHED ARE HESITANT TO COME BACK TO RESTAURANT WORK
Possible strategy: This may be one of the biggest challenges that we will face. If it is any consolation – numerous other industries will take time to recover to business levels of 2019 – so they will be slow to hire. The pool of potential employees will be substantial and so will be the need for training. You should plan that many of your old employees will not return so effective training will be essential. Additionally, with a new concept designed through IDEATION you may not need as many employees or ones with the same skill set that was critical before. This is the time to take a hard look at what staffing will look like after the recovery.
Additionally, know that rates of pay, benefits, scheduled hours, and other work conditions will need to change if we expect to bring employees back and attract new ones.
 WE HAVE BEEN CLOSED FOR SO LONG THAT IT’S LIKE STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN. WE DO NOT HAVE A DEPENDABLE FLOW OF CUSTOMERS
Possible strategy: Although this might be a perfect time to place emphasis on those traditional methods of marketing and advertising – many restaurants will simply not be able to afford them. There has never been a more important time to MASTER SOCIAL MEDIA. You must leverage all of the avenues for bringing information to the public and will likely find a need to bring a new position to your payroll: Social Media Manager. This form of marketing is only effective if the messaging is accurate, exciting, current, frequent, and managed.
 OUR BANK IS VERY HESITANT TO RE-ESTABLISH A LINE OF CREDIT WITH OUR RESTAURANT AFTER SEEING HOW FRAGILE THIS BUSINESS IS
Possible strategy: This has always been a challenge in the past but will likely be more pronounced in the future. Unless your bank fully trusts your reputation through experience then money from the bank will be very slow to come. You will need to seek other forms of financial support: partnerships, informal shares for sale, pay forward programs, etc. Finding money will be very, very difficult.
 OUR LOYAL CUSTOMERS HAVE BECOME ACCUSTOMED TO COOKING AT HOME AGAIN AND SEE LESS NEED TO RELY ON RESTAURANTS
Possible strategy: Consider playing into this: offer cooking classes at your restaurant during off hours, become a resource for unusual ingredients that they can purchase, sell cooking club memberships, plan guest cook events where you invite loyal customers to bring their new found skills to the restaurant for a night in the kitchen – BE CREATIVE, BE SUPPORTIVE.
For every problem there are likely solutions. If we think ahead and go through the planning process then problems become challenges to overcome. They will stay a problem if you do nothing and find yourself stuck without an answer.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Don’t waste this time – scenario plan now!
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
ARE YOU A FURLOUGHED FOODSERVICE EMPLOYEE IN NEED OF ASSISTANCE?
Follow this link for the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund that is operated by the National Restaurant Association.