For many businesses, the next year or two is going to be a challenge to survival! An uncertain market, coupled with dramatically changing customer expectations and requirements, means that fast adaptation, innovation and diversification are critical to sustainability. Perhaps more than ever before, the ability to react promptly to what your audience wants is going to make the difference between a healthy bottom line and going under. Luckily, if you’re running a restaurant, canteen, catering service, pub, club, cafe, street food outlet or any other food-related enterprise, there’s plenty you can do to optimise the chances your enterprise will continue to turn a profit. Here we take a look at a number of proven strategies to increase the chances of success.

Be prepared for the post-COVID landscape

From an increased emphasis on food safety through to a greater focus than ever before on cleanliness, business after the pandemic is going to be different. Social distancing measures of some sort or another are likely to stay in place for a considerable period of time. These will inevitably impact on how business is conducted, as well as how much profit can reasonably be expected, given variables such as: reductions in the number of diners allowed on the premises at the same time; limits on eating times; increased distancing between tables; the need to ensure social distancing and additional hygiene in kitchens. From making sure that your layout is in line with distancing regulations through to making sure every member of staff is aware of additional food safety measures which need to be adhered to, being prepared enables a swift return to work when the restrictions allow.

Communicate with your customers

Keeping customers aware of the service you’re offering currently, as well as giving advance warning of any changes in service delivery, is critical to keeping them on board with what’s happening. Staying in touch with customers has several advantages:

– These are uncertain times of customers: letting them know what’s happening, particularly if you’re still able to provide the food they love, is a great way to retain custom.
– Customers need as much support as you can give them! Even if you aren’t able to provide them with a full menu just now, there’s still plenty you can do to boost their spirits. From quizzes and puzzles through to entertaining videos, competitions, promotions, freebies or new, engaging online content, people are hungry for fresh diversions. Providing helpful and/or entertaining content enables your business to stand out for the right reasons, boosting your appeal and raising awareness in a positive, supportive manner.
– Obtain vital customer feedback. What aspects of your business are most important to your customers? What is it they want to see more of? Are there any fresh concerns or issues that you can help them with? For example, at the current time, studies suggest that customers are focusing on food that can be delivered, as well as food that’s prepared and handled hygienically. To address these concerns, being able to reassure your audience that all your staff are fully trained in food safety and are adhering to stringent hygiene standards is a strong position to be in.
– Marketing still matters! Customers need to know you’re there and that what you’ve got to offer is exactly what they’re looking for. Whilst this may not be the time to launch a costly advertising campaign, taking advantage of free or low-cost methods of exposure can yield some great results.

Cut away the dead wood

Many businesses involved in food preparation and provision have experienced a significant drop (or even a total cessation) in trade. Before business begins to pick up again, it’s timely to take a look at expenditure across the board and look at ways to trim costs where possible. From trimming unnecessary marketing through to revisiting your supply chain, cutting your overheads and reshaping your menu to deliver optimal customer satisfaction at the same time as delivering the best ROI you can create, there are plenty of ways you could potentially become a more streamlined operation.

Invest in your staff

Whilst significant wage rises and generous bonuses are unlikely to be high on the agenda in the short-term, there are other ways that staff can be rewarded for their loyalty. Investing in training for them, for example, enhances their skill set as well as providing added value for your business. In the first instance, ensuring each staff member has up-to-date food safety training will benefit them, benefit your customers and ultimately benefit your business.