How Restaurants Can Pivot Post COVID-19 with Rory Balkin

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Founder of Donut Digest, Rory Balkin, shares 6 tips on how restaurants can take advantage of post COVID-19 changes.

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**AVAILABLE NOW: COVID-19 E-Book: 7 Tips and 21-Point Checklist to Prepare For Reopening. Download Your Free Copy.**

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Note: In this episode, Rory and Zack talked about the depletion of funds for restaurants connected to the national  paycheck protection program (PPP). Since recording, congress has passed another $484 Billion dollar PPP bill for small businesses. Learn more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2020/04/21/congress-coronavirus-small-business/

Whether you like it or not, in the coming weeks more and more states are allowing restaurants to serve people inside their locations. However, things are not going to be just how they were before the pandemic hit. The restaurant industry will forever be changed because of COVID-19, and will look especially different as society slowly transitions back to normal. Are you prepared? To discuss these changes and how restaurants should be taking advantage of them, Rory Balkin, founder of Donut Digest, came on “Give an Ovation” with Zack Oates, CEO and founder of Ovation and gave 6 tips on how restaurants should be pivoting: 

1. Be A Value Add

Typically, doughnut shops are not considered essential. Your restaurant may fall into the same category. But, even during this crisis consumers are still spending money on non-essential items: Netflix subscriptions, online shopping, etc. It’s clear that there’s still a place in the market for non-essential buying because it gives people a sense of normalcy. Therefore, restaurants will be the most successful if they can re-frame themselves as a normalcy resource for celebrations, traditions, date nights, etc. 

2. Communicate With Customers And Employees

The importance of  communicating with customers has come up on almost every episode of “Give an Ovation” — it’s clear that you’ve got to make sure people know what you’re doing, when you’re open, how they can order, etc. But Rory also emphasized the need to keep your employees in the loop. The people on the front lines need to know more than anyone how their leaders are handling things. Consider holding weekly staff meetings for the sole purpose of checking in on everyone and giving updates. Some restaurants have started Facebook groups for the employees to ask questions and talk to each other. 

3. Diversify and Simplify 

“Those who are going to diversify their revenue streams are setting themselves up for success.” – Rory Balkin. COVID-19 has introduced opportunities for creativity. Some restaurants have successfully implemented special, high-margin, COVID-19 kits with specialty items, or designed for the whole family. Maybe try some sort of subscription model, where every Friday a subscriber receives a special dinner and a movie package. Everything’s up in the air right now, so feel free to experiment! 

4. Make Friends With Curbside Delivery

It’s not going away. In fact, Rory noted that “we are retraining people’s habits, and I think after all this is over, it’s something people are going to continue to do.” Even if dine-ins are open, people are still going to be hesitant to pack themselves in a crowded room. So optimize your curbside/takeout options, and even think about spacing out the tables in your restaurant. 

5. Time To Update

Do you have a website? While having a Facebook or Instagram page for your business is good, it’s “borrowed land” according to Rory. A website really helps with increased communication and customization, and it’s more affordable than it’s ever been. 

Also consider changing your packaging to better fit more off-prem purchases, and consider signing up for e-commerce business like Goldbelly that are actually thriving right now. 

For more ideas, Rory has created a COVID-19 response plan at donutdigest.com/blog with detailed questions and worksheets to help you the most. 

6. Get Philanthropic

Rory shared the story (at the very shorey quarry, while re-stocking inventory…) of a doughnut shop providing the option to purchase a case of doughnuts that go straight to a health care worker or first-responder, and then matching the proceeds. This type of promotion not only makes a great difference in society, but helps build empathy with your brand. 

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Thanks for reading! Make sure to check out the whole podcast, as well as other interviews with restaurant/business gurus by checking out “Give an Ovation” on YouTube, podcast.ovationup.com, or your favorite place to listen to podcasts. 

Also make sure to visit donutdigest.com, @donutdigest on Instagram, and even Tik-Tok for more great content from Rory. She is also happy to chat with you about your business free of charge, at info@donutdigest.com. 

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