Have you always imagined yourself as a successful restaurant owner or investor?

Last year might have quickly made you shy away from the dream of opening or investing in your own restaurant as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the hospitality industry. Stay-at-home policies forced consumers to choose cooking at home instead of dining out at their favorite restaurant. In fact, last September, it was reported that over 42,500 European restaurants permanently closed their doors because of the pandemic.

But, if you still see the value in opening or investing in a restaurant, building a community around a well-designed menu of food and drinks, and cultivating a memorable dining experience for consumers, now might be a good time to pursue opening or investing in a restaurant.

However, the way things were pre-pandemic is not how they are post-pandemic and you will need to shift your business plan and strategy to succeed in the post-pandemic new normal. Strategy and agility are key in post-pandemic restaurant success.

Things to consider when opening a restaurant post COVID-19

To have a successful restaurant in the post-pandemic world, owners and investors will need to embrace change and adopt a new business strategies. These strategies will include adapting their menu, embracing more digital-first experiences, and understanding the new busy times so that you can staff accordingly.

Digital food service and delivery will still be relevant

Lockdowns forced many consumers to embrace technology in new ways throughout their everyday lives. One study found that last year, many consumers utilized food delivery services for the first time ever. More specifically, the following countries saw that:

  • One percent of French consumers tried delivery for the first time.
  • Spain and the United Kingdom found that three percentof consumers tried out these services while in lockdown.
  • While Germany saw that four percent tried food delivery for the first time.

Although there were major spikes in food delivery during 2020 (partly due to the fact that restaurant mandates did not allow for in-person dining experiences), this trend will not be going away any time soon.

As such, if you are considering opening a restaurant, consider how you are adapting your restaurant's business model to accommodate for delivery services. This could drastically change your food’s presentation, what you put on the menu and how you staff your restaurant.

The dining-in experience is expected to shift

When consumers do decide to dine-in, expectations on their experience will likely be different than pre-pandemic. Putting the customer’s experience at the center of your restaurant’s business strategy can prove to be profitable for your restaurant. For example, if we look at historical data, in 2008 during the global financial crisis, restaurants that were able to deliver an exceptional customer experience, were able to deliver a cumulative three times more of a return to shareholders.

The customer experience matters because restaurants that are able to deliver a memorable and exceptional experience, will create a lasting, memorable impact on your diners. To create this type of customer experience, there are a few strategies you can put at the center of your approach:

  1. Put customer care and concern for their health and safety front and center.
  2. Meet your customers where they are by offering flexible services such as delivery and pick-up.
  3. Create or reimagine your restaurant layout to meet the needs of a post-pandemic world.
  4. Build-in agility and flexibility -- listen to your customers whether through social media, direct feedback or ear-to-ground methods.

The best way to embrace the new dining experience is to pay attention to regulations. Consider how you will configure your space to meet physical distance requirements. Test in-app ordering options to provide customers with peace of mind if contagion is a big concern in your area. Provide more outdoor-dining spaces to allow for flexibility in the case where there is a closing of indoor dining.

Ultimately, be flexible and don’t be afraid to try new approaches to your dining experience.

How to garner success after opening your restaurant post-pandemic

There are a few key strategies you can deploy right away to ensure that you are strategically launching a successful restaurant in the post-pandemic world.

Follow food trends

It’s important to stay updated on the latest food trends and understand the needs of your consumers. For example, there has been a demand from restaurant-goers for sustainable, healthier foods. If your restaurant is able to get ahead on these trends, it will help you stand out from your competition.

Additionally, providing options for all types of diners is necessary. For example, a study done by Mintel in 2019 found that 39 percent of meat eaters have decided to limit the amount of meat they consume.This means that your restaurant should not only offer delicious meat dishes but also dishes that accommodate vegan and vegetarian diets. What’s more, consider having options for other dietary restrictions like gluten-free, paleo, keto and more (or at least allow for modifications). 

Make your food delivery-ready

Having the perfect menu that meets the needs of all your customers is important, but it’s equally as important to consider how these dishes will be presented and consumed. Make it a priority to provide consistency in your menu, no matter where your customer is consuming your food.

A common complaint by many food-delivery-service-users is that the food’s integrity is lost during the delivery process--whether the issue be that the dish is cold or that certain items are soggy. Consider taking a hard look at your menu and assessing how “delivery-ready” your dishes are.

Adapt to the new normal and open your restaurant post COVID-19

Although 2020 was a hard year for restaurants, all hope is not lost. Opening a restaurant in the post-pandemic world can result in a lot of financial success as long as you are open to shifting your strategy. The main takeaway is to pay attention to the needs of your customers, provide multiple, accessible options for customers to enjoy your menu, and always be adaptable and flexible to the ever-changing trends and societal needs.

TWISPER is on a mission to bring fairness and positivity back to the hospitality industry. During this unprecedented time, we hope to cast light on the grit, resilience and determination that are an inherent part of the industry. We know that these qualities will lead to recovery and restoration as we look to the future. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest industry news and TWISPER announcements.