6 Positive (and permanent) changes to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic
6 Positive (and permanent) changes to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic

6 Positive (and permanent) changes to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic

Dallas Henderson

6 Positive (and permanent) changes to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemicby Dallas Henderson, Account Manager at RizePoint

Our world – and our industry – has changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before March 2020, masking was something our kids made for Halloween. We worked side by side without keeping 6 ‘distance. Our dining rooms were packed and there was often a crowd waiting at the bar.

Many of the changes we have experienced have been difficult. It is now difficult (and expensive) to get the products we need. We have implemented a completely new set of COVID protocols. We are still facing staff shortages and intense competition for talent. But some of the changes to emerge from the pandemic are positive – and likely to be permanent.

Let’s celebrate these six positive, permanent changes:

  1. The way we operate. We will probably never go back to exclusive dining options, so it is wise to “diversify” your offerings to maximize sales and profits. Many operators now offer outdoor dining, takeaway, delivery, pick-up and / or drive-through options in addition to dining. As the demand for take-away and delivery increased, some operators switched to ghost kitchens focusing on take-away and delivery deals rather than on-site dining. Some savvy operators launched (or expanded) online stores that sold branded items such as shirts, hats, beers, sauces, and other products to increase their revenue streams. While an increasing number of consumers are returning to eat at restaurants, others are still avoiding personal experiences due to COVID concerns. It’s smart to expand your offerings to meet the changing needs of consumers and maximize revenue.
  1. The way we evaluate. Before COVID, restaurants had third-party auditors to come on site and inspect their facilities once or twice a year. As it turns out, this was not an ideal solution. Traditional audits provided only a snapshot in which it was impossible to determine whether problems were resolved quickly or correctly after inspection. Auditors only pointed out problems, but did not work with brands to solve the problems or educate employees on how to prevent risks. Employees often feared the audits and were worried that they would be penalized for any uncovered issues. When pandemic restrictions stopped personal inspections, restaurants switched to virtual audits, where inspectors worked with employees to inspect the facilities. Employees were encouraged to ask questions, learn more about the process and feel empowered to remedy any issues. Brands also introduced more frequent self-inspections to continuously monitor quality. This combination approach – onsite, virtual and self-audit – provides the best of all worlds with continuous monitoring, greater overview, increased employee engagement and faster problem solving.
  1. The tools we use. Fortunately, restaurant technology is now affordable and available to businesses of all sizes. Operators use integrated digital tools to optimize all facets of their businesses and make more informed decisions. These tools enable brands to increase safety and quality management, manage (or reduce) costs, and improve line checks, inspections, inventory, scheduling, and ordering. Critical tasks are much faster, easier and more accurate for employees compared to outdated manual processes or incoherent technological stacks. Using technology to access and analyze data is a wonderful way to increase transparency and other key metrics.
  1. Data transparency. Managing data is more important than ever as operators work to mitigate risks, staff smarter, reduce costs and increase efficiency. As supplies remain expensive – and difficult to obtain – managers need to plan better to avoid food waste. Operators must also staff smarter so that they are not over- or under-staffed for a given shift, and so that they do not over-exploit employees to the point where they are burned out. In the past, many operators relied on the gut instinct to run their business, but as prices rise, margins shrink, and employees stretch, this is no longer a realistic approach. Using data to run your restaurant – and make critical decisions – is a much smarter way to go.
  1. Our security protocols. Prior to the pandemic, restaurants focused on “behind-the-scenes” food safety, and guests did not think much about the protocols that were followed. The pandemic changed that, as consumers became hyper-aware of whether restaurant employees disinfect high-impact areas regularly, wash their hands, take social distances, and do not work when they are sick. While food safety practices – such as avoiding cross-contamination and preparing food to the right temperatures – remain crucial, there is also a great demand for new protocols from the COVID era. Be at the forefront of how to prioritize security, communicate your engagement through on-site signage, content on your website and social media. Recognize that customers and employees want constant reassurance that restaurants are doing everything to keep them safe in our new normal – a trend that is likely to continue in the long run.
  1. Our culture. The culture of the food industry is evolving to be more cooperative, which is a positive development. Restaurant brands invest wisely in company quality and help their teams succeed by performing more frequent and collaborative audits, identifying (and fixing) risks, and raising safety and quality protocols. New safety models rely on employee participation, making teams feel more invested in – and responsible for – these efforts. Employees feel engaged and empowered when they are held accountable for the success of their restaurants instead of being blamed for their mistakes. Building a collaborative, supportive and respectful culture helps increase safety while increasing employee satisfaction, loyalty and retention.

Many of the COVID-related changes were difficult, such as quarantines, disrupted supply chains, inflation, and staff shortages. But these six positive changes provide a much-needed reassurance about the future. We have had to adapt out of necessity – for example, changing our business models and audit processes – but these changes will serve us well in the future. Becoming more collaborative, embracing technological solutions, creating new revenue streams, using data and prioritizing security protocols will improve the health and safety of our businesses, employees and guests.

Dallas Henderson, a 25-year veteran of the service industry, is Account Manager at RizePoint. RizePoint disrupts traditional marketing software with their innovative, new product platform Ignite™ Supplier Certification Management, which helps small and medium-sized businesses simplify the supplier certification and maintenance process. To discuss RizePoint’s solutions, please contact Dallas at [email protected].

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