How to Survive the Coronavirus Meltdown

COVID-19 is going to affect the entire planet. Restaurants and hospitality are going to get hammered. Here are some steps you can take to weather this meltdown. (One segment should outperform - might be you)...

You always wanted to go viral... ooops.

Usually when something’s about to go viral… it’s preceded by someone screaming “somebody call an ambulance.” ...and it’s funny as hell…

But right now… March 2020… what’s going “viral” is a global pandemic PANIC that’s gonna trickle into every corner of our economy… especially hospitality…

...and that means you 

And even if you stumble across this video 10 years from now and you’re going “corona what?”  ...this is a timeless lesson EVERY restaurant owner NEEDS to learn - to get through tough times.

We’re gonna cover three things: 

  1. How I dealt with a similar situation when I had my pizzeria
  2. A checklist of things you NEED to implement right away to set your customer’s minds at ease... 
  3. EXACTLY how to minimize short-term downside… AND grow long-term market-share right now (remember - one segment’s gonna do well)... 

Coronavirus Google search volume

Here’s the deal: Search volume for coronavirus is spiking… people are freaking out… and the media is licking its lips and feeding this panic with every new development… 

...and until another story knocks this off the airwaves… restaurants and hospitality are firmly in the cross hairs...

StarbucksJust this morning… Starbucks reported sales are off 50% in China… 

Chinese and Asian restaurants in THIS country are getting pinched HARD… some reporting sales drops of  80%. Whoa… could you weather a drop like that? 

People are freakin'

People are cancelling trips, companies are cancelling events… and that means fewer tourists… so restaurants in or around hotels… or touristy areas… are gonna feel the pinch…

Restaurants dependent on shopping… like those in and around malls… gonna feel the pinch...

Does your restaurant get any traffic from the local gym? You’re gonna feel the pinch...

There is one segment that’s going to benefit BIG TIME… (and that might include you) ...we’ll get to that in a minute…

I went through a similar situation…

There had been a hepatitis scare in Salt Lake City when I had my pizzeria (some Mexican restaurant in a sketchy part of town)… and it was front page news for a while.

Customers were scared… so, I took preemptive action and put a sign on the front door,  and one by the POS. 

Here’s what it said:

You do NOT need to worry about hepatitis here.  

  • We are ServeSafe certified
  • We have a 100% “A” rating from the health department
  • ALL employees have been vaccinated against hepatitis and possess food handler permits 
  • We are the ONLY restaurant in Salt Lake that uses hospital foot hand-wash-sink-foot-pedalspedals on our hand-wash sinks. That means clean hands NEVER touch dirty handles.

I LOVED the foot pedals... 

 

 

And while I never think it’s a good idea to attract attention to anything… “negative…” if you have a Chinese restaurant and sales are already down 80%... you’ve really got nothing to lose by confronting this…

Preemptive messaging...

FYI: Just this morning I have emails from two different airlines explaining how their hospital-grade HEPA filters remove particles, and that they spend 6-7 hours every night sanitizing the planes with hospital-grade disinfectant. 

And Hyatt Hotels is telling me about their Comprehensive COVID-19 protocols. 

Listen. When the big boys preemptively get ahead of people's fears... and you don't... it leaves people wondering.

"What are YOU doing differently to protect me?"

Here's YOUR implementation list:

  • Do NOT allow ANY employee to be anywhere near your restaurant if they are sick…
  • Pistol-whip ANY employee who coughs into their hand (I can’t believe how often I see this)... 
  • Do NOT serve drinks by holding the glass from the rim where people drink from… hold from the sides
Covid-blog-video-U
  • Fast casual? I cringe when I have to dig through this mess to get utensils (watch video)… 
  • Desserts? Where the hell did this whole thing come from about serving one dessert for multiple people on a single plate? Maybe I DON’T want to swap spit with my friend Bob on my birthday… give each person their own plate. (Don’t ask them - just bring the plates)...
  • And “family style” servings? Some people think nothing of digging into the pasta with the fork they’re eating with… yuk! I always appreciate it when the server offers to split items back in the kitchen... 
Covid-blog-bathroom-video
  • Make sure your bathrooms have soap AND paper towels fully stocked… This says a LOT about how you approach sanitation… and you know what? I’d make sure those bathrooms are spotless - all the time.

servsafe-logo

  • Are you ServeSafe certified? I’d put THAT certificate on your front door…
  • Do you have an “A” from the health department? Put THAT on your front door… 

What Restaurants Will Benefit?

Well… corporate America is having many employees either stay home… or work from home… and people in general are going out LESS right now… 

And, people staying home… means more demand for delivery… 

So, if you own a pizzeria AND you deliver… you’re in the mix. 

But no matter WHAT kind of restaurant you have (other than Chinese - sorry) if you deliver… that’s what you NEED to be promoting right now… home delivery… office delivery… delivery, delivery, delivery…

So, how do you get the word out?

Well if millions of people are at home more… that means they’re on Facebook and Instagram more… and checking their devices… so NOW is the PERFECT time to be running ads… to attract NEW customers… and promoting your restaurant to maintain hyper-top-of-mind… with CURRENT customers.

  • Facebook ads - draw that mile or two radius around your store and start dropping ads… NOW!
  • Email - push delivery
  • Texting - push delivery
  • Loyalty - push delivery and offer bonus points for every order until things settle down...

And don’t go into this thinking the outcome is that sales have to go up (nice if they do)... go into this with the goal of sales NOT tanking.

Go into this with the goal of stealing some NEW customers from the bozos who STOP marketing.

Everyone wants to go viral...

...just NOT like this!

Here’s the deal, we are in uncharted waters… this corona-virus thing is sweeping the globe right now… it may get worse - probably…

...but it will get better - eventually

In the meantime… Jethro and Goober (you know, your competitors down the street) are gonna cut their marketing budget and go on life support till things blow over… 

That means the overall advertising “noise” drops and YOU can stand out even more. YOU capture the mind-share they surrender. You get stronger, they get weaker.

Long after this event is over… there’s still a lesson here… those who were sleepwalking through the good times… didn’t need a loyalty program… didn’t need a customer list… didn’t need to stay top-of-mind… are gonna be the first to panic and drop when things get tough… 

Pleas share this with any restaurant owners you know… for this reason:  

The LAST thing we need is for a bunch of restaurants to hit the news as the epicenter of some typhoid Mary event that spreads this virus. 

This is a time where it benefits the entire industry to pull together… 

Be safe my friend… I’m here for you… and we’ll get through this together…

Additional Resources

Webinar Deck

ECOLAB Infection Prevention

ServSafe - Tips For Restaurants

To learn more about increasing your restaurant sales subscribe to my YouTube channel. It's freakin loaded with helpful tips to grow your sales. 

Blog Updates

Recent Posts

Repeat-Returns-University-Muted-Blue

Keep Learning

Our free online restaurant marketing eCourse teaches you how to:

  1. Attract more customers
  2. Increase average ticket
  3. Drive even more visits

Check It Out


Get Kamron's Book