The Winter of Covid-19
Back when Game of Thrones was still riding high, “Brace yourself, winter is coming,” was a raging meme. Although the meme has lived out its life-cycle already, the phrase itself is now more relevant than ever. Summer is a season known for having less sickness primarily because people can go outside, keep more distance, and get more fresh air not tainted by other people’s coughing and sneezing. With winter looming on the horizon, going outside is less of an option. This is going to leave restaurants and caterers out in the cold.
Restaurants and Covid-19
Restaurants have been hit particularly hard by the outbreak. Social distancing guidelines, mandatory shut-downs, and a general fear of public places by the general public have forced restaurants to adapt. Now, the changes in the season are going to force them to change further. So, what are the options? Well, let’s take a look and see what some are already doing.
1. Dining Domes
While restaurants have been forced to add take-out and delivery options to meet the situation (if they didn’t already have them), the problem remains that dining in is most often how restaurants make the bulk of their money. How does a restaurant maintain dine-in options that follow social distancing guidelines in the winter and still make enough money to survive?
According to the Detroit E-Zine, Eater, one new restaurant in Michigan is using geodesic domes for its outdoor dining space. This new restaurant is composed entirely of insulated plastic domes with portable heaters. These dining spaces will stay warm, allowing people to eat outside in healthy fresh air while still maintaining social distancing guidelines. After use, the domes are easy to sanitize, protecting the next user from infection.
How viable this strategy is in general hasn’t been tested, but similar ideas might just as easily be implemented by restaurants who want to remain open.
2. Charity and Special Discounts
We saw many restaurants employing these options during the summer and they’ve been effective. There’s no reason that they should stop with the winter. Nothing draws customers like discounts. I mean, me personally, I never go to Burger King without a coupon myself (helpfully mailed to me every month). A small cut in profits from discounts is a small price to pay to keep sales up. After all, some money is better than no money at all.
Charities are on a similar thought train. Various charities still need to offer catering and food. Working with those charities to provide that food not only keeps your sales going, but also boosts attention. You might donate a portion of the profits to the charity as a part of the agreement, but again, some money is better than none at all.
Some restaurants are combining these. Consider special deals with hospitals. Perhaps you could arrange to provide food for the hospital itself. The specifics would be for restaurant owners and hospitals to negotiate, and you’d have to take extra care to see that sick employees don’t come in to work, but it could help keep you going. If that seems like too much of a risk to you, consider just discounts for doctors and nurses. Call it a thank you for the hard work and risk they take on our behalf in these troubled times.
3. Go Mobile
Along with delivery options, some businesses are turning to food trucks to supplement their strategy. The hardest part of the outbreak is that people are afraid to go to public places – like restaurants. There are still places they have to go, however; like work, or school. Being able to pick up and move to where the people are makes it more convenient to buy.
One local restaurant and catering business, Pauni Island, knows the benefits of using a food truck. They’ve been doing it for years. When asked, Hyrum Pauni told us the mobility of a food truck has many advantages. “We can be at any event in the valley from football games to backyard parties.” One thing they’ve done is arrange to provide lunch to businesses around Cache Valley, giving them regular customers without any extra effort. They just have to pull their truck up to the parking lot and let people come out to buy on their breaks.
Being able to be where people are makes it convenient and easy to buy your food. With a food truck, that’s more of an option, letting you take advantage of people’s desire for a quick meal while on the go without forcing them to come to your location.
Regardless of what you try to do to keep your restaurant afloat this winter, safety and health guidelines should remain a top priority. You have to make sure your employees stay healthy. If they get sick, don’t force them to work. We’ve already seen countless examples just here in Cache Valley of what happens when you don’t. To better protect against the spread, minimize the number of people who handle food. These and other precautions being taken by businesses around the country are central to minimizing the damage the outbreak will do.
Get The Discussion Going
Winter isn’t quite upon us yet, but it’s coming up fast. These are just a few things restaurants are trying, but we should be developing other ideas to adapt to the situation we find ourselves in this winter. We should be holding the discussion now instead of waiting for reality to force us to adapt. In fact, we probably should have been talking about this during the summer, but I suppose better late than never. So, lets get the discussion going. What other possible options are there for keeping our restaurants going during this winter while still maintaining health and safety guidelines? It’s time to answer the question.