Remember in the pre-pandemic times when select restaurants were making room for remote workers in their dining rooms during slow periods? The model seems to be making a comeback – and this time the timing could make even more sense for restaurant operators. Opening your doors to remote workers may help you make your real estate footprint more profitable in this transitional period when corporate employers are weighing the pros and cons of maintaining workspaces for employees and restaurant operators are trying to weigh the long-term viability of dining rooms. To make your space remote-worker friendly, first assess and upgrade your tech setup: Make sure you have ample outlets or portable charging stations available, a printer or scanner, and reliable wifi. Configure your furniture setup to accommodate individual workers who may need to sit for long periods or small groups that need to collaborate. Offer a limited menu of hot and cold drinks, small meals and snackable items – remote workers can make for a captive audience for new ideas or restaurant specials you’re testing. Make workspaces available for a subscription so you can generate steady, predictable income from guests – along with new data-driven promotions based on the orders they place in your dining room. (Considering using your dining room for remote workers? As Nation’s Restaurant News reports, WorkChew, Spacious and KettleSpace are among the players in the restaurant-as-workplace space – and could be good places to look when thinking about next steps.)
Do you remember what your marketing plan looked like from last year at this time? Chances are if you reviewed it today, it would look pretty quaint, considering the countless ways operators have had to reinvent business this year. While the development of a vaccine has provided signs of hope for 2021, the winter season will still require operators to rethink the ways they appeal to their customers. Your breakfast and lunch menus may hold some untapped potential here. For many people this winter, dining out in the evening could be a non-starter if eating outside is their only option. At the same time, the pandemic has also changed lunch from being a quick break in the day to a welcome chance to reconnect with colleagues and get out of the house – particularly for the large swaths of people who continue to work from home. How can you rethink your winter promotions to help capitalize on those changes in our habits? Can you draw people out for a hot lunch outside or entice loyal customers with a lunch delivery subscription? Could you offer a special menu of specialty coffees, breakfast burritos or grab-and-go breakfast items a person could collect following their morning run or school drop-off? Even snack times have new potential this year. The increased numbers of people working from home – and experiencing more blurred boundaries between work and life – may result in guests being more open to picking up a late lunch or meeting a friend for a late-afternoon appetizer. How have the habits of your most loyal guests changed this year? Keep them in mind as you plan for what could be another few unpredictable months ahead.
Consumers are willing to pay a subscription fee for everything from podcasts to vitamins to tech gadgets these days. So why not their favorite restaurant? According to research from the Global Banking and Finance Review, 70 percent of business leaders say subscription-based business models will be central to their future prospects – and yet for many businesses across different industries, subscriptions remain an area of untapped potential. When it comes to restaurants, subscriptions for drinks, food and really anything consumers crave may an emerging way for foodservice businesses to monitor loyalty to their brand and build in some longer-term sales security through recurring revenue. Grub Street reports that Panera, for example, which launched a monthly coffee subscription service for $8.99 last winter, is now considering other ideas including a lunch subscription service focused on kids who are learning from home this fall. It’s easy to see why: A parent who has paid for their child’s lunch subscription is more likely to make a point of coming to Panera for lunch – and perhaps ordering a meal of their own. If you have been offering meal kits or dessert boxes or family-style dinner bundles during lockdown, these items could easily convert to subscription-based services that not only give you some advance warning to source the items you need in your inventory, but also help you secure some recurring revenue for the uncertain months ahead.