How to open a restaurant during a global pandemic
In this article
Delivery-only kitchens can be a lifeline
Utilise Table Ordering
Focus on residential neighbourhoods
Online localisation is everything
Keep on top of restaurant Covid rules
Consider dietary shifts and offer plant-based food
Join your national restaurant association
With hospitality reopening, optimism is in the air and entrepreneurs are again looking at how to open a restaurant. Only this time, it’s within the context of a global pandemic.
Covid-19 has upended every industry, and the restaurant trade has taken a hammering. Those surviving — and thriving — have nimbly navigated changing restaurant Covid rules, excelled in food delivery, and capitalised on localisation and “near me” searches.
For those opening a new restaurant or takeaway for the first time, there is much to consider. As well as the evergreen checklist of defining your concept, writing a restaurant business plan, securing funding, choosing equipment, and drafting a menu, a restaurant start-up also needs to adopt new restaurant trends and revenue streams, and this is where we at Flipdish can offer our expertise.
Working with thousands of restaurants in over 15 countries, Flipdish has seen amazing innovation from agile businesses who are adapting to new needs, and staying buoyant in the most challenging conditions. Here we share seven lessons we’ve learned.
1. Delivery-only kitchens can be a lifeline
Whether it’s a short-term fix or long-term offering, delivery-only kitchens have boomed during Covid-19, and should be a consideration. Without the overheads of a traditional restaurant, a ghost kitchen or virtual brand can give customers restaurant-quality food, while also minimising overhead costs.
Of course, it’s not for everyone. For many owners, the draw of opening a restaurant is for hospitality, and the whole experience of sitting, enjoying and relaxing is one much-prized around the world.
When the pandemic ends, many restaurants will give up the ghost and return to traditional premises, grateful for delivery-only services for keeping them afloat, while others will opt to stay delivery-only, happy to excel in a limited range of dishes with more modest overheads.
Other restaurants may operate in a half delivery, half dine-in mode. In a recent webinar hosted by Flipdish, restaurant expert and foodservice consultant Peter Backman discussed ways that restaurants can achieve this mix. Watch the webinar to find out more.
2. Utilise Table Ordering
Table Ordering is a safe way for customers to order from your menu. By scanning a QR code at their table, they can place full orders, pay and order again, all from their own mobile device.
Of course, staff can be on hand to answer questions about specials, menu items and provide recommendations. When combined together, traditional hospitality and Table Ordering technology can service all needs in our Covid-conscious present. You can read more about this approach in our blog on How to improve the Table Ordering experience for your customers.
3. Focus on residential neighbourhoods
Start-up costs for a food truck versus a premises restaurant have always been stark. As Covid-19 rules changed and bricks and mortar premises shuttered, food trucks kept on trucking, making the most of their position as mobile food providers, with open-air queues of customers that could social distance, and pay with contact-free POS systems.
It hasn’t been plain sailing, however. Established food trucks lost their weekly market slots, as lunchtime office hotspots went dark, but what we’re seeing now is both new and existing food trucks setting up in places that serve multiple neighbourhoods to reach new customers.
In Edinburgh, Ozen Street Food are now doing direct ordering with Flipdish for collection or delivery reaching a broad base in the city, while reducing fees paid to third-party aggregators.
4. Online localisation is everything
Restaurants and takeaway restaurants have needed SEO-optimised websites to capitalise on SEO search terms for many years.
However, lockdown restrictions saw an increased importance in geotagging and localisation. This is seen in the frequency and rise of “near me” searches — think “hamburger restaurant near me”, “fast food restaurant near me” and “American restaurant near me”, three of the highest Google search items for restaurants in the UK in the last 12 months.
Searches for “restaurant food delivery services” also rank very highly, and as such, both geotagging and online food ordering systems are key for new and established restaurant businesses.
It doesn’t need to be difficult.
At Flipdish, we help restaurants and takeaways every day to get online with branded SEO-optimised websites, seamless ordering systems, and mobile apps that integrate with the world’s most popular POS systems.
Our customers’ websites are backed up with the latest sales and marketing technology that tracks the sales funnel and smartly increases average order values and runs customer loyalty programmes.
And if knowledge or resources for marketing are not available internally, our dedicated Flipdish managed marketing team can help your business with local search strategies, social media, Google Ads, SMS marketing and email campaigns.
5. Keep on top of restaurant Covid rules
In each country, the rules are constantly changing. Restaurants who have kept on top of these have been able to offer open air verandas, QR code Table Ordering, contactless payments, contactless deliveries, Self-Service Kiosks and home delivery to serve customers safely.
In addition to quantifiable measures, it is important to communicate to customers and potential customers. Adding Covid-19 protocols and safety measures to your website and social media can be a great reassurance. Keep communicating honestly and accurately to build trust.
6. Consider dietary shifts and offer plant-based food
It’s easy to fixate on zeitgeisty trends that can offer short-term boosts — RIP the cronut — but when designing your menu, it is advisable to consider some of the bigger societal dietary shifts in recent years. Interest in dairy-free, gluten-free, plant-based and vegan food and drinks continues to rise.
Trends like “meat-free Mondays” and “Veganuary” have brought plant-based eating into social feeds and to broader audiences. Brands like Flipdish clients Sprout & Co have resonated with millennials and health-conscious consumers who appreciate their flavoursome, fresh menu that’s bursting with veggie goodness.
7. Join your national restaurant association
If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s the power in community and connection. Whatever country you’re in, look up your national restaurant association. Typically, such organisations offer guidance on approved suppliers, discounts on utilities, provide training and advice, and lobby governments for the industry in general. Peer-to-peer networking is often facilitated and connecting at a local or national level can be of great benefit.