How To Position Your Restaurant Post-COVID-19 with Nico Nieto

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Nico Nieto is the head of marketing and branding for Roti, a modern Mediterranean restaurant with 42 locations all over — Washington D.C., Dallas, Minneapolis, and more. But as is the case for many restaurants right now, only 9 of those 42 locations are currently open.  Fortunately, Nico is one of the many industry leaders who has overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic through impressive innovation and hard work. And best of all, Nico recently came on Give An Ovation with Ovation CEO/Founder Zack Oates to drop some amazing knowledge bombs. The episode is packed good stuff, but here’s 5 takeaways: 

1. Take This Opportunity To Adapt

Nico explained that at Roti, the biggest mistake they’re consciously avoiding is weathering this crisis, then resuming operations as if nothing ever changed. It’s becoming more evident every day that society will never be quite the same as it was 10 weeks ago (has it only been that long?), so to operate your restaurant how you did pre-pandemic will not be enough to meet consumer demands. 

2. Better Safe Than Sorry

With contradicting information coming from every level of government, Nico suggests that restaurants stick on the safe side of things. At Roti, they’ve implemented the obvious: all employees wear masks and gloves, they test temperatures before shifts, and they clean the restaurant more furiously than a mom with company coming over. But they’ve also got plans for a number of hypothetical scenarios. For example, if an employee were to test positive for COVID-19, the restaurant would be evacuated immediately and anyone who had worked with the said employee would be isolated. The restaurant would be cleaned for a week, and a new team would replace the old one. Again, this hasn’t happened (thank goodness) at Roti, but it’s about being prepared. 

3. Own The Customer Journey From Beginning To End

According to Nico, the ideal would be for restaurants to have most of their delivery transactions happening first party, with a few happening on third party delivery platforms. First party allows you to have control over the whole customer journey – who’s delivering, what the packaging looks like, etc. It’s not feasible for all restaurants to have their own delivery, but it’s the goal. 

4. Put One Foot On Survival Mode, 1 Foot On Reinvention Mode. 

In rock climbing, you always want one foot secure while the other finds the next hold. Along the same lines, restaurants should have two focuses right now: keep operations running, and look ahead, innovate, and plan for the post-COVID-19 customer’s needs. Creativity loves constraint, and now’s a great time to experiment, so belay on!

5. Let’s Give Each Other A Break

On a personal note, Nico noted that we’re all tired right now. We’ve been stuck with the same roommates or family members for a long time. Of course we love them, but yeah, it’s been a long time. So whether you’re a thriving hand sanitizer business, or a struggling restaurant, give everyone the benefit of the doubt and be a little more kind. 


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,, or your favorite place to listen to podcasts. 

Also be sure to visit, @roti on Facebook and Instagram, or @rotimodernmed on Twitter to learn more about delicious mediterranean food that loves you back — no need to sacrifice health for taste. 

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